I woke up the day before Easter to the unacceptable reality that I have been deprived of my favorite sport of skiing. This winter had been taken up by the Icesave issue. As a result I managed to fit in half a day in Davos in January and two days in Courchevel. There was so little snow that off piste skiing, which is the only kind I enjoy, was simply not possible. The only option left was to seek out some enterprising heli-skiing operation that would still be flying. I Googled heli-skiing, and to my amazement Iceland popped up. I clicked on the link, and to my utter disbelief it appeared to be the real thing. I was overjoyed at the thought of not having to embark on a long trek to Canada. Despite admittedly having very low expectations, as well as what is a very rare occurrence indeed, my husband Olafur condescended to join me "for 2 days" although he had no intention of skiing, I called the number on the website and was told there was no availability until May. When I gave my name and asked to be called in the event of a cancellation, availability was produced for one night. At that point I did not for one moment think I would want to stay any longer.
The icing on the yet nonexistent cake, my much-loved canine Samur was permitted to come along. Too good to be true? I know and respect the old proverb, well "for lack of an alternative," it was Dalvik, or no skiing at all. Olafur, Samur and I took the plane to Akureyri, and after a short drive we arrived at an old farmhouse in an idyllic setting, on the banks of a glacial river, wild horses grazing on green grass, a helicopter parked between the chicken shed and a hot tub. It is 7 p.m., warm and sunny, bearing in mind one is close to the Arctic circle. Jokull Bergmann, who is a world class mountain guide and the founder of what has turned out to be the most amazing heli-ski operation, asked if I would like to join some of the other guests and ski a few runs.
The chickens were clearly not bothered by the sounds of the helicopter. Moments later we were flying above 3,000 sq. km. of incredible skiable terrain, from extreme to the equivalent of blue runs. The lack of trees to crash into is a particular source of relief for me. We skied great corn snow, under a red sky gazing at a sun that does not set. At 10 p.m. we had skied 5 runs. I could eat a horse, or so I thought, until this is precisely what I am offered for dinner. I declined, and was given freshly caught glacial trout. It is evident that Olafur, as well as the rest of the guests, who include two Swiss couples in their 30s, are clearly enjoying the foal. As it turns out Olafur and I are the only first-time guests, Richard from Boston explained how much easier it was for him to come to Iceland than Canada. He also loves to ski in low altitude. When I asked the Swiss banker, who wished to remain nameless, why when he can virtually ski on his doorstep, he would get into his plane and make the three hourish trip to Iceland. The very low risk of avalanches, was the reply.
We woke up to the sound of the river. Breakfast consisted of, amongst other Icelandic delicacies, cod liver, which is full of omega 3 and tastes not dissimilar to foie gras. The 9- and 11-year-old kids collected fresh eggs for their breakfast. As it turns out they also prefer to ski in Iceland.
John is not your average helicopter pilot. He flies skiers from April-June. His real job is stunting in, amongst others, the latest Bond movie. Last year he was particularly lucratively employed flying the world's media to witness the famous Eyjafjallajokull spectacle. I ask if he could demo for us between runs. Despite Olafur's dirty looks he agreed. It turned out to be a pulse-raising experience. We flew roller coasters deep into beautiful canyons above Olafur and Samur hiking up to the waterfall. We were then dropped off on top of a precipice where Jokull guided us down. We lunched on delicious sandwiches while sitting on a black beach. We skied 17 magical runs that day, we dined on mouthwatering lobsters and cured lamb. Two female guests who don't ski were telling us about the day's adventures on horseback, another Russian couple who were afraid of helicopters skinned up and skied down.
Dalvik is less than an hour's drive, or 20 min. by chopper from Akureyri's 6,000+ ft international airport. I shall return in May. If you think I am exaggerating, take a look at these photos.