Every trip I take is an adventure. That's the way I like it, but some bring me more out of my comfort zone than others, and some take me to totally new places I never thought the rational portion of my brain would allow me to go. That would describe my heli-ski trip to Iceland a few years ago. As a way of explaining how something like this could ever happen - here's the background. One night, my husband and I were eating in the German restaurant located in his office building in NYC (a place I had never before been). While enjoying our Reisling, in walks a German business associate of my husband's that he used to go with on some business ski trips (someone I had never met and my husband had not seen in about 10 years). Pretty much right after hello, he asks my hubby if he still skis (yes, he's an amazing skier) and if I ski (yes, but not in the same amazing category). He then explains that he is going on a couples heli-ski trip to Iceland and that we should absolutely join the group. Heli-skiing was high on my husband's bucket list (didn't exist on mine) and Iceland was high on mine (he was probably neutral).
Without thinking too much about it, we signed on to this trip to the northern part of Iceland with a group of Germans that we had never met and who thankfully all spoke English. The beginning and end to my Iceland journey is pretty inline with how people travel to Iceland. We toured the some of the most famous attractions in northern Iceland: waterfalls, geysers, caves, geothermal bread bakery coop, the site of Iceland’s first parliament where the European and North-American tectonic plates are moving apart from each other, and of course, a full tour of Games of Thrones locations.
After skiing we arrived in Reykjavik, enjoyed the City, toured the Golden Circle and spent a lovely morning in our private cabana at the Blue Lagoon. All of this made for a most memorable vacation, except it did not compare to the 4 days we heli-skied and lived at a Lodge on the Troll Peninsula.
Between agreeing to go on this trip and actually getting through the helicopter briefing and avalanche tutorial, my level of anxiety over this adventure continued to grow. Anxiety over my ski ability, anxiety over weather conditions, anxiety over helicopters, anxiety over going away with people I had never met who spoke a language I did not. Well all of my trepidations were totally overblown and this turned into one of the most amazing experiences of my life.
Peak heli-ski season in Iceland is April - May. Long day light (midnight skiing at the end of the season) with spring skiing conditions (corn snow/warm weather). Though the mountains aren't especially high, the snow is excellent (though not the thigh high deep powder you think of when you think heli-ski). Bonus points because you get airlifted to any spot you like and can ski peak to the water's edge whether that is a Fjord or the Arctic Ocean. There's also a good chance nobody else will have done so before you - not just that morning, or that week, but ever. Lunch can be a picnic in a snow field or on a cliff by the water watching a pod of whales swim by. The guides were fantastic at putting us in situations that although challenging (at least for me) were not death defying. After my first run, I was a total convert.
Life when not skiing was at Arctic Heli Skiing's base at Klængshóll Lodge. The Lodge is not the true 5* luxury experience I usually tend towards, but an ancient sheep farm that's been continually habited from the time of the settlement of the Vikings in Iceland in circa 850AD. Minimal in nature but extremely comfortable with everything you need to have a truly spectacular unique experience. Off piste activities can include morning yoga, hikes, helicopter touring, Icelandic horse adventures, sauna, hot tub and I'm sure a lot more if the skiing wasn't my dominant activity. The food and drink was local and delicious while also stretching our taste buds with Icelandic culinary specialties like fermented shark (definitely needed the chaser) . In addition to epic skiing, I felt immersed in Icelandic culture.
I returned home with a greater appreciation of what I can do and a love of Iceland and the heli-ski experience. For me, it's always worth stretching the comfort zone!