Ten Man-Made Avalanches Last Week

At least ten avalanches from March 28 to April 3 were caused by human activity, according to the Iceland Meteorological Office. In every case they were caused by skiers or snowmobile riders. No serious injuries occurred, but in four of the cases people were caught or buried in the avalanche, RÚV reports.

Necessary equipment for mountaineers

Erla Guðný Helgadóttir, an avalanche specialist with the Meteorological Office, said that people will understandably want to enjoy the outdoors when the weather is favourable. However, she warned that it’s important to look at avalanche forecasts before heading to the mountains. In such excursions, an avalanche beacon, probe and shovel should be brought along.

She added that mountaineers should attend avalanche seminars as anyone accompanying a person buried in snow should be the first responder on site.

Avalanches should be reported

Erla urged people to report any avalanche they spot, as such reports are important for research purposes. This applies for avalanches due to natural causes and artificial causes. Even if people cause the avalanche themselves, they should not hesitate to report. Such reports can be emailed to [email protected] or registered on the Iceland Meteorological Office website.

Skiing in Iceland: Bláfjöll Ski Resort

Skiing resort Bláfjöll, skiing in Iceland

Iceland is famously referred to as the country of fire and ice. Fittingly, there are also some great ski resorts to discover. Luckily, the biggest ski resort in Iceland “Bláfjöll”, is right next to Reykjavík. We have compiled everything you need to know before heading on the wintery journey, from ‘How can I get there?’ & ‘Where can I find the best equipment?’ to ‘What slopes can I expect?’

The best thing about skiing in Iceland? – The ocean view!

As most ski resorts are (naturally) close to the island’s shores, it is likely that you can enjoy the most beautiful ocean view while gliding down the powdery mountains. If you are used to skiing or snowboarding in the European Alps, this is something quite peculiar! In total, Iceland has about 9 skiing resorts, with most of them located in the northern part of the country.

Bláfjöll Ski Resort: Wintersport adventure close to Reykjavík

Iceland’s biggest ski resort, Bláfjöll (“The Blue Mountains”), is just a 30-minute drive away from Reykjavík and perfect for a sporty pit-stop in between exploring Iceland’s sights. During the season from late November to early April (depending on the weather), skiers and snowboarders alike can enjoy 15 kilometres [10 mi] of slopes and 14 ski lifts. 

Bláfjöll ski resort opened in 1970, according to operating manager Einar Bjarnason, and has been the place where many Icelanders stood on skis for the first time in their lives, as the resort started out as a ski school. Just in the fall of 2023, the resort got two new chairlifts and snow-making machines in the hopes of making the season longer and more predictable.

Skiing resort Bláfjöll
The view from Bláfjöll mountain, photo: Alina Maurer
What you can expect?

Generally, when it comes to skiing in Iceland, don’t expect huge resorts with hundreds of kilometres of slopes, like in popular skiing areas in Austria and Switzerland. The views do make up for it, though! 

Most slopes in Bláfjöll are blue (easy), there are some red slopes (intermediate level) and even one black slope – which was actually fairly easy to ski on. The area is, therefore, perfect for beginner and intermediate ski enthusiasts and more than enough for just a day out on the slopes!

Skiing resort Bláfjöll, skiing in Iceland, Einar Bjarnason, operating manager
Einar Bjarnason, operating manager at Bláfjöll ski resort; photo: Alina Maurer

Before planning your visit, you should always be prepared and check the resort’s website or Facebook page. Icelandic weather can be unpredictable, so they make their decision whether to open the area on a day-to-day basis. On the weekends, the slopes are open from 10:00 AM to 05:00 PM. During workdays, you can ski from 02:00 PM until 09:00 PM in the evening with floodlights, which is a pretty cool experience. If you’re racing down the slopes is a bit too adventurous, you can also head on a cross-country-ski adventure at the foot of Bláfjöll.

If you are lucky, you can even watch the sunset right above the ocean as you’re skiing down, which is pretty unique! Many Icelanders make use of the long opening hours during the week to cool off after work on the slopes and send their kids to ski school in the evenings.

