After many articles on impressive volcanoes, glaciers, and waterfalls, you may feel that this is all Iceland has to offer. Nothing further from the truth! Actually, Iceland is a country full of wonders and activities everywhere. Among them, there is one that may not be so surprising, but it is indeed unexpected. We are referring to skiing in Iceland.
We say that it is not surprising because, well, Iceland is precisely a country where winter temperatures are typical. Snow too. In turn, it is unexpected because Iceland is not exactly a well-known international destination for skiing. Honestly, it is somewhat weird because Iceland can be, in many ways, a paradise for ski lovers.
With landscapes that take your breath away, tracks with powdered snow and excellent conditions, and a summer season that gives almost 20 hours of sunlight. Iceland can entirely be an incomparable ski destination. So, without further ado, let's find out about skiing in Iceland!
Can you go skiing in Iceland?
To answer the question, yes of course! You can indeed go skiing in Iceland. Ironically, in the land of fire, perennial snows are available in very high areas such as mountain ranges and peaks. There, the temperature does not rise enough to melt the ice or snow formed during the winter. However, the fresh snow, manly in Northern Iceland, is available from November until May.
Skiing is a mountain sport that consists of sliding through the snow. For that, you need to use skis, which are two separate boards mechanically fixed to the boots of the skier. Although snow is usually related to just winter months, the truth is that you can practice this sport at any time. As long as you are in an area where snow is available, you are ready to go!
For many ski lovers, Iceland may not even ring a bell. We cannot deny that since this is a small country, we are more limited when it comes to skiing areas. But that does not mean any Iceland ski resort is, inherently, of lousy quality. On the contrary, may skiers are surprised by the optimal quality of Iceland's snow. Perhaps our ski retreats are not as famous internationally, but the ski culture is widespread among locals. And it is increasingly spreading among those who visit us!
Where to ski in Iceland?
As mentioned before, Icelanders love this sport! It is quite popular; therefore, there is always a place where you can go and get your skis on, most of them are quite easy to reach so grab your rental car in Iceland and head to any of them! The island has approximately 75km (46mi) of slopes and more than ten resorts. These are usually located in the mountains with more than 1000 meters (3280 ft) high above sea level.
Even though there are several ski resorts all around the country, we will split this section into two main regions. The reason is these two regions are the most common areas to practice this sport. It is also the most accessible areas for visitors and where the services and facilities are well developed. Those regions are Southern and Northern Iceland.
Skiing in Southern Iceland
Southern Iceland is, without a doubt, the most accessible area for any visitor. Iceland's international airport is located precisely in this region. Just an hour away from the capital of Iceland: Reykjavik.
This region has its pros and cons. Among the advantages, we should mention its accessibility. As we stated before, most tourists land in this area. There is a higher population density, which means that transport and connection services are much better. On the other hand, the southern region of Iceland is precisely the one with the most benevolent climate in the country. That means snow season is usually limited from January to April, although that varies from year to year, depending on the weather conditions.
Iceland's largest ski resort is located half an hour away from the Icelandic capital. It is called Bláfjoll, which translates into "blue mountains." The resort offers 15km (9 mi) of a ski slope and has 15 lifts for its users. The tracks are divided between two types of difficulty: 10 kilometers of single, easy-to-use track, and 5 km of intermediate difficulty track. The elevation of the area ranges from 460 and about 700 meters (1509-2296 ft). The most important ski runway is very well lit at night, so you can practice your favorite sport even when the sun sets.
The resort offers equipment rental, so if you cannot bring your skis, you can simply rent them here. If you have not skied before, you can also sign up for classes. You can find the resorts' business hours and season on its official website. To access Bláfjöll you can either rent a car in Iceland to use its on-site parking, or you can catch the shuttle bus from Reykjavik's BSI bus Terminal.
Other Ski resorts in the Southern Region
Bjáfoll may be the most famous resort in south Iceland, but it is not the only one. You have a smaller resort, about 33km (20 mi) from Reykjavik, called Skálafell. It has about 7km (4 mi) of track available of medium and intermediate difficulty. At the resort, you have four chair lifts and an elevation between 380-700 meters (1246-2296 ft).
