Skiing in Iceland: The Complete Guide

How to plan the best ski trip to Iceland.

Skiing in Iceland

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Given Iceland's remote landscape, it only makes sense that the island nation offers some of the most scenic skiing in the world. The various landscapes you can find in the country range from fields of lava rock and black sand beaches to jagged glaciers and expansive mountain ranges. Cross country skiing is a popular activity during the wintertime for locals and travelers, as you can do so just about anywhere in the country. Downhill skiing is also a wintertime activity people travel around the world to experience in Iceland and there are plenty of places to do so across the country.

It may sound like a dream, skiing under the Northern Lights, but it's completely possible if you visit between the months of October and March. There are also plenty of tour operators who will take you to some of the region's best runs, if that's more your speed. (Bonus: Many tour operators provide the equipment, taking some of the logistics off of your to-do list.)

Ahead, you'll find everything you need to know about skiing in Iceland, from where to find the best resorts to the best time to take a ski trip.

The Best Ski Resorts

  • Blafjoll Ski Resort: If you're planning to stay near Reykjavik in the south-western region of Iceland, check out Blafjoll Ski Resort. The skiing is noticeably less dramatic here than it is in the north. Located just 12 miles from Reykjavik in the Blue Mountains, this is a very popular spot for locals and visitors. It's hard to know exactly when the slopes will open but they are ready to ski come January.
  • Dalvik Ski Resort: Located in the north, Dalvik Ski Resort can be found 40 minutes outside of Akureyi, the second-largest city in the country. This area is known as the skiing (and snowboarding) capital of Iceland with some locals moving on to compete in the Winter Olympics. There are two peninsulas in this area to take note of: Grenivík and Tröllaskagi. One notable thing about this resort is that they'll open a backcountry-inspired run next to the property for those who want a taste of the more remote regions without traveling too far. The longest run here reaches nearly 4,000 feet.
  • Siglufjördur Ski Resort: Here, you'll find four lifts far in Iceland's northernmost points of the Tröllaskagi Peninsula. You're officially on the edge of the Arctic Circle, in a small fishing village that has some of the best skiing in the country. You can plan a luxurious stay in the area and skiing with a guide through a number of outfitters, including Eleven Experience, who will deliver you to some insane ski runs via helicopter. If you're looking for a simpler experience, head to the main lifts (there are four of them) and travel 650 meters above sea level to kick off your run.
  • Hlidarfjall Ski Resort: Skiing on Eyjafjörður is an experience you won't forget, which is why this ski resort is known as one of the most scenic in the world. You'll find it near Akureyi in the north, and it's the snow that keeps people coming back. According to Guide to Iceland, the snow isn't too hard or too deep and it's constantly replenished by the resort's built-in snowblowers — which help ensure that there's plenty of snow to cover the resort during its season between November and May. There are seven ski lifts in total, the highest being reserved for truly incredible skiers.
  • Isafjordur Ski Resort: Head to Tungudalur to find this resort in the scenic Westfjords. There are runs for all ski levels, making it a great place to visit with the whole family. You'll also find one of the longest and steepest runs in the entire country at this resort. If you're looking to get away from the crowds, there are also some great backcountry routes, namely within the Seljalandsdalur valley.

Where to Rent Equipment

Most of the major resorts in Iceland will rent skiing equipment to guests, as bringing your own on a plane can get quite tricky. If you go this route, you'll want to make sure to come with a strong base knowledge of the equipment you're using and how it should be worn. There's nothing worse than being out in the backcountry without a guide and having a malfunction of some sort.

What to Wear

Iceland is cold — dangerously cold if you find yourself skiing in a remote area during the wintertime. You'll want to dress in lots of layers, which is actually good advice for someone visiting during any time of the year. In one day, you can experience rain, sleet, hail, snow and sunshine.

Wool or synthetic base layers are the best options, topped with a sweater and a waterproof jacket. Wool long underwear is always a good idea, with a pair of waterproof ski pants. For your ski boots, just make sure they're waterproof — you'll thank yourself later. Bring extra socks, sunglasses a scarf, hat, waterproof gloves and chapstick (the wind can be brutal) and you're ready for a good time.

The Best Time to Take a Ski Trip

While there is snow in Iceland most months of the year, you'll have to travel far and wide to find it during the true Arctic summer. Springtime skiing is very popular, given the beautiful corn snow which is neither too deep nor too hard, according to Iceland tour operator Arctic Heli-Skiing. There are a couple of times to visit for skiing, depending on what you're looking to do:

March through Mid-April: If you're looking for cold snow, fresh powder, relatively mild temperatures, and the potential to see the Northern Lights, plan your trip in the early spring.

Mid-April through May: You'll still get a bit of fresh snowfall during this time, as the country transitions to spring. This is a very popular time to ski on the peninsulas, so plan in advance as resorts book up quick.

June: You can still ski in some places into June, especially if you're into corn skiing (when the snow is wet and granular from melting and refreezing over and over).

The "best time" completely depends on your ideal skiing conditions, so plan accordingly.

What to Expect

While the resort skiing offers next-level scenery — especially throughout the Westfjords and in the north — expect crowds. If you really want to break away, consider backcountry skiing. If you're not experienced, find a tour operator that will send you out there with a guide. If you are experienced, bundle up and plan your route.

One of the best parts about skiing in Iceland is that you don't have to worry about trees. The area is quite mountainous with expansive views of the surrounding environment. This being said, avalanches do happen, so take care to research the area in which you're skiing.

On that note, the weather conditions can be quite touchy, making it hard to ski some runs. Make sure to pay attention to the resort weathers updates and advisories to know if it's safe to ski.