Skiing resort Bláfjöll, skiing in Iceland
Skiers shredding down the Bláfjöll slopes in the dark with floodlights, photo: Alina Maurer
How can you get there?

If you’re renting a car, you take the ring road (No 1) in the direction East to Hveragerði. After about 20 minutes, you will see the sign “Bláfjöll 11 km”. You take a turn to the right side, and then it’s only about 10 minutes until you reach the slopes.

There is also a bus commuting directly to the ski resort from the N1 Gas station, close to the BSÍ central bus terminal in Reykjavík and from other locations in the Reykjavík suburbs. The return ticket costs about ISK 4,000 [€ 26 / $ 28].

Where can you get the best equipment & ski passes?

Whether you are a skier or a snowboarder, you can rent all of your gear on-site, including ski helmets and snowsuits. A pair of skis, boots and poles costs about ISK 7,000 [€ 46/$50] per day. A snowboard and boots are the same price. Cross-country skies run for ISK 6,230 [€ 42/$45] per day. You can always get a helmet for free—which you should definitely wear safety-wise!

An adult ski pass for one day runs for about ISK 5,940 [€ 40/$ 43] – when compared to American prizes, that is a definite bargain! 

Children’s day passes are ISK 1,320 [€ 8.85/$ 9.61].

Skiing resort Bláfjöll, skiing in Iceland
Snowboarders at the peak of Bláfjöll during sunset, photo: Alina Maurer
What should you wear?

The simple answer is layers

While you tend to be moving while skiing or snowboarding, you should still make sure that you are dressed warm enough! It can get pretty frosty on top of the mountain, especially with strong and ice-cold winds blowing straight in your face. Make sure to check the weather forecast and dress accordingly. 

Generally, it is great to wear long woollen undergarments, thick wool socks, a fleece or woollen sweater, a ski mask, ski goggles for visibility, snow pants, gloves, and a thick anorak. During our visit to Bláfjöll, the temperatures reached about -18 °C [-0.4°F] on the top and even with many layers of clothing and a ski mask, the adventure got a bit chilly after a while. Luckily, the resort has a small restaurant right next to the ticket hut, where you can get some treats to warm up!

Skiing resort Bláfjöll, skiing in Iceland
Photo: Alina Maurer, the restaurant at Bláfjöll ski resort
What can you eat at Bláfjöll Ski Resort?

The small restaurant right at the bottom of the slopes is the perfect spot to warm up and gather more strength for the next descent. You can buy sandwiches, traditional Icelandic flatkökur (pancakes) with smoked lamb meat and butter, bagels, fries, hotdogs and sweet pastries. They also offer sodas and hot drinks from a vending machine, which tasted pretty good and helped to warm up quickly again. 

The prices are quite affordable, with a hotdog costing ISK 700 [€4.70/$5] and a hot chocolate running for ISK 500 [€3.35 / $3.64], which is even cheaper than in some downtown Reykjavík places.

More winter sport adventures in Iceland

If skiing or snowboarding in a regular ski resort isn’t enough adrenaline for you, you can always head on a guided winter expedition to one of Iceland’s many mountain tops for the ultimate endorphin rush. After an exhausting but thrilling 9 to 13-hour hike to Rótajallshnúkur, you are awarded by descending the mountain by skiing back down. If that sounds like the right adventure for you, make sure to check out this tour here.  If you are a cross-country ski enthusiast, make sure to check out our magazine feature on our expedition to Kerlingarfjöll in the midst of the Icelandic highland. 

Skiing resort Bláfjöll, skiing in Iceland
The ocean view from Bláfjöll, photo: Alina Maurer

White Sahara

kerlingarfjöll cross-country skiing

Cold reception

The west-facing windows of our superjeep – or, more correctly, supervan – have turned to ice, blasted by the sharp winds coming off the highland. Inside, it’s warm, and the loud mechanical whirring of pneumatic pistons mingles with the sound of ice crunching under our vehicle’s heavy, well-studded wheels. It is -12°C [10°F] outside, and the visibility is decreasing quickly.

