My iPod is pink and ancient. Within it resides, among others, Steve Von Till. He is gently crooning at my eardrums as turbulence hits like a linebacker, sending the Fokker into violent spasms affecting a change in altitude and piercing shrieks of terror from a few rows back. Screams that repeat ever more horrified as we enter a series of vacuum pockets and some woman gets scared witless.
We descend through a thick cloud cover and the pilot sets her down as smoothly as I wish I could manoeuvre my snowboard tricks. Budget car rental is cheap, hence the name. Still maybe you should shell out a bit extra not to be stuck with a Hyundai, as I am. The rental clerk asks me what’s wrong with a Hyundai, so I ask her what’s wrong with the German techno-pop band Scooter. Well, at least they didn’t stick me with a Kia.
A lead in to disappointment
I chauffeur myself to the Gula Villan Guesthouse and nap briefly before entering the domain of hip-hop that is my adolescent friend Siggi’s SUV. We pop out for some excellent pizza at a local bakery and Siggi informs me that the mountain won’t open ´til 4 PM. So it’s nap time again.
This is my first (of hopefully many) northward bound trips of the season, so I’m well stoked. While sporting only one chairlift and three tow-lifts, Hlíðarfjall does have the largest inbound playing field in the country, made up of windlips and chutes. It is often covered in acres of powder. Moreover, the many steep chutes, cornices, bowls and cliffs within a short hiking distance from the top tow-lift are in enormous amount and variety. Alas, once mountainside it’s hella windy and fogged the fuck up, so the top lift ain’t open. Which means a wasted lift ticket and that it is now time to hit the bottle with a vengeance.
Hitting the bottle is a Thursday trend ´round these parts it seems, and what with Akureyri establishments’ apparently lax carding policy, Siggi – not yet twenty years of age – can easily purchase drinks at Kaffi Amor. Which he does, frequently.
As a pathetic troubadour blasts us like a jet engine with timeless Icelandic classics and plays the Radiohead number “Creep” at least thrice, we take refuge outside Amor for smokes – this is after I plead with him to turn down the volume. Not being of the tobacco persuasion, I delight my northern Iceland friends with the lighting of a meticulously rolled tulip. My newfound friend Helga then sets me up with a rather loose relative of hers. Good times. Better even had I hit successfully on Helga but, sorry to say, she’s spoken for.
Another hit of disappointment
The next day rises slowly, like a bad hangover. Hlíðarfjall, Iceland’s Mecca of snowboarding, opens at one o’clock. But it seems the beauty of this, our best resort, is not meant for my eyes, as the mountain is trapped within the grudging grasp of a crippling whiteout. Again the top lift is closed due to poor visibility, so I do three laidback cruising runs on the more intermediate slopes beneath the high speed quad chair. It isn’t very high speed today.
These lower slopes undulate at a slovenly pace and are wide enough to absorb endless amounts of happy skiing holidaymakers, but they are not the hi-jinxing, double black diamond, airtime filled cup of tea I’m looking for. Which is a shame, ´cuz on a good day this resort caters to all levels of snow seekers, but once the top lift is out it becomes an intermediate area at best.
The escape plan
All in all, it’s a bust. So I phone up the good people at Flugfélag Íslands to make an early break for it. They are most accommodating, even when I manage to miss my flight. While in the process of missing my flight, I soak myself in the hot tub of the local swimming pool, an excellent establishment which I was once banned from and arrested at.
Hamborgarabúlla Tómasar has gone belly up in Akureyri – most likely due to their insistence on sesame seed free buns – but DJ Grill took over the location and I am happy to report that they make quite an enjoyable bacon cheeseburger. So I leave you on that high note. Trip done, with the least possible amount of actual snowboarding and the most amount of alcohol imbibed. I’m proud of myself.