1. Hlíðarfjall, Akureyri.
With a high-speed quad and three tow lifts Hlíðarfjall may not be the biggest, but it’s certainly the best. The top lift accesses a lot of off-piste and offers endless hiking possibilities to various chutes, cornices and cliffs. The quad has high turn around and seldom gets queued up but the slope is intermediate at best. The snowpark features a multitude of rails and is shaped by a graduate from a Swedish snowboarding high school. The area is unique in the meagre flora of Icelandic ski areas in that it year after year offers 140+ operating days.
2. Oddsskarð, Eskifjörður.
Boasting a mere two tows and a beginners lift, Oddsskarð is small but has great backcountry access. Take the two tows to the top and ride down the backside through off-piste galore and find yourself in another fjörd where you can drive back up the mountain pass through a tunnel that opens up back at the lifts. The powder is plentiful, the scenery magnificent and the town tiny. For accommodation you can’t do better than Mjóeyri, a guesthouse run by an awesome individual called Sævar who will go to any length to make your stay comfortable. Just tell him I sent you.
3. Bláfjöll, Reykavík.
With 9 tows, two double-seater chairs and a detachable high-speed quad, Bláfjöll is certainly the biggest, but the area is only open when the Norse god of weather is in a good mood. And that guy’s one moody bastard. A benefit of his whims are however nice wind formations such as cornices, in particular the “Framhengja”, which is a short hike away and often offers up a lot of hangtime. Man-made kickers are scarce as the weather doesn’t take lightly to such constructions, but the ISA (Icelandic Snowboard Association) tries to keep jumps available. The terrain is suitable to all levels of riders/skiers.
The Snæfellsjökull glacier is where you want to be in spring and early summer. Here you can partake in some midnight riding under the never setting sun, if you rent a snowmobile that is. A good surf break is nearby and a mini-ramp for skating was left behind by the Iceland Park Project, which used to run a summer camp a few years back. Pitch your tent at the Arnarstapi camp ground, near the small restaurant and bar. The scenery is breathtaking and the fowl is loud and menacing.
Have never been but a northerner friend of mine says it’s easily his favourite as far as backcountry goes, and if it’s not to your liking, Hlíðarfjall and the small areas of Dalvík and Húsavík are all within about an hour’s drive.
Honourable Mention: Skálafell, Reykjavik. R.I.P