“So, who here has already been to Kerlingarfjöll?” our guide Brynhildur asks. Nearly all present raise their hands. “And who here has been here in the winter?” Brynhildur asks. Again, nearly all hands go up. I’m starting to get an uneasy feeling in my stomach.

highland base camp kerlingarfjöll

The journey is long. Even with the considerable horsepower of our van, the wheels lose their grip here and there, and we free ourselves either by rocking back and forth or by a tow line from another member of our convoy. During one particularly arduous stretch, we cover just 500 m [0.3 mi] in one hour. The powerful pneumatic system located a short distance behind my skull empties and fills our tyres on demand. Anyone who’s seen a polar bear hunt in a nature documentary will know the principles at play here: to avoid breaking through a thin crust of ice, the bear flattens itself out, spreading its weight. Our supervan struggles on, inching up steep slopes and ploughing through metres-deep snow drifts. Finally, as the sun sets over the highland, we crest a final hill and look down at the warm lights of the Highland Base – a new hotel and one of the largest-ever developments in the highland. It is a welcome sight, and we are among the first travellers to see it.

kerlingarfjöll highland base
kerlingarfjöll highland base winter

One step at a time

It’s 9:00 in the morning, and I’m still wiping the sleep from my eyes as we stand next to our skis, limbering up. We’re standing in the hotel hallway in full gear, practising the basics: adjusting our poles, clipping and unclipping from our skis, and recovering from a fall without disrupting the skiers behind. In a moisture-wicking base layer, thick socks, fleece, and windproof shell, I begin to sweat. I’m eager to get outside.

kerlingarfjöll highland base

“It’s just like learning to dance,” our ski instructor Brynhildur cheerfully informs us as we shuffle outside. This is advice that has generally not boded well for me. 

But as we get into it, I see that the dancing bit is not entirely inaccurate. It is not the poles, after all, that generate the forward momentum. It is one’s legs. One can, in fact, cross-country ski without poles, though I wouldn’t recommend it. The trick is finding a rhythm between pushing off with your legs and letting yourself glide. Sounds easy enough, but finding the rhythm in between hard patches of ice, wind gusts, and generally uncoordinated limbs can prove difficult.

kerlingarfjöll highland base
Our cross-country ski instructor, Brynhildur.

Still, sure enough, after some laps around our practice track, I get into the swing of things. Next, we move on to proper pole usage. The poles are never to be out in front at an angle, I’m told. The trick is to keep them vertical and then fully extend them behind. Those who quickly mastered handling their poles then graduate to an advanced gait, which involves a rhythmic cycle of gliding, shuffling, and kicking. I regret to report that I was not nominated to graduate to the advanced gait, but I was soon enough confidently punting my way around the practice track.

To round off the day, we begin learning the basic techniques of cross-country skiing downhill. When braking, for example, one is never to hold the poles out in front. Brynhildur mimics being impaled. Noted.

Après ski

In fine alpine fashion, we conclude the day of skiing with champagne in the loft of the Kerlingarfjöll hotel. The Icelanders discuss an upcoming winter expedition across the Fimmvörðuháls pass, a trail connecting the popular Laugavegur hiking trail with the South Coast, while a German and an Australian wax poetic about the surroundings. It’s hard to blame them; the panoramic view of the winter highland is all the better after a day of hard work on the slopes.

kerlngarfjöll highland base
kerlingarföll highland base

After a dinner of fillet mignon and sorbet, we relax in the natural hot springs and stargaze. Cross-country skiing is fun and all, but I’d be perfectly content if the trip consisted of nothing more than this. Later in the evening, we join a traditional kvöldvaka, an evening of drinking and song. Such nocturnal revelries have their roots in the early days of the ski school here, when Kerlingarfjöll was a much humbler place. Young people would cram into the loft of the old lodges here, strum guitars, and drink schnapps late into the night. Tonight, our accommodations are considerably more sumptuous than those of a generation or two ago, but something of that spirit is clearly in the room as we raise our glasses and voices into the cold, clear night.

