Updated: Jun 22, 2021
Iceland is famous for all sorts of things but at first glance skiing isn’t really one of them. It does not have the mega resorts of the Alps or the grandiose scale of the Canadian ski resorts. But this is not to say that skiing isn’t popular and relatively plentiful on the island. There is actually a very good dusting of slopes to shred right across the country. Skiing and snowboarding just happens on a quieter and more compact scale here in Iceland. The ski resorts are smaller and less crowded and they are often geographically quite close together.
For experts you can find many thrilling red and black runs in some incredible settings. There is also some seriously dramatic backcountry skiing to be had in North Iceland. Beginners and improvers will get to learn and practice on much less crowded pistes. Another plus is that the mountains here are not too high. Topping out at about 1000 meters above see level there is no need to worry about the challenges of altitude.
So should you visit Iceland for a ski trip?
It really comes down to what you are looking for in a holiday. If you like to mix up your skiing trips with sightseeing and off-piste activities then Iceland really comes into its own. Beyond the slopes you will find one of the most unique travel destinations in the world. The natural splendour of Iceland is simply mesmerising.
When not carving up the slopes you could be hiking up a volcano or taking a whale watching boat trip. You might find yourself soaking in a natural hot spring and gazing at the Northern Lights dancing across the sky. All good stand alone reasons to travel to Iceland in the first place. Other winter highlights include ice caving, 4x4 jeep adventures and snow mobile excursions.
So there is plenty to do off the slopes, but serious winter sports enthusiasts won’t go snow hungry. You can easily spend a good few weeks visiting the different ski areas of the north alone. And one thing is for sure this won’t be your average long weekend in the Alps!
The ski season and what to expect?
Skiing in Iceland is on a smaller scale to its distant European and North American neighbours. However the ski areas here are often quite close together. So it is easy enough to ski one resort in the morning and then drive twenty minutes or so to the next. The slopes are much quieter here in general too. So the greens and blues are ideal for learners to cruise and improve. They can take their time without worrying about strings of school children showing them up!
The ski season in Iceland usually runs from around late-November to early May. Of course it is weather dependent and can start or finish a little earlier or later. The best months for winter sports are March and April. At this time of year there is generally better weather with clearer days and still plenty of snow. There are also more daylight hours at this time of year than in mid-winter.
Ski resorts in Iceland
Bláfjöll Ski Resort
At just thirty minutes drive from Reykjavik Blafjoll Ski Resort makes for an easy dash to the slopes. It is super convenient if you are on a city break in the capital and fancy some slope action. Many Reykjavik locals will head there after work and at the weekend for a no-fuss ski or snowboard. There are sixteen lifts and a good variety of slopes for all levels. You can also access backcountry skiing here for something a shade wilder. The slopes are flood lit in the darker winter months. And you can often catch sight of the Northern Lights from the mountaintop too. Just start the engine of your camper rental in Iceland and drive to this great and convenient resort.
Hlíðarfjall Ski Resort
You will find the best ski areas up in North Iceland though. If you are serious about skiing in Iceland you will want to base your trip in Akureyri. This is the capital city of the north and its largest settlement. From here you won’t need to go far to find the powder.
One of the best spots for resort skiing has to be Hlíðarfjall. The snow quality here is excellent and snow machines guarantee snow-covered pistes. There is a good range of slopes all with breath-taking views across the lovely Eyjafjörður fjord.
There are twenty-four ski trails in Hlíðarfjall and six ski lifts. Without a doubt there is a slope here to suit every level of skier and snowboarder. Beginners and improvers will find good ski schools with English-speaking guides. As well as a friendly set of green and blue runs to enjoy. Experts and daredevils can head up to the top for some adrenalin-inducing black runs.
Dalvik Ski Resort
The small fishing village of Dalvik is about a forty minutes drive from Akureyri. This diminutive town has a big reputation. It is often referred to as the capital of snowsports in Iceland. There are so many of Iceland’s professional skiers and snowboarders who hail from the town. The surrounding area has a wealth of backcountry skiing with opportunities for ski touring and more. The resort itself sometimes opens up an off-piste section if weather conditions allow.
Heli Skiing on the Troll Peninsula
The Tröllaskagi Peninsula is a wild mountainous region in the far north. The name comes from the prevalence of folklore stories linked to the land. Trolls and elves abound in this wild and beautiful volcanic landscape. This is where to come for some truly epic guided cross country skiing. It is also an exceptional heli skiing destination. Experienced pilots take the adventurous from base to mountaintop for some seriously exciting runs. Some of the slopes head straight down to the edge of the Atlantic Ocean. Heli skiers get to see the peninsular from on high with mountain after mountain stretching off into the distance. Being one of the only humans amidst this pristine and untouched landscape is a very privileged experience.