Skálafell is a volcanic mountain located on the Snæfellsjökull glacier. Skálafell is a fantastic area for all skiing enthusiasts, particularly for those who have never skied before and for the little ones! Food and drinks are available as well as equipment rental
Skiing in Northern Iceland
Northern Iceland is where most of Iceland's great ski resorts are located. We can affirm this is the country's paradise for skiers! Just like the southern region, everything has its pros and cons. Among the disadvantages is the remoteness of the zone for most visitors. Although Iceland is a small island, most tourists have less than a week of holidays to spend in Iceland. So coming to the Northern region can be difficult for them due to the lack of time.
So what is the advantage? The climate is much colder in this region, so the snow season is longer compared to the south. Although it depends on how the weather varies each year, in the north, there is usually snow from November to May. Sometimes it even starts to snow in late September.
There are a total of 7 ski tracks or resorts in northern Iceland. These are Hliðarfjall in Akureyri, Böggvisstaðafjall in Dalvík, Tindaöxl in Ólafsfjörður, Siglufjörður, Tindastóll near Sauðarkrókur and Húsavik. These seven resorts are very well equipped and illuminated so that you can also ski when the sun goes down.
The 5X5 Ski Pass
This pass is valid only for the northern area of Iceland. It allows you to ski on five different resorts for five days at a reduced price. The pass is approximately 140€ ($154 approx) per adult, although this price may vary from season to season. A child ski pass is also available. The pass can be purchased directly at the entrance of the resorts; no booking is needed.
It is essential to mention that only five resorts (out of 7) are included in this pass, and those are:
Sauðárkrókur Ski Area
Siglufjörður Ski Area
Ólafsfjörður Ski Area
Dalvík Ski Area
Akureyri Ski Area
Ski Resorts in Iceland
Now that you know how to save some money when skiing in Iceland let's dig a little deeper into the seven resorts of North Iceland.
Hlidarfjall Ski resort
Hliðarfjall Ski resort is located in Akureyri, the so-called capital of northern Iceland. You have 15km (9 mi) of slopes, seven chair lifts. If you are an expert skier, know that this resort has 1.9 km (1.1 mi) of challenging slopes.
The resort opens from 10:00-16:00 during the primary season and on weekends.
Dalvik Ski resort
Dalvík, known as the ski capital of Iceland, is a top-notch destination for skiers. It is just 35 minutes away driving distance from Akureyri. The Ski area is located in the Boggvisstadafjall mountain. You can directly walk up to the hill from the very downtown of Dalvík.
This area is quite famous because real champions have emerged from here. They have competed in the most demanding international championships, including the Olympic Winter Games. The area is a perfect place for skiers and snowboarders to train. And although some ski tracks can be rough due to the geographical characteristics of the land, it is rewarded with an unbeatable view of Dalvik and the Tröllaskagi peninsula.
The ski area is quite well equipped and adapted to the needs of its visitors. There are beginners, intermedium, and steep slopes. For the most advanced and experienced skiers, there is a 5km (3 mi) cross-country area available too. There is a total of 7 marked tracks and a total of 3 ski lifts.
Dalvik ski resort opening times:
The resort opens on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 14:30 until 19:00. On Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. and weekends from 11:00 to 16:00.
The day pass price varies from ISK 1700 to ISK 3300. (11-21€ or $12-23) In the case of children, price ranges from 800 ISK to 1300 ISK (5-8€ or $6-10). A weekend pass costs 7900 ISK (52€ or $57 approx).
Tindaoxl in Olafsfjordur ski Resort
Tindaoxl is a ski area with 1.3km (0.80 mi) of slopes available and one lift. The sports area is situated between the elevations of 30 and 190 m (98- 623ft). This resort is perfect for families with kids, as its slopes are categorized as basic and not complicated. It opens from 13:00 to 17:00.