kerlingarfjöll highland base

A brief history of Kerlingarfjöll

The highland area known as Kerlingarfjöll is located between the glaciers Hofsjökull and Langjökull, some 50 km [31 mi] northeast of Gullfoss waterfall, as the crow flies. This proximity to Gullfoss waterfall, with its cafés and gift shops, may make it sound relatively accessible, a quick stop on a day tour of the Golden Circle. But even in the summer, the rough track can be difficult to navigate; in the winter, nothing but the largest, most powerful superjeep will do. 

kerlingarfjöll highland base

To the traveller approaching Kerlingarfjöll, the mountain range appears as nothing so much as a highland fortress. From the banks of the Hvítá river, a long plateau gently rises to the north. Atop this motte sits a bailey of jagged peaks, including Fannborg, Hverahnúkar, Snækollur, Snót, and Loðmundur. All of them are among the hundred highest in Iceland.

This complex of peaks is a mature volcano, characterised by diverse eruption patterns, geothermal springs, two prominent craters, and striking rhyolite colours. During the summer, the rhyolite gives the area a distinctive and vibrant colour, much admired by the hikers, mountain bikers, and social media influencers who come here in droves. The oldest rock formations at Kerlingarfjöll are about 336,000 years old, with volcanic activity prominent during the last glacial and interglacial periods. Minimal seismic and volcanic activity has been recorded here in recent years, making the area about as calm as it gets on a volcanic island. 

The captain

Daði is known informally as the captain of Kerlingarfjöll, and though it’s partly a tongue-in-cheek title, it’s not entirely. The day-to-day of managing a highland-base-camp-cum-luxury-hotel, after all, requires Daði to be equal parts mountain guide, receptionist, and all-around handyman. “An average day here is nothing like the ordinary,” Daði tells me. “There’s always something you have to figure out. I need to take care of the whole area, and it’s like a small village. In the summer, a typical day begins with me waking up early and setting up the breakfast buffet. Then, around 10:00 or so, I might have to fix a tyre. I’m always fixing tyres,” he adds ruefully. “Then in the afternoon, I might need to fix a window and take care of our customers until dinner. So it’s always something.” He tells me that working here in the winter is much the same, except that the snowmobiles also need looking after.

kerlingarfjöll highland base

Daði also explains that simply getting visitors to Kerlingarfjöll is its own challenge. “We’re always sure about how many people we’re expecting, and if they don’t arrive, then we need to go out and find them. Sometimes, a jeep might get stuck, and then it’s up to us to assist them.” Incidentally, this is a duty of Daði’s with which I’m already familiar. Despite the horsepower of our supervan, we stranded briefly on the rough highland track. It was Daði in his superjeep, Emma, that ultimately guided us to the warmth and comfort of our lodgings.

kerlingarfjöll highland base

Such difficulties remind one that despite the luxurious lodgings and elegant atmosphere at Kerlingarfjöll one is, indeed, in the middle of nowhere. I can think of no better illustration of this tension than our fellow guests for the weekend – a corporate group holding a private party that seemed to have much more to do with the clubs of downtown Reykjavík than the Icelandic highland. It is a curious dynamic that leads me to wonder: who, exactly, is Kerlingarfjöll for these days? 

“I think the highland has been quite accessible for many years now,” Daði goes on. There have of course been superjeep enthusiasts and international mountaineers who have frequented the area for some time, but the area is undeniably gaining in popularity among a new kind of traveller who doesn’t necessarily have the same kind of experience or gear as these other types. “We see a lot of people who want a real adventure,” Daði says. “They come here to see the mountains, to experience the weather in a way that you just can’t on television or social media. You can actually feel it on the skin. You can come here, and you can stay in the hotel – you don’t even need to leave the hotel if you don’t want to. Some people just want to experience the dark nights and see the aurora, for instance.” 

kerlingarfjöll highland base

The beauty of the new Highland Base at Kerlingarfjöll seems to be that travellers no longer have to choose between extreme outdoor adventure and the comfortable luxury of hot springs, saunas, and champagne. As more and more people find out about this hidden jewel of the highland, it’s inevitable that this area will see quantities and kinds of visitors previously unheard of in this region. As Daði says, “I think there is so much at Kerlingarfjöll for everybody, and I think it’s only going to grow in the years to come. But it’s also important to take care of the nature here. And maybe the best way to do this is to educate the people who come. That’s really important to us. We always have guides on the premises to talk to everybody, to teach them how to best view the surroundings. Maybe that’s the best way to take care of what we have here.” 

