The history of heli skiing in Iceland

The greatest works of literature to survive from the middle ages are without a doubt the Icelandic Saga's. Tales of bloody feuds and heroic Viking deeds, they recount the history of the colonization of Iceland in the mid 800's and the first centuries thereafter. Due in part to this thorough documentation and the small population, all Icelanders can trace their family back to the Viking age. And so begins the Saga of Arctic Heli Skiing and its founder Jökull Bergmann the 31st generation direct descendant of the first Viking settlers of Iceland Hallveig Fróðadóttir and Ingólfur Arnarsson.

Life on our little island far north at the edge of the known world was always hard, involving a never ending battle with the elements of nature. With short cold summers and long dark winters the population of Iceland came close to disappearing on several occasions when volcanic eruptions engulfed the country in ash and lava followed by the inevitable famine. For close to a 1000 years time seemed to stand still with the people simply busy surviving, eking out a living as subsistence farmers and fishermen. With this being the reality of the people of only two generations ago it is quite remarkable that today's Iceland is one of the richest and most prosperous nations on the planet.

Klængshóll Lodge Old farmFor the last thousand years or so the ancestors of Jökull Bergmann tended their sheep in the mountains of the Troll Peninsula, and so did he, working from a young age as a shepherd tending his grandparents flock at Klængshóll farm. Being out in the mountains all summer long, installed a strong love of nature in Jökull. Aided by his mother's and grandparents keen eye and respect of their surrounding environment he learned right from the get go to live off the land that fostered his family for generations. Curious and adventurous by nature Jökull always sought out to go further and higher and became a keen and talented climber at an early age. This opened up new dimensions, and already at the age of 16 he traveled to the Alps to spend the first summer seasons of many scaling the big peaks. It was on that first trip that he saw the Mountain Guides effortlessly flow through the terrain with their guests, climbing faster and better than the rest, and he instantly knew what he wanted to commit his life to.

Becoming an Internationally Certified Mountain Guide is no easy task, a process started by thousands but only finished by a small group of very dedicated individuals each year. Coming from Iceland where no such education exists the path would be only longer and harder as the prerequisites for even attempting the rigorous exam process require that one spend many years climbing and skiing the hardest routes in the great mountain ranges of the world before being even accepted to enter the Mountain Guides training. Jökull went about this mission with his well known drive and determination and after a decade of training and exams in the Alps, the Rocky Mountains and other ranges across the globe he finished his IFMGA Mountain Guide Certification in 2008, becoming the first, and to this day only Icelander to achieve this great goal.

Having completed his training in Canada, the world leader in the ski guiding industry Jökull had the great fortune to train and work with the best guides and companies in the business. This wealth of information and know how would become the key factor in the very successful launch of Arctic Heli Skiing on the Troll Peninsula in 2008 where Jökull had been guiding ski touring groups since before the turn of the century.

Jökull the young sheep herderIn 2008 the great tale of our company started in earnest with Jökull, his wife Sunna and Canadian born daughter Íssól Anna moving back to the motherland from Revelstoke BC where Jökull had worked guiding heliskiers around the great Selkirk and Monashee Mountains with Selkirk Tangiers Heli Skiing. At this point in time Jökull along with his mother Anna Dóra and her partner Örn had been hosting ski touring groups at the family farm each spring but now the transformation from farm to heli ski lodge started for real. No longer a sheep farm after Jökul's grandparents stopped farming in 1998 construction began in 2010 with the help of a group of dedicated skiers forming the exclusive Arctic Heli Skiing founders program.

Today ten years later AHS is Iceland's leading heli ski company, building on strong roots and traditions going back centuries on the Troll Peninsula, but at the same time leading the charge in innovation and exploration of new terrain and possibilities in the ski guiding world of Iceland and Greenland. We are a true family business with the third generation getting ready to start work in the ski shop waxing skis this spring but to us family extends beyond blood and you will find that we are all a close knit group of friends that not only work, but also play together in the mountains of the Trolls and beyond.

Klængshóll Throughout History