Skiing in Skardsdalur at Siglufjorfur
Siglufjordur, or Sigló, as called by the locals, is a small fishing town in northern Iceland. It is considered one of the most beautiful towns of the Trollaskagi Peninsula. SO if you happen to visit the area, know that skiing is among the activities offered here.
Skardsdalur has 5.5km (3,4 mi) of slopes available and four lifts. Opening times are 10:00 - 16:00, which can vary depending on weather conditions.
Tindastoll near Saudarkrokur
Saudarkrokur is the largest town within the skagafjörður area. Its ski and snowboarding resort has 2.4 kilometers (1.49 mi) of slopes of both easy and intermediate difficulty. Opening times: 16:00 - 18:00
Husavik ski Resort
I am pretty sure that Husavik rings a bell, doesn't it? Well, the area is quite popular for being the capital of whale watching in Iceland. I bet you have read thousands of articles about this lovely fishing village and the mammals that visit it every year. Now, I guess you have barely seen anything related to skiing in this area. So, why not mix a sea experience with a mountain one? Right after a great whale watching tour, you can head directly to the ski resort. What a lovely day to end the day! Sliding down the snowy slopes of Husavik!
There are 0,7 km of slopes and one lift for visitors. The slopes are all easy, so it is family and beginners friendly! Opening times: 14:00 - 18:30.
Where can I go snowboarding in Iceland?
Well, we have mentioned the best options for skiing in Iceland. However, some of you may be wondering, Ok, but what about snowboarding? Okay, okay! We also have a little paragraph dedicated to snowboard lovers.
All the resorts mentioned previously have an area adapted to snowboarding. Besides those, we can add the resorts available in the Eastern region of Iceland. Among them is Stafdalur, between Egilsstaðir and Seyðisfjörður or Oddskarð that is between Reyðarfjörður and Neskaupstaður.
Indeed, the slopes of Iceland are not among the largest in the world, nor are they extraordinary centers for winter sports. Now, we assure you that both the quality of the snow and the views are just unrivaled.
Snowboarding vs. skiing in Iceland
The million-dollar question. Ski or Snowboard? The straightaway answer is: Whatever floats your boat. Some say that learning to ski is easier, but at the same time more challenging to master. Snowboarding is apparently more comfortable to do, but it actually requires a lot of patience and perseverance.
Honestly, to each their own. In Iceland, you can actually practice both options. Choose the one that makes you feel good and looks more attractive to you. Both sports share the passion for sliding down through the snowy slopes of beautiful mountains. So and makes you passionate about winter sports. Both sports have in common the enjoyment of sliding down the snowy slopes of beautiful mountains, so different strokes for different folks!
Where is the best snow in Iceland?
Powder snow is one of the best types of snow for skiers. It is fluffy, soft, and spotless. For skiers to enjoy this type of snow, the snowfall must have fallen recently and in large amounts. That is something that happens regularly in the north of Iceland.
Here the snowfalls are usually heavy, strong, and constant during the wintertime. The periods with the most snowfall typically occur in the middle of January. Of all the ski resorts we have mentioned, the one that usually has this type of snow is Akureyri’s. At other ski areas, especially those in southern Iceland, more compact and harder snow is common.
Temperatures and snowfall in Iceland
If you want to enjoy the ski slopes in Iceland during your trip, you should know which month would be more suitable for you. The climate in Iceland is quite variable, but we will use the averages of the statistics. Those averages will help us get a slight idea of what the weather can be like in a specific month.
Let’s get into the details of the average temperatures and snowfall in both regions. Of course, this can also vary from resort to resort, depending on your specific location within each region.
Skiing in Iceland November
Reykjavik (South Iceland)
Temperatures: min 0 °, max 4 °C (32 and 39 °F)
Snowfall: The month starts with approximately 5mm and ends the month at 15mm (0.2-0.6 in)
Akureyri (North Iceland)
Temperatures: min -2°, max 3°C (28-37°F)
Snowfall: November starts with 33mm of snow precipitation and ends with 40mm (1.3-1.6 in)
Skiing in Iceland December
Temperatures: min -2 °, max 3 °C (28-37 °F)
Snowfall: 104 mm for the whole months (4.1in)
Temperatures: min -4°, max 2°C (25-36°F)
Snowfall: 40-50mm (1.6-2 in)
Skiing in Iceland in January
Temperatures: min -2°, max 2°C (28-36°F)
Snowfall: 22-25mm (0.9-1 in)
Temperatures: min -4°, max 2°C (25-36°F)
Snowfall: 25-30mm (1-1.2 in)
These are the months with the highest amount of precipitation in the form of snow.