Destination: Kerlingarfjöll

It is only relatively recently that Kerlingarfjöll has become known as an outdoor destination. Prior to the 21st century, local farmers had little reason to explore the highland area, and most thought it the haunt of outlaws and trolls. Indeed, the name Kerlingarfjöll might be best translated as the Hag Mountains, a reference to the traditional connection between uninhabited places and the supernatural. Many peaks, glaciers, and valleys here had no names until recently.

The first human construction in these mountains was a small hut raised by Ferðafélag Íslands (The Icelandic Touring Association) in 1937. In 1961, a ski school was founded in Kerlingarfjöll that operated during the summers until the turn of the century, when the area stopped receiving consistent snowfall in the summer.

kerlingarfjöll highland base

With the growing popularity of the region, Kerlingarfjöll also saw a rising demand for services. Original plans for the Highland Base detailed some 120 double rooms, but after calls by concerned environmentalists, the hotel was scaled down and redesigned to better blend in with the landscape. At a total cost of ISK 2-3 billion [approximately $20 million, €17 million], the Highland Base at Kerlingarfjöll is the largest-ever investment in the Icelandic highland, with the exception of hydropower plants.

The scale of the project also sparked the political will to formally protect this area of the highland. In 2020, 344 km² [133mi²] were designated a conservation area, in what many, including then-Minister for Environment and Natural Resources Svandís Svavarsdóttir, celebrated as a win for the environment. 

Ásgarðsheiði

Early next morning, we are treated to a generous breakfast buffet that was rather inexplicably – to me at least – paired with the sound of Taylor Swift. The pineapple in the fruit salad seems somehow fresher than the stuff I buy in town, and heaps of sliced cheeses, deli meats, scrambled eggs, and pain au chocolat greet the browsing skier. Some shot glasses are arranged on an elegant tray next to the canisters of water and orange juice. It seems a bit early for that kind of thing, but as I later see, the shot glasses are intended for the doctor’s recommended intake of lýsi – cod liver oil. I see our guide, Brynhildur, doing a bottoms-up with the other guides. Health-wise, they might be on to something, but I can’t help but stifle a reflexive retch from childhood memories of the stuff.

kerlingarfjöll highland base

Not long after, we clamber into Daði’s superjeep, Emma. As we soon learn, Emma is a minor celebrity among offroad vehicles. Along with her driver, Daði, she was the first vehicle to cross Greenland from East to West and then back again. It took some three to four weeks each way, Daði tells me. With 120,000 km [75,000 mi] on her odometer, Emma has also driven on every major glacier in Iceland. Outfitted with 44-inch wheels, she sits atop three separate fuel tanks, carrying a total of 240 litres [63 gallons] of diesel when fully topped off. The pressure of each tyre is individually controlled through an app on a smartphone mounted to the dash.

We are driving across a mountain plateau known as Ásgarðsheiði, the Asgard heath. It is an area that feels mythological, and Daði tells me that two crows are known to live here. He has named them Huginn and Muninn. Thought and Memory – Odin’s ravens.  

kerlingarfjöll highland base
kerlingarfjöll highland base
kerlingarfjöll highland base snowmobile

Our mission today is to catch a glimpse of the Hveradalir geothermal valley and then rendezvous with our ski group. In the summer, Hveradalir is known for the vibrant colours of its rhyolite cliffs and mineral deposits from the geothermal springs. Now, in the middle of winter, it’s a white Sahara. White cliffs against a white sky loom over us; white snow drifts snake across the white ground; even the sun, in its blinding clarity, appears white.

