Beginner’s Guide to Skiing In Iceland

Beginner’s Guide to Skiing In Iceland

Josie Gaitens
Photo by
Norris Niman

Ever wanted to go very fast down a hill with two sticks attached to your feet? Here’s how!

Say what you like about the Icelandic winter—and you can, because it won’t make the slightest bit of difference—it sure does have staying power. Pausing from pushing your snow-bound car for the umpteenth time to shake your fist at the sky might give you momentary relief, but the true secret to surviving the seemingly endless brumal months is actually to embrace them.

With record-breaking snowfall this winter, skiing seems the obvious way to get out there and at least attempt to enjoy the colder days. If you’ve already sampled some other favoured Icelandic winter pastimes (drinking, going to a cabin, drinking in a cabin) and are looking for an expensive new hobby then you’re in luck! Turns out, skiing in Iceland is totally approachable, even for adult learners.

Step one: where the heck are we going?
There are 11 ski resorts in Iceland, two of which, Bláfjoll and Skálafell are conveniently located near the capital. However, skiing conditions in the South of the country are notoriously unreliable, as the weather tends to lean wetter and milder. It’s unsurprising then that the majority of commercial ski slopes are found in the North. One of the most popular locations is Hlíðarfjall, which is near Akureyri. And really, we mean it’s very close: you can basically ski right into town if you want. Hlíðarfjall boasts a total of 24 marked ski slopes, most of which are suitable for beginners.

Step two: acquiring gear
If there’s one thing you probably already know about ski equipment, it’s that it’s not cheap. As a newbie, there is absolutely no need to invest in gear until you’re sure this is something you want to commit to doing regularly. In the meantime, Fjallakofinn offers a full rental service from their base at Hlíðarfjall, including skis (duh), boots, poles, and helmets. The latter is important. You’re going to fall down a lot, my friend, and it’ll be a more enjoyable experience for both you and your fellow mountain dwellers if you don’t mash your noggin into the ice as part of that process.

Besides actual ski paraphernalia, the other element you will require is something to wear. The challenge is picking something light enough that you won’t overheat—skiing is surprisingly energetic, who knew—but still protective against the rushing winds as you gracefully speed down the slopes. As always, check for an idea of what the weather will be doing during your trip and dress accordingly. Hiking trousers and a lightweight puffer jacket paired with thermals is a good option, or alternatively, trawl vintage and secondhand stores for a rad 80s one-piece. Bonus points if you can get all your friends to dress up with you.

Step three: BUT HOW?
So, you’re suited and booted, and have somehow already taken enough selfies to fill your grandma’s scrapbook twice over. One slight issue though: you have no idea what you’re doing.

Our advice: do yourself a favour and get an expert involved. Even if your kindly pal offers to show you the ropes, you’ll learn more, and faster, from a trained teacher. Plus, it’s never fun to babysit the new kid as they skitter down the nursery slopes like a new-born deer, when everyone else you know is carving it up elsewhere. So tell your friends you’ll catch them later, and book in with Iceland Snowsports. A one-hour one-to-one lesson is enough to cover the basics, and you’ll be flying with the rest of them in no time. Our instructor, Ásdís, was patient, informative, and graciously put up with the fact we skied into her. Several times.

Once you’re ready to be let loose on the grownup trails, don’t let your enthusiasm over your new-found skills carry you away—literally. Most collisions are caused by carelessness and a lack of control. Be aware of the people around you and stay out of the way as best you can. You’ll discover very quickly that with skiing, the line between ‘looking cool’ and ‘looking like a dickhead’ is wincingly thin.

Step four: ready for more?
Congratulations! You’ve done it! You’re officially enjoying winter. Your instagram stories are full of #apresski and you’re already saying insufferable things like, “Gnarly!” for no discernable reason.

If you do decide that you want to stick with skiing and buy your own gear, Fjallakofinn also offers a handy ‘try and buy’ service where you can test run a variety of skis before committing. Secondhand groups on facebook are also worth keeping an eye on if you’re looking for cheaper options. In the meantime, we’ll see you on the hill.

Distance from Reykjavík: 392km
Experience provided by:
Iceland Snowsports

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