My travel companion Frosti and I are flying into Akureyri to spend the weekend snowboarding at Hlíðarfjall. Thankfully, we touch down safely. We park our asses in a warm, red Yaris rental car and make for the hostel we have booked for the weekend. The Akureyri Backpackers is too nice to be called a hostel though, so I’m going to refer to it as the hotel from now on.
After murdering some delicious burgers from the lovely people at Hamborgarafabrikkan we head back up into the cloud cover. The mountain is coated in sweet, sweet powder and an interminable fog. We make a trudging ascent with the chair and then the T-bar and barely make a single run through the whiteout before we are forced to call it a night.
We make a bee-line back to the hotel in time to witness Iceland turn a three-goal deficit around and snatch fifth place in the European Handball Championship out of the clamouring hands of the Polish team. Hands are clapped. Toasts are made. Jubilation is felt.
Then we stroll over to the Ketilshús art gallery to taunt our friend, the multi-talented artist Curver, who is doing some avant-garde file clerking in the buff as part of his ‘Paperwork’ performance art piece that is running there for a full month. Alas, the exhibition is closed and we are left to wonder if he covers up his manhood once people have stopped gawking at it.
Off The Slope
Later that night, at Akureyri’s hippest drinking post, Græni Hatturinn, punk poets Grísalappalísa are like an egg in a microwave—explosive! With a swing to their step and panache as their backseat driver, they are worth every króna we paid to see a single band play for all of 40 minutes.
Amply tanked up for the hill the following day, we burst through the hotel door into a most glorious sunshine. On the hill we meet up with newly-minted local Margó, and as Frosti heads off to tinker with his bindings, I tail her to the mother lode of virgin powder for turns aplenty and bountiful sprays of the white fluff.
On The Slope
Hlíðarfjall boasts 24 trails serviced by one chair lift and three tow lifts. The main attraction, however, for ageing powder hounds like myself is the T-bar up Strýtan. This is the steepest part of the mountain and offers access to off-piste lines full of cherry powder, and if you’re willing to hike there are numerous chutes, cliffs and cornices available. If, however, you are a freestyle kid, the lower slopes offer up an array of rails and big jumps.
When my legs can’t take it anymore I resort to hanging out in the rail garden to grab some nice shots of the local jibbing talent. But, alas, the talent seems to have stayed up all night watching local hero Halldór Helgason at the X-Games, so I brave the murderous cast iron constructions on my own for Frosti to shoot.
Until Next Time!
After some additional powder runs, we do a quick drive by of Ketilshús again and try to get Curver to break his vow of silence, but he doesn’t and we end up merely snapping some shots of him in the nude.
Then we take a dip at the municipal swimming pool to complete a circle started 14 years earlier when we both got arrested there for some unmentionable activities. The pool is cool, the tub is hot and the sauna is too much. Thus refreshed, I go to my friend’s Hrönn’s place for some pizza and a brewski or a few before we relocate to Margó’s house for a small alcohol-infused get-together.
I wake up the next morning to Frosti having hijacked my phone and moved us to a later flight. Now we have time for some more riding and a bit of photography. After another one of those delicious Backpackers brunches, Margó meets us up at the hill and we take a long, backcountry powder run until my thighs scream from exhaustion.
Back at the airport I misunderstand the drop-off directions for the rental car key and almost drop it in a mailbox by mistake. Silly me! After a lot less bumpy flight back, it’s time to say goodbye. Until next time!
Flights to Akureyri provided by Air Iceland. You can book online at https://www.airiceland.is/ or call (+354)-570-3000
Accomodation provided by Akureyri Backpackers. Book atwww.akureyribackpackers.com or call (+354)-5719050
Car provided by Hertz car rental, book at http://www.hertz.com/
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