We stop on a ridge that overlooks the valley. The river that flows through it is some of the only water in this region that remains unfrozen in the winter, heated by the many geothermal vents and springs that dot the valley. It is a spectacular sight, but the wind is picking up, and we re-embark into Emma.

Switchbacks

The ski group comes into view as we descend Ásgarðsheiði, brightly coloured Gore-Tex shells standing out in sharp relief to the blasted white surroundings. As we disembark from Emma, I sense a charge in the air. Walkie-talkies crackle and click in the wind. We are surrounded by expert guides and experienced skiers, but this windswept heath is not a place anyone wants to linger. 

The wind is picking up as we strap on our skis. Before us, at the northeast edge of Kerlingarfjöll, stands Loðmundur mountain, the so-called King of Kerlingarfjöll. At 1,432 metres [4,698 ft], it is not the tallest peak here, but its distinctive shape has earned it a place in the hearts of mountaineers. It is also the most technical peak to summit in this range, skirted by steep slopes on its sides, its top ringed by near-vertical cliffs.

loðmundur mountain kerlingarfjöll
Loðmundur, the king of Kerlingarfjöll.

“Everybody warm? Good to go?” Brynhildur yells atop the wind. We can’t afford to stop at length; cross-country skiing in this environment is a delicate balance. Stay still for too long, and you cool down; overheat, and you sweat through your layers – a potentially dangerous situation in extreme temperatures. The current temperature is -15°C [5°F] with wind gusts up to 30 m/s [67 mph].

A long, broad slope extends before us. A switchback trail cuts zigzags through the snow, and the more advanced skiers have already pushed off. With little time to lose, I begin my descent.

There is an art to cross-country skiing downhill. While downhill skiers can simply form a “pizza” shape with their skis to slow down, it’s important for cross-country skiers to remain in the ruts that have been cut in the ice-crusted snow by their fellow travellers. This means that conventional braking methods are out the window, and I must instead time my descent such that I lose momentum where the switchback turns, dragging my poles in the snow if need be. Once stopped, I cut my slope-facing foot into the side of the hill and with the other, I take a conspicuously large goose-step and turn my foot in the other direction. Once secure, I repeat the procedure with the other foot and then it’s downhill again. Through the constant rebalancing and readjusting, I discover muscles in my feet previously unknown to me.

kerlingarfjöll

It is a relief when we reach the bottom, where we resume our shuffling and kicking. After a brief respite, we head out again across the flats of the plateau. Loðmundur is at our back, and a sharp wind picks up from the northwest. 

The wind is unrelenting, but, fortunately, there are times when it’s at our backs, catching our shells in the wind like sails. The temperature is dropping, and we have several kilometres to go before we return to base camp. The group sinks into the silence of grim determination, pushing on through ice patches, snow drifts, and uphill slopes. During particularly sharp blasts of wind, a burst of mad laughter picks up along the column. It’s infectious, and I join in, howling at the wind. By the time we return to base, I can honestly say this trip has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever done; it also happens to be one of the best days spent outdoors in my life.

Another world

As I sit in the supervan bound for civilisation, I think about distance and time. From Gullfoss, the nearest outpost of civilisation, it is only some 50 or 60 km [some 35 mi] to the Highland Base at Kerlingarfjöll. But on the icy highland tracks, it takes five or six hours to traverse these kilometres, making this corner of the highland just as far removed from Reykjavík as London or Paris. A traveller may well wonder – why come to Kerlingarfjöll at all? The answer, it seems to me, is simple. On any other weekend, I could have visited another city, another country. But out here, I’ve visited another world.

kerlingarfjöll highland base

Twenty Rescued from Ski Lift in High Winds

Twenty people were rescued from a chairlift at the Hlíðarfjall ski area outside Akureyri on Friday afternoon, RÚV reports. The lift stalled when the wire was blown off its spool by a strong blast of wind, stranding about 20 people mid-air for close to two hours. Luckily, the area’s Search and Rescue crew was able to get everyone to safety and no one was injured in the process.

