Editor’s note: Kästle Athlete Kaytlin Hughes is a professional skier based out of Salt Lake City, UT. Disappointed by a lack-luster winter in the west, Kaytlin teamed up with photographer Cam McLeod to explore Iceland’s largely untapped skiing potential. Follow them along as they travel Iceland’s sparsely populated coastline in a camper van on a quest to make up for a winter that didn’t live up to their expectations.
In April, most of the US skiing was coming to an end. Skiers struggled with the reality that winter forgot to show up in most of the west, so they began packing up their gear and started transitioning to summer activities. Because of the low snowfall this year, I felt cheated, I didn’t get my fix, and I was still very motivated to ski. That’s when I started asking, where is there snow? Friend and Photographer, Cam McLeod suggested Iceland. This country was never on my radar and I questioned: Is there skiing there, is there snow there, what are the possibilities? It didn’t take more than a few Google searches to learn that Iceland is beautiful, rugged, and remote. Plus, there were plenty of places to ski! Athlete Allie Rood joined Cam and myself, and two weeks later we stepped off the plane in Reykjavik, Iceland. Our plan was simple, rent a camper and travel into Iceland’s most remote areas. Counting on the local’s advice we wound our way over dirt roads in search of the perfect slope. The Westfjords fit that goal. We were rewarded with amazing hike-to-terrain, aesthetically astounding views and challenging lines to ski. If you can see it you can ski it, and off we went.
We began our days with a group breakfast in our camper. Being the self-assigned cook with a limited budget, we ate Top Ramen (which, conveniently was also eaten for lunch and dinner). A lifetime of skiing opportunity exists right off the roads and for this reason our camper was crucial. After navigating the narrow roads of the fjords we had choices - steep couloirs, narrow couloirs, ridgelines, or open faces?
While there are ski resorts in Iceland we arrived as summer began and the resort had been shut down for the season. A helicopter would have made skiing our objectives easier, but in the Westfjord helicopters are banned. If we wanted to ski these couloirs, we would need ice axes and crampons. We labored our way up to the pristine roadside couloirs.
It is unlikely that our trio were the first to hike up these mountains. But, after checking with the locals, I’m pretty sure we may have been some of the first to ski down the faces. It was an exhilarating experience we would repeat each day. While it was difficult to take your eyes off of the terrain you are racing down, on this day, in my peripheral vision was the town of Flateyri.
On one of our last days we skied a line above the main town in the Westfjords, Isfjordur. Looking out over the town that welcomed us with such open arms was a special moment. Skiing right to town was even more incredible with perfect spring like conditions.
The two weeks the three of us spent in Iceland allowed us to appreciate the delightful Icelandic people, explore inviting new places, and ski amazing lines. However, as any adventure should be, we also experienced high windstorms, snowstorms, avalanche conditions and flat tires. We dodged the punches as best that we could, adapted, and kept smiles on our faces. And, by the way, I only have to resurrect the memories to smile again.