Iceland and Scandinavia are
becoming increasingly popular for snow sports. With social media flooded with beautiful chalets, heli drops, hot spas and all these luxurious items, these countries seem like they can only be visited with an unlimited budget, a big sponsor or just as a highly professional athlete! But the question is… can it actually be done on the cheap?

So let’s take this idea back to the beginning. After a crazy family year of pregnancy, a poorly wife and the birth of our son, I (rightly) hadn’t found the opportunity to travel much. Combined with a poor Scottish winter, a ski trip was definitely on the cards and I’d enlisted partner in crime James to join the trip. As 2 normal working guys, our budget was definitely not limitless (in fact you could go as far to say it was fairly limited) so we had to wise up to the costs and try and find something within budget. Our usual choice of Chamonix was pricing up too high, the cost of accommodation in the Alps was leaving us high and dry.

Having visited Iceland a handful of times and with existing contacts who lived there, it felt like a good option to consider and a place that I’d personally been keen to revisit for a number of years.

Whilst the south of the island is better known and more populated, the north offers better snow, a handful of ski domains and the lure of the Troll Peninsula- a beautiful area with ski to sea and many miles of ski touring opportunity. The idea of a much more remote location also appealed to us both, a very different experience from many other European resorts. Akureyri has Iceland’s largest ski resort and therefore triggered my initial searches. Whilst Fatmaps didn’t offer a huge amount of data on existing routes, its format did allow me to look at detailed imaging of the surrounding mountains and the resort which lay just outside of the town. (Fatmaps is a really useful way of finding out more info about an area- not only does it provide accurate 3D imaging, but also shows routes completed by other members of its community). The resort itself sits at the mouth of a beautiful valley called Glerardalur and with further investigation, I could see a selection of 5 summits which all looked to be skiable. Furthermore, the geographics of the area would mean that we didn’t need a hire car or have to fork out for expensive transfers- I pretty hefty saving compared to other options!

So what did we end up doing?

To get to the airport, we booked train tickets from Winchester which was £25 each way. I could have probably got a cheaper return but hadn’t quite thought that far ahead!

As our flight was early in the morning, we booked an airport hotel (Premier Inn) which was £95 for a double room. We split the cost and this also saved on car parking costs. The location of the hotel gave us a 10 minute walk, but that was quite an effort with all of our luggage- I think if we’d booked further in advance, we would have been able to get a better located hotel.

We booked flights from Gatwick to Akureyri with Easyjet for £260 per person- this included a ski bag and a 23kg luggage allowance.

The public bus to transfer us from the airport to the town itself cost £10 each.

We booked an apartment for the first and last night of our trip which enabled us to better prepare for time out on the hill and then prepare to fly back (and grab a well needed shower!). The apartment cost £90 per night which was obviously split between the 2 of us. Not only was the accommodation in a perfect location (see the link below), they were extremely helpful and kindly allowed us to store our ski bags and excess luggage.

All the above info will make a lot more sense when I tell you that our final bid to create an affordable trip to Iceland was to camp. Yep, in the Icelandic mountains, in the snow, in the cold. Accommodation for the entire week was coming up as a big expense and with enough kit already at home, we decided to put it all to the real test and take it with us. Now I did manage (for the first time ever) to get my luggage just under the weight limit, but it did take quite a lot of organising and repacking to achieve. Taking enough kit to winter camp, ski tour and just survive accumulated to be quite a lot of stuff and as my wife does like to mention, I am not a lightweight traveller!

For pricing up food, we had made a fairly solid plan. Purchasing freeze-dried packs for both breakfast and dinner allowed us to buy slightly cheaper back in the UK and ensured we could be fairly oragnised. Lunch things were purchased at the local supermarket at consisted of wraps with cheese and ham fillings. Snacks were also brought out with us and were mostly Torq gels and Chia or Cliff Bars.

Our final expense, by choice was to book a skiddo which would drop us into the middle of the valley. At £85 each way, you can definitely class this as a luxury, but the temptation of efficiency, extra local knowledge and to do something pretty cool was all too much to resist! We used a company called which was owned by Sigi Baldursson and is definitely one to look up should you ever find yourself in the area.

Total cost of the trip (per person based on 2 people sharing) = £510.

Now it wouldn’t be me without giving more information about the trip… take or leave from this as you will… it’s more of a personal account of the trip!

We’d got the apartment a lot easier than expected and had sorted and prepped kit. Our original aim was to arrange for the skidoo into location, but with weather looking changable, we were in limbo to see if we had the green light. Sigi kindly did a trial run in the morning to assess the condition but considering we had heavy snow falling in the town, it was no surprise that the trip was a no go. We grabbed an additional night’s accommodation and then Sigi popped down to see us to explain conditions and what our options were. There was the possibility of a night time drop but we were once again at a “wait and see” moment.


James and I took the time to explore Akureryi town, get coffee and try and chill. We took the opportunity to source some extra knowledge on the mountains we were heading into from locals (all very friendly and helpful) as there is very little in the way of information on the North of Iceland winter mountains. Local guides do run private trips as requested and there were talks of books being written, but neither of these were appropriate for our requirements!

