Svalbard4.5 out of 5 based on 1 reviews
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Photo: Josh Crawford
Photo: Josh Crawford
Photo: Josh Crawford
Photo: Josh Crawford
Photo: Josh Crawford
Photo: Josh Crawford
Photo: Josh Crawford
Photo: Josh Crawford
Photo: Josh Crawford
Photo: Josh Crawford
Photo: Josh Crawford
Photo: Josh Crawford
Photo: Josh Crawford
Photo: Josh Crawford
Photo: Josh Crawford
Photo: Josh Crawford
Photo: Josh Crawford
Photo: Josh Crawford
Photo: Josh Crawford
Photo: Josh Crawford
Photo: Josh Crawford
Photo: Josh Crawford
Photo: Josh Crawford
Photo: Josh Crawford
Photo: Josh Crawford
Photo: Josh Crawford

Svalbard

Svalbard Skiing

So you consider yourself a bit of an explorer and like your ski destinations a little exotic? What if I told you there was a place where you could ski amazing, untracked lines at midnight in full sunlight all the way to beach whilst having to avoid the largest land carnivore on Earth?! Well such a place does exist – Svalbard – a pristine Arctic wilderness that offers some of the world’s finest ski touring with some of the most incredible scenery you’ll ever witness.

Svalbard Norway 

Svalbard is an archipelago of islands located deep within the Arctic Circle, between mainland Norway and the North Pole. With a resident population of just under 3,000, mostly spread across the main settlement of Longyearbyen and a couple of Russian mining colonies, the majority of the islands remain virgin, snow-covered wilderness.

Getting There

Longyearbyen in Svalbard Norway has the most northerly major commercial airport (LYR), making Svalbard accessible via a 3-hour flight from Oslo, with daily flights in the spring and summer months into Longyearbyen. Try to reserve a window seat on the right-hand side of the plane on the flight in, as the views across a landscape of endless snow-covered peaks and glaciers will definitely get the juices flowing for the upcoming adventure. All Svalbard ski tours begin and end in Longyearbyen, and include a night or two to enjoy the charismatic town and its surroundings.

Skiing in Svalbard

While snow covers much of the islands year-round, most Svalbard ski tour operators run the ski and sail expeditions in May and June, which allows them to take advantage of the relatively low sea ice levels and endless daylight. There are no ski lifts in Svalbard, so come prepared with touring gear and in good physical condition.

The majority of Svalbard skiing is done amongst the fjords and islands along the west coast of Svalbard, between the latitudes of 77and 80 degrees. Sea ice conditions, which can change extremely quickly, can dictate which areas are accessible. If you’re on a smaller boat that gets stuck in the sea-ice, you’d better hope that the boat's well stocked with the essentials!

The skiable terrain on Svalbard is endless. With almost 3,000 km of accessible coastline and 40,000 km2 of untouched terrain, it just depends on how far you (and your guide) are willing to search for it. Snow conditions can vary from light, dry Arctic powder through to spring corn and everything in between. And with everything from mellow open bowls and glacial valleys through to long spines and technical 50 degree chutes, there’s terrain for skiers and riders of all abilities.

Svalbard Ski Tour Operators

Due to the uniqueness of the experience on offer, the number of operators providing guided Svalbard skiing tours is increasing. The original operators – Swedish-based Arctic Guides – have been running trips to Svalbard for over 15 years. The highly regarded Ice Axe Expeditions crew also run a couple of tours each year.

Most expeditions operate from the base of a boat, which provides the flexibility to move up and down the coastline relatively quickly, depending on weather, ice and snow conditions. Boat sizes range from more intimate 8-guest sailing vessels up to larger vessels capable of comfortably hosting up to 26 guests (plus guides and crew). Some of the larger vessels even come equipped with an on-deck hot tub for soaking sore bodies and a little aqua-après!

More Reasons to Ski Svalbard

Polar bears are a real highlight of a trip to the Arctic Circle. However, the potential for a close encounter with the largest land carnivore on the planet is definitely taken seriously, with all guides carrying high-powered rifles and flare guns when on land (it's actually illegal NOT to carry a gun if you’re travelling outside town limits!). You will appreciate why when you see the size of the polar bear footprints next to your skin track!

Encounters with curious walruses bobbing up near your zodiac as you head ashore, and sightings of arctic foxes and reindeer grazing on the sparse, green patches as you skin or ski or snowboard by, are also common. Numerous whale species, including beluga (white) and blue whales, can also be spotted passing through the fjords.

The Experience

If modern lift systems, spacious hotel rooms, wifi, phone reception and regular darkness are what you’re looking for in a ski destination, then Svalbard isn't for you.

But if you’re willing to travel to one of the most remote, untouched and beautiful destinations on Earth to earn your turns, lay skin tracks over polar bear footprints, drink vodka in Russian mining outposts, swim in zero-degree water, and ski untracked lines surrounded by some of the most incredible scenery imaginable … well you’ll undoubtedly be rewarded with one of the most unforgettable ski experiences of your life.

Words: Josh Crawford
Backcountry Skiing Tours
Arctic Ski and Sail DETAILS
SVALBARD SKI TOURING CRUISE
9 Days | 8 Nights
Price p/p
USD 7,900
Ability: Advanced to Expert
Head way way north to Svalbard for this inimitable ski touring/split boarding experience. Cruise around the Arctic Sea on a small sail boat and head ashore to ski amazing mountains in the land of the polar bear. Only 8 guests: join as a solo traveller or small group.
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Svalbard

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