Weather conditions are assessed at ski areas every day to determine if it’s safe to open. But while conditions weren’t ideal at Hlíðarfjall on Friday, the wind wasn’t initially so strong that it was thought unsafe to ski and snowboard. By the afternoon, however, the weather had taken a turn for the worse.

From noon, the wind started to pick up again, and it was decided to stop letting people in the lift at 12:30,” explained a post on the Hlíðarfjall Facebook page. “There were still 21 people on the lift. Our chairlifts have built-in wind protection that slows down and stops the lift at certain wind speeds. An attempt was made to drive the lift slowly backwards in the hope of evacuating it, but as the wind continued to increase, it did not work and the lift came to a complete stop.

The Súlur Search and Rescue team used special equipment to rescue those who had been stranded on the chairlift in high winds. Image via the Hlíðarfjall Akureyri Facebook page.

It was then that Search and Rescue and police were called, explained Hlíðarfjall director Brynjar Helgi Ásgeirson. Ski area staff regularly train in ski lift rescues, but the wind, which had reached 20 m/s [44.7 mph], made the process much more difficult.

Luckily, everyone on the lift was back on the ground within two hours of it stopping. Australian Andrew Davis was one of those rescued from the lift. He told reporters that everyone who was stuck kept calm, and no one seemed to be in too bad a shape, though the wind was battering them about.

Andrew said he did consider jumping from the lift, as he was confident he could have stuck the landing. But in the end, he decided to wait it out, and saluted the Search and Rescue team for their fast work. Two 13-year-old girls were also amongst the stranded, but Bynjar Helgi said they were “quite upbeat” when they made it back to the ground.

After the rescue, those who had been stranded were offered trauma counselling, although no one chose to take it. What everyone did want, however, was the hot chocolate that ski area staff had waiting for them. “After a short while and some hot cocoa, people were smiling and putting this down to experience,” said Brynjar Helgi.

Hlíðarfjall was closed on Saturday due to unsafe weather conditions. To check current conditions and look at the area’s web cams (in English), see the Hlíðarfjall website, here.

Bláfjöll Ski Area to Open Tomorrow

bláfjöll ski area iceland

As the capital region deals with heavy snowfall and road closures, the Bláfjöll ski area plans to open tomorrow.

Bláfjöll ski area is the capital region’s most popular ski destination, located in Hellisheiði, a plateau that separates the Reykjanes peninsula from the South Coast.

See also: Bláfjöll Adds Two Additional Lifts

However, only the slope “Drottningin” (The Queen) currently has enough snow to be operational. The slope “Kóngurinn” (The King) still requires more snow cover.

Skiers can also expect significant changes to the area, as the slopes have been under renovation since this spring, with two new lifts being installed.

Einar Bjarnason, manager of the ski area, stated to Vísir that, “we’ve been working day and night shoveling and moving snow. We’re trying for tomorrow.”

Einar also stated that he was hopeful that “Kóngurinn” could be opened this coming weekend, when further snow is expected.

Bláfjöll Ski Resort to Add Two Additional Lifts

reykjavík skiing bláfjöll

Two large lifts are nearly completed at Bláfjöll ski resort and will hopefully be operational by the start of the winter skiing season, reports RÚV.

The new lifts will be some 450m long, taking just over a minute to reach the top of the slope. Einar Bjarnason, manager of the ski  area, reports that it will be able to take 2,400 individuals every hour.

The news comes just as winter is arriving in the capital, the last few days having been the first properly cold ones of the year, with temperatures dipping to 3°C [37°F].

The improvements to Bláfjöll will also include a new building from which skiers will board the lift, skiing directly into the building. The building, called Gosinn, will have a futuristic look, reminding some of a spaceship. Additionally, other facilities are also getting improvements before the winter season.

The Bláfjöll ski resort is a popular winter recreation for residents of the capital area, located about 25 minutes from Reykjavík. The beginning of the season depends on the weather, but it is generally open by the end of December to beginning of January.