With the weather still wild and not looking to improve, our night time drop didn’t take place. It also became apparent that the unsettled weather gave us no guaranteed window of opportunity for a skidoo drop. This meant that if we wanted to get into the mountains, we were going to have to do it ourselves. Not so wisely, we’d chosen to pack kit into 120l duffel bags and not backpacks which did make moving a little trickier to plan! To combat this issue (and make a 10km trip a little easier) we booked a taxi up to the resort where we had looked at mapping and chosen a safe and easy option to get out of the resort and set up camp. The temperature hovered at -6 degrees c that day and it certainly gave a good test of our clothing. After digging out, flattening snow and then pitching the tent, we decided to play it safe and returned to resort to complete their touring route. Not only did it allow us to find our feet, it also helped to asses the conditions and our surroundings.

Now we’d already had some great intel from both Siggi with the skidoos and Magnus (a friend of mine who lives in Iceland) but we certainly struck gold by introducing ourselves to the local ski patrol half way up our routine. Not only were they the most friendly ski patrol I’d ever come across, but their local knowledge was invaluable- sharing info on local routes and forecasts amongst a few other bits. I do personally hold local knowledge very highly in any outdoor activity as it gives you accurate live details that can’t be found elsewhere. I also feel there’s a lot to be said for introducing yourself when playing in someone else’s backyard! Not only is it polite in smaller settings, it could well save your life.

With a plan organised for the following day, it was time to set a tent routine and get some sleep. Now, I would be the first to admit (unless my wife beat me to it) that I have a particular way of doing things and that I like to follow a routine. As you probably imagine, the idea of sharing a small tent with someone else definitely puts me on edge slightly, not to mention finding someone who would be willing to share with me! Enter stage left… James. James is the complete opposite to me- laid back, relaxed, dare I say a little untidy and doesn’t need a set plan. He understands my ADHD/OCD brain and acknowledges my need to sort and organise without it bothering him. Our pairing works perfectly! He allows me the mental space to do what I need to do and just doesn’t stress about it. For us this looked like me waking up first, doing admin, making a hot drink (and passing one to James too), making breakfast, getting dressed and getting out the tent which then left James the space to do all of his things in his own time. I’ll admit it sounds a little one sided, but it works- our success lies with understanding who’d doing what and when in a very small tent in cold temperatures. Now James may be so laid back he’s almost horizontal, but will shout when he has an opinion strong enough! My 0430 starts were definitely one of these opinions and I was more than happy to abandon those to balance both of our needs.

Day 2 provided us with amazing snow conditions. We headed up towards Kista (1474m), poorly choosing a route which took us across an icesheet and saw James lose his edge and slip. The realisation for the need for ski crampons came a little to late and we then spent a lot of time with James sitting fast and me removing skis, adding ski boot crampons and axes, climbing down to retrieve lost ski equipment and then planning a safe exit for James. We took a pause after this, addressing the issue and discussing how to prevent it reoccurring- it’s important to recognise mistakes and rectifying them for future. The rest of the day went smoothly, we enjoyed a new route which had been recommended to us by ski patrol and appreciated an afternoon of smooth easy skiing off piste. This was the day we also took advantage of the ski lodge close by as not only did it provide lunch, but allowed us to dry some of our kit on the very well placed heaters!

Our third day had been planned big with 2 long routes on the agenda. Our morning started well with a beautiful sunrise and excellent snow conditions and given our newly gained information on the icefields, gave us a firmer direction to head in. We stuck mainly to skiing down the routes we had climbed and gained better sight of other routes across the day which kept us safe and allowed us to really enjoy the skiing. The day linked up perfectly and we couldn’t have asked for better up until our last climb. After a very hot afternoon, we noticed a crust forming on the snow and after we witnessed another skiing struggle back down, we chose to call it a day just shy of the summit. We were already tired and just didn’t have the energy left to struggle!

Day 4 was due to start stormy and the weather forecast was bang on. We woke to a vestibule full of snow and a near whiteout which spelled the end of our ski days. The wild weather made for a lengthy and wild camp break down but whilst we could have headed back down the evening before, I think we were both glad to have another night in the mountains. It took a long time to get back to the base of the resort and whilst James had grand plans of a cheeky in resort ski tour, I was done! I might usually be the one to push too far, but today I knew my limits and I was happy to return to town. To my surprise, I found myself slowly slogging back up the mountain on the resort ski tour route- proving that when James has an opinion, we really do follow it! I was knackered and my legs were done, but with less time in the mountains than originally planned, I’m glad he pushed me to get the extra time on skis. We returned to town via taxi (£25), spent a couple of hours drying kit and then followed James’ brain wave with a 35 minute walk to a beach just outside of town. The wild swim that followed was freezing and the snowy walk in definitely gave us second thoughts but I felt very alive afterwards! The evening ended with a Netflix binge and the month expensive Hargan Das ice cream I’ve ever purchased… I didn’t include the £7.20 in our overall costing!







Evaluation – taken from my notes on flight home (always good practise)


Tent too small for base camp. The TNF Assault was perfectly sized for the flight but didn’t stand up to the conditions or requirements of 2 adults!

Bivi bag for sleeping bag to help with tent moisture management would have worked well.

Perfect amount of food.

Clothing layers spot on and right amount of clothes packed.

Needed more confidence with route finding.

Local ski patrol were so friendly and helpful.

Happy with performance of all kit (not tent).

Under helmet skull cap too big.

Fitness was spot on (would say we didn’t push as much as we could of).

Forgot plastic bowl.

Trust in light weight thermals while out moving, heavy duty for sleep.

Both need to have same safety kit so both can get out of difficult situations with or without the other.

MSR stove that I took was not used- the Jet boil worked perfectly in the temperatures.

MSR 4ltr water bag worked brilliantly.

FirePot meals were honestly disappointing and not a patch on the alternatives Summit to Eat.

Tent and mountain routines worked really well.

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