I went to Skálafell, one of the local barebones Reykjavík ski areas, for a few runs this past weekend. As the slow two-man lift crested the last rise at around 10:15 a.m., the sun was just breaking over the southern mountains and through the clouds, casting an orange sideways glow on a vast plateau of snow below. Ringing the plateau on all sides were the blacks and whites of snow-covered charcoal mountains. Þingvallavatn, a giant lake speckled with snow-covered islands, stood silently in the distance. From the top of Skálafell, the ugly sprawl of Reykjavík and suburbs was an afterthought, dwarfed by the true scale and majesty of boundless, cold, white Icelandic winter. Looking off over this beautiful and inhospitable landscape, I could see how a Norse settler from the 9th century, one who lost all of his cattle during his first harsh winter, had it right. Sometimes the name "ice land" fits just about perfectly.