Wild and remote: All About Ski Touring in Greenland

Daniel DawsonJanuary 07, 2019

Located off of the Canadian coastline and separating the Arctic Ocean from the Atlantic Ocean, Greenland is the world’s second largest island and one of its most remote destinations.

The country, which is politically part of the Kingdom of Denmark, has long been a hub for fishing as well as mining. However, tourism is becoming increasingly popular as global air fares have decreased over the years. Ski touring is now one of the most popular outdoor sports on the island.

Roughly 30.000 people come to visit Greenland each year, either for the ski touring season during the spring, or later in the summer for fishing and hiking. Most visitors head to the south of Greenland or stick around the western coast, where the majority of the major cities are located.

However, ski touring is one of the best ways to explore this massive land of ice and snow. The mountain ranges in the east of the country are quite popular among the most intrepid ski tourers and are a site that very few will ever see in their lifetime.

Most ski tourers either stick mostly to the coast and head to the eastern or western shores of the island. Renting a boat is the best way to travel and spending a week or two cruising around the coastline provides plenty of excellent skiing opportunities as well as a chance to see some of the massive icebergs as well as natural fauna, such as polar bears and whales.

Wherever you choose to go and whatever you choose to do in Greenland requires quite a bit of planning. The island is pretty far from most places and getting around once you are there is no simple matter.

In order to ease your travel planning and give you some ideas about where to go and what to do, we’ve compiled some top spots to visit and other useful information below.

3 Reasons Why you Must Go Ski Touring in Greenland

 

Keep your eyes peeled for the stunningly beautiful Aurora Borealis in the night sky. Photo courtesy of Matt Spenceley.

1| Combine sailing and skiing

Greenland is one of the few places in the entire world in which you can ski directly down to the sea! Head out on a cruise from island to island and have the unique experience of sailing right back down to the boat. It is a great way to see the stunning scenery and most efficient way to travel.

2| Stunning scenery

Visiting Greenland can feel a bit surreal due to its completely unique and breathtakingly beautiful scenery. From massive sheets of ice rising high above the sea, to snow-capped mountains boasting panoramic views, there is nothing quite like exploring this isolated landscape.

Discovering the various fjords on the coast or heading out the mountains in the center of the island are unforgettable experiences few have the privilege to experience in their lifetimes.  

3| Untouched powder

While it is becoming more popular than it was, Greenland is still a relatively unknown destination. As a result enjoy something you will almost never find in more popular ski touring destinations: fresh and untouched powder as far as the eye can see.

Take advantage of the island’s isolation and ski as much as you can before one of the world’s best kept secrets gets out!

Where are the Best Spots to Go?

Qeqqata

 

Combine sailing and skiing in Greenland’s scenic southwest. Photo courtesy of Massimo Candolini.

Located in Greenland’s southwest, Qeqqata is one of the country’s seven municipalities. It is relatively easily accessed with two airports that offer flights from outside of Greenland and from within its borders.

The municipality is also an excellent ski touring destination. Many guides will offer to meet you within the city of Maniitsoq and begin your trip from here. The way to go is usually to rent a boat and head out into the many fjords.

Just to the north of the quaint fishing village, one of the most popular destinations for trips based in Qeqqata is the Eternity Fjord. It is the deepest one in all of Greenland and surrounded by 2.000 meter snow-capped summits and granite towers. It is the perfect spot for a day or two of great freeride skiing and an excellent spot to get some stunning views as well.

Kangaamiut is yet another popular spot in the region that offers some excellent skiing. Located in the Davis Strait, also north on Maniitsoq, the island boasts steep and flat glaciers with long, two-kilometer descents from summit back down to boat.

Meanwhile, heading down south toward the Greenlandic capital of Nuuk, yields fairly easy climbs to the top of coastal mountain, followed by descents ranging anywhere from 800 to 1.300 meters. This is a great spot to moor and spend a day ascending and descending as many different peaks as you can.

Schweizerland Alps

 

Skiing in the Schweizerland Alps feels just like the Swiss Alps, just without the crowds. Photo courtesy ofMatt Spenceley.

Located on the eastern side of the island, in the municipality of Sermersooq, the Schweizerland Alps offer something a bit different from coastal skiing.

The region has taller mountains than the coasts do, with several that tower more than 3.000 meters high. There are also many glaciers that stretch between peaks, making this the ideal spot for glacier skiing, interspersed by epic freeride descents.

One of the most popular things to do is to head out and traverse the entire 175 kilometer mountain range. This is an incredible journey that takes you through remote landscapes, camping in tents at each night’s stopping point.