Other ways to ski in Iceland
Let's get away from the classic resorts and chair lifts. If you are a true ski enthusiast and very experienced, you may be interested in this option.
Heli-Skiing in Iceland:
Heli-skiing is a new form of skiing, quite spectacular, may I add, but certainly very extreme. It consists of getting a helicopter ride to places that are difficult to access. That includes mountain peaks, risky tops, or valleys with untouched snow. By going up by helicopter, skiers save a lot of time as lifts are much slower. And obviously, it is not the typical ski slope of a resort; we are talking about a challenging mountainside.
The great advantage of this modality is that the descent is made directly from high mountain peaks. Up there, the conditions are usually colder and snowy for a more extended period. Heliskiing is usually offered even until the end of June since, at that point, the snow is still in extraordinary condition. Several companies provide this service in the Troll Peninsula area, in northern Iceland, among them you have Arctic Heli Skiing.
If you are an experienced skier, do not miss the opportunity to enjoy such a unique experience. The contrast between the snowy peaks and the deep blue of the sea as you slide down the mountainside is just unforgettable. It is somewhat a singular experience as most mountain ranges are usually inland. Here in Iceland, you can have both at one glance! The mountain, cliffs, the fjords, and the mighty sea.
Iceland heli-skiing lodge
If you want to enjoy this option, you should know that it is necessary to go to certain remote mountain areas. However, don’t worry about accommodation, in the heart of the Troll Peninsula you have some beautiful cabins at your disposal.
This cabin lodge is called Klængshóll and consists of four beautiful little houses with a very Nordic touch. The homes are located inside a farm that was built in the late 50s. That is why they keep that traditional and local aesthetic. Now, do not be fool by their “plain” and “simple” appearance. The houses have all the necessary facilities and comfort you need to rest and recover all the energy you need to slide down the hills of the Icelandic mountains.
Cross-country skiing Iceland
Cross country is a variant of the traditional way of skiing. If you never practiced any winter sport on snow, you can try cross-country skiing. That option does not require previous knowledge and technique but does require an excellent physical condition.
Cross country ski uses slightly longer and thinner skis compared to traditional skis. Do not worry about this as most agencies offer skiing equipment rental for their clients.
One of the most common areas to practice this type of sport is the Icelandic Highlands. There, the snowy areas create a striking contrast with the volcanic landscapes and geothermal regions.
If you feel like trying ski for the first time, we recommend this type of adventure. You can join a group of 4-12 people and head to the wildest regions of Iceland. Two birds with one stone! This activity is usually available from February to March, and routes depend on weather conditions.
Ski equipment rental in Iceland
We understand that bringing your equipment is a difficult task if you are a ski practitioner. Airport and baggage regulations at airports are often strict and complicated. Chances of losing or damaging your skis are usually quite high. If you have never skied before, then buying a skiing starting pack is not an option. It can be expensive, and if you do not know anything about skiing, then you might waste your money on the wrong equipment.
Fear not! Most of Iceland's ski resorts have an equipment rental area available for clients. Whether you want to snowboard or ski. The same applies to most ski schools and for agencies that offer more special and unique activities. All of them offer their clients the option of renting all the equipment they may need, adapted to their age and experience.
Skiing in Iceland: Final Remarks
As you can see, skiing in Iceland can be a fantastic and unique experience. We must be honest; we know that the ski slopes of Iceland have no comparison with the big ski resorts of other countries. But in Iceland, the experience has an extra touch beyond the purely technical side of skiing. The views, the contrasts, the landscapes. Everything is so unique, so special that we are sure it will be an unforgettable experience for you.