'A Skier's Journey': Iceland

Jordan Manley

"A Skier's Journey" heads to Iceland.

It's 2 a.m. and the sun has just set below the Arctic horizon. We're in the Westfjords, the roughest, most remote part of Iceland. I'm groggy and jet lagged. Iceland is void of darkness in the spring and we are sleeping in an abandoned farmhouse that feels like a haunted house.

While I lay in my sleeping bag, I can't help but think of the family that called this place home -- generations of people struggling to chip out a life in this harsh land. After only one day here, Iceland's wilderness has chewed me up and spit me out. I'm exhausted from paddling sea kayaks around the fjords. In this land of the Vikings, soft Californians need not apply.

Early the next morning, as my eyes adjust to the dim light, I can hear rain coming down on the roof, and I see several small puddles on the floor. The little house isn't watertight any more. A grey sky continues to pelt us with rain while we load the kayaks. Today's plan is to paddle across the open channel, continue up a new fjord to the north, and camp out for the night. We will leave the little boats on shore and head into the mountains.

Our path leads across the ice cap on the north side of the island, and even on the map it looks like a long way. A few days later, while crossing a massive ice cap, we are told by Runar, our guide from Borea Adventures, that early settlers to the fjords would cross this ice cap in order to gather driftwood for burning, building and cooking.

While setting up camp for the night, Runar tells us we are camping on haunted ground. Over dinner we learn the story of the homestead site, how a murder took place here and many still believe a ghost from the past still roams here. I begin to understand how this land, with its wild wind and weather, a land of extremes, could drive someone mad.

As the days turn to a week, we move from sea kayaks to the Aurora, Borea Adventures' 60-foot sailboat, to continue exploring the fjords. The wind so powerful, as we tack into the wind one afternoon and the boat leans over, it's like we are flying.

And then finally, there's the skiing, the reason for our journey here. I'm about to drop in to a ribbon of corn snow, chasing the light down as it dances across the fjords to the sea. A dinner of fresh fish and cold beer wait me aboard the Aurora. I think again of the family in that farmhouse, and I can see why they chose to make a life here in this wild remote corner of the western fjords.

[If you missed the previous seasons of 'A Skier's Journey,' check out season one and season two.]

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