Olympian in “Race Against Time” Even Before Race Day

Icelandic skier Sturla Snær Snorrason is in the midst of a nail-biting race—but not the kind he was hoping to take part in during the Winter 2022 Olympics in Beijing, China. Vísir reports that Olympian was just released from isolation after having been diagnosed with COVID last Saturday. This means that Sturla Snær can begin training again but will not be able to actually compete unless he receives a negative PCR test result prior to his events, one of which is this weekend.

See Also: Five Icelanders Compete in 2022 Winter Olympics

Sturla, who competed in the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, was one of Iceland’s flagbearers during the opening ceremonies last Friday, along with cross-country skier Kristrún Guðnadóttir. Following the ceremony, he began to experience COVID symptoms and was taken to a hospital in Beijing and put in isolation.

After a few days, Sturla began to feel better, but he also began to get bored. “There was no coffee or anything like that,” he remarked in an interview. “It wasn’t possible to go on any social media that we use at home. […] There wasn’t even a table and chair to sit at. You had to eat in bed and lie there all day. Not much in the way of entertainment, so I had to make my own.” To while away the time, therefore, Sturla decided to create a website for the road-marking company he runs with his father.

As of Friday, Sturla was still in quarantine and still testing positive for COVID. If all goes well, however, he will compete in Men’s Giant Slalom late Sunday night/early Monday morning (GMT/Iceland time) this weekend and Men’s Slalom in the early hours of February 16.

 

Avalanche Causes Damage at Siglufjörður Skiing Grounds

Ski Siglufjörður Skarðsdalur

An avalanche has damaged installations on the skiing grounds in Siglufjörður, North Iceland, RÚV reports. No one was on the grounds when the avalanche occurred early this morning, though staff noticed it when they arrived in the area, located in Skarðsdalur valley. Egill Rögnvaldsson, regional manager of the ski grounds, says the extent of the damage is not known.

The ski lodge was displaced from its foundation by the avalanche. The snow also fell on storage containers with rental equipment and moved a snow plough. Employees left the area immediately once they saw what had occurred. According to the Icelandic Met Office, there is an ongoing risk of avalanches in the area and a state of uncertainty remains in effect in North Iceland.

Two avalanches have fallen on roads in the area and some remain closed due to clean-up or ongoing avalanche risk.

Two Cross-Country Skiers Rescued in North Iceland

The Dalbjörg Search and Rescue squad in Eyjafjörður in North Iceland came to the aid of two skiers who got stranded while trying to cross the highlands. RÚV reports that the skiers had registered a detailed travel plan at safetravel.is which greatly aided rescuers in locating them and bringing them to safety.

The skiers intended to cross the highlands from north to south. However, on Thursday, one of them got wet and very cold during the expedition, which prevented the pair from either going back the way they came or continuing on their journey. They sent word to a contact in Canada, who in turn, got in touch with Icelandic authorities to request assistance on their behalf. The information that ICE-SAR received from this third party was unclear, but happily, the skiers had registered a detailed itinerary on that made it possible for rescuers to pinpoint their location without difficulty.

Two ICE-SAR volunteers on snowmobiles left from Eyjafjörður on Thursday afternoon to find the skiers, who were taking shelter in a tent east of Urðarvatn lake. At the time of writing, a rescue vehicle was on the way to transport the skiers back to Akureyri.

 

A Rainy Easter in the Forecast

Rain in Reykjavík

The forecast for this Easter weekend in Iceland looks to be a wet one, particularly in South and West Iceland. Nevertheless, while the slopes around the capital area have already closed for the year, the outlook for Iceland’s biggest ski weekend looks much better up north, where RÚV reports that temperatures may reach a balmy 15°C [59°F] on Friday.

Mbl.is has collected the opening hours of ski slopes all over Iceland this holiday weekend. The ski areas in Akureyri, Ísafjörður, Siglufjörður, Dalvík, Seyðistfjörður, and Fjarðabyggð will all be open, generally from 10 am – 4 pm (confirm opening hours via the link above).

There’s not expected to be a respite to the rain down south on Easter Sunday, when the weather is expected to become more overcast up north as well. Meteorologist Sigurður Jónsson noted that there may even be light snow fall here and there over the weekend, although no lasting cold spell is anticipated.