Along the way, you will enjoy unparalleled beauty in one of the world’s few remaining unspoiled landscapes and even get the chance to see polar bears.

Getting up to the summit of some of the tallest peaks and skiing back down is another big draw to the area. The tallest mountain in the chain is Mount Forel, which towers over its surroundings at 3.383 meters tall. Surrounded by several other 3.000 meter-plus tall mountains, these are known as the high peaks and make for some excellent ski touring expeditions.

Enjoy panoramic views of this massive island before skiing back down over glaciers and back into the mountains’ scenic valleys. It is truly an unforgettable experience.

There are also options to do circuits starting from Kulusuk, which is a bit of a smorgasbord of everything the region has to offer. These let you sample some coastal skiing before heading into a slightly lower section of the mountains as well as skiing over frozen lakes and down glaciers, before returning to the village from which you start.

Eastern Greenland

 

Skiing out in the remote islands along Greenland’s eastern seaboard is a scenic experience. Photo courtesy of Icelandic Mountain Guides.

Outside of the mountains, there is plenty of other ski touring to do back along the islands dotting the eastern coast of Greenland.

Starting out from Kulusuk, many will leave the island and head west to the Ammassalik Fjord to combine some coastal fjord skiing with a couple of climbs of coastal summits and long, smooth runs back down to the seashore.

Heading west to the neighboring island of Tasiilaq is another popular option frequently done on the eastern coast. This spot boasts some of the best glacier skiing on the entire island. You could spend days exploring each one, enjoying the views from the top and skiing serenely back down.

Staying on the island of Kulusuk, many will head farther inland to ski in the Kuummiut area. As it is easier to get to (direct flights from Reykjavik head right to Kulusuk) and does not require travel by boat, this is a popular option for people who only have one week to spend exploring Greenland.

While you might not get out into the wildest and remotest parts of the country, you still get the experience of excellent and fresh powder, glaciers and fjords. If all you can spare is a quick trip here, it is sure to whet your appetite for further exploration of this massive and magnificent island.

What is the Best Season to Go Ski Touring in Greenland?

 

From March to May is the best time of year to head out to Greenland for ski touring. During the spring season, the days begin to warm up a bit and the temperatures start to increase.

Due to the immense size of Greenland, average daily temperatures vary quite a lot. However, you should expect temperatures ranging anywhere from -20ºC to just below freezing, depending on how far north and inland you plan to ski.

The island is usually quite windy, which pushes perceived temperatures down quite a bit. Keep this in mind when packing for a ski touring expedition.

In part due to its northerly latitude and these winds, Greenland has some of the best air quality on the planet. Breathe deep and enjoy this luxury as much as you can while you are here.

Being a glaciated island, there is always plenty of snow cover on which to ski during these months. Snow mostly falls during the winter and begins to abate in March, but there is always plenty of snow cover during the spring due to these cold temperatures.

How Much Does a Guided Trip Cost?

 

While ski touring in Greenland is not cheap, the experience is priceless. Photo courtesy of Matthew Edwards.

Guided ski touring trips tend to be quite pricey. Expect to spend about €3.000 to €4.000 per person for a trip that lasts between one and two weeks.

Keep in mind that this price generally includes the guide’s fee, transportation during the trip, meals, accommodation, luggage transfers and group equipment. However, these prices generally do not include flights to and from Greenland or the connecting city.

Every guide prices differently and includes different things in their pricing. Be sure to confirm both the price as well as what is included with your guide prior to completion of booking.

How to Get There?

 

Greenland is very unique in the way in which you get around the island. There are no major roads or railways connecting its cities, so most people travel via boat and plane.

Getting to Greenland can be quite complicated. If you are arriving from Copenhagen, Denmark or if you have arranged to meet there with your guide prior to the trip, then you will likely fly into Kangerlussuaq Airport (SFJ) and transfer to your local destination form there.

If you are flying from Reykjavik, Iceland or have arranged to meet there with your guide prior to the trip, then you will fly into any of SFJ, Maniitsoq (JSU), Nuuk (GOH) or Kulusuk (KUS).

From here, you will either head out to the start of your trip via boat or helicopter, or transfer to another domestic airport. This depends on the trip you have booked with the guide.

Most of the time, guides will either meet you in Copenhagen, Reykjavik or one of the aforementioned airports, most commonly Maniitsoq. This should minimize complications and ease your travel planning.

 

Combining sailing with skiing is the way to go in Greenland. Photo courtesy of Stéphane Monari.

 

So what are you waiting for? Book now and get ready for the trip of a lifetime when you head out to ski tour through the sublime wilderness of Greenland!

 

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