Svalbard / Spitsbergen, Arctic Sea, Norway
8 or 11 Day Boat-Based Ski Touring Expedition in the Remote West Coast of Spitsbergen in the Svalbard Island Group
Spitsbergen / Svalbard Ski and Sail Highlights
- Magnificent, remote mountain wilderness
- Spacious and comfortable 2 mast sailing yacht with double cabins
- Spectacular glaciated terrain
- Skiing in the midnight sun
- Amazing wildlife with photo ops
- Reliable snow conditions well into June
This is a truly exploratory ski touring expedition in the rugged mountains of Spitsbergen, the only (barely) populated Island in the Svalbard Island group of about 60 islands in the Arctic Ocean north of Norway at a Latitude of 79º. Few spots in this world are as remote and wild as Spitsbergen, not to mention all the wildlife and glaciated peaks that offer world class skiing.
We will be basing from a comfortable and spacious 2 mast sailing yacht, which enables us to sample the best ski touring spots along the west coast of Spitsbergen. Given the long days in spring, there will not be any rush as we never loose daylight and the midnight sun provides an amazing light that is unique to ski touring this far north. We strive to ski tour every day after lifting anchors in Longyearbyen. Our skiing days usually last from 5 – 9 hrs. Due to the presence of polar bears, the guides will be carrying bear deterrents and firearms during the ski touring days. All in all an amazing adventure – a trip of a lifetime!
For our guests who want to spend more time in this amazing area, we offer a 3 day pre-trip extension to do ski tours and / or a snow mobile tour based in the town of Longyearbyen, the main town of Spitsbergen. At 870 km distance to the North Pole, Longyearbyen is the northern most town in the world, has about 2000 inhabitants, several nice hotels, a small town center with bars, restaurants, shops and a great arctic history museum. Usually, we can put on our skis more or less at the hotel to explore near-by peaks and glaciers.
Day 1 (22-May): Arrival at the airport in Longyearbyen from Oslo via Tromso in the early afternoon (usually one overnight required in Oslo). Transfer to our Hotel and time to check out the town including a visit to the Polar Museum.
Day 2 (23-May): Ski touring day trip close to town and return to our Hotel
Day 3 (24-May): Ski touring day trip close to town or alternative a snowmobile tour to the town of Barensburg, as small Russian mining town.
Day 4 (25-May): Potentially another shorter ski touring trip from town or a visit to an ice cave (4 hrs). Arrival day for those participants who chose to participate in the boat trip only. Embarkation around 4 pm at the earliest, safety briefing, departure from pier usually around 6 pm.
Day 5 – 10 (26 May – 31 May):
We usually only sail one hour to our first ski tour in the Isfjord. From there, we continue to sail along the West Coast of Spitzbergen to sample the best ski touring and peak ascent the group of islands has to offer. In May and June the sun will be with us for 24 hours in Svalbard, which leaves a lot of flexibility for our departures. After each day of skiing we return from the shoreline by Zodiak motor boat back to our Yacht, where the smell of dinner will usually welcome us. We usually finish the day on deck with a glass of wine, enjoying the contrast of the sea and the magnificent mountainscape with the everlasting sun above the horizon.
Arrival back in Longyearbyen usually around 4 PM. Farewell dinner on the boat.
Day 11 (1-June):
We bid farewell to our Yacht and crew in the morning after breakfast and head back to the airport. Via Tromso we will fly to Oslo from where we can catch our international connections, which may require an overnight.
Detail and Logistics
Air Travel and Logistics
Longyearbyen on Spitsbergen is reached by scheduled daily flights from Oslo via Tromso. The flight usually arrives in the early morning hours and depart mid day. Cost from the major European hubs are usually around Euro 550 / person returnand require an overnight stay in Oslo. Travel time from the airport to the town of Longyearbyen is only 5 km. There are about 10 hotels, several restaurants and bars, shops and a supermarket in this town of about 2500 inhabitants.
Best Season, Weather and Temperatures
Best season for “Ski and Sail” trips in Svalbard / Spitsbergen are April, May and June with May probably being the prime time. Earlier in the season, some of the fjords may still be frozen or choked with pack ice and some landing spots for ski touring may not be reachable by ship. Later in the season (commonly starting mid June) the snow at sea level has melted, requiring a bit of walking in order to get to the skiing in some locations.
The warmer North Atlantic Current influences the weather in Svalbard and keeps temperatures about 20 degrees Celsius warmer than in comparable latitudes in the continental polar regions of Canada and Russia, which keeps the open waters around Svalbard ice-free, except for the fjords which freeze during the winter.
Average temperatures in Svalbard for the month of May for the small settlement of Ny-Alesund along our sailing itinerary are highs of -1C (30F) and lows of -3C (26F). Generally, precipitation is frequent but falls in small quantities (about 400 mm annually) which means that there is a snow shower or two on most days but rarely is the weather really bad to where we can’t ski tour.
While the winter are pitch dark in Svalbard with cold temps (-13C- -20C) and often strong winds, the spring has 24 hrs daylight with pleasant, very moderate winter temperatures.
Participants need to be seasoned ski tourers, able to hold a steady uphill pace up to 1500 meters vertical rise every day. Our day packs will be relatively heavy, as we have to carry glacier equipment, lunch & beverages, group emergency gear, bear deterrents and at least one heavy rifle for the group. Participants also need to be confident skiers able to negotiate turns in challenging snow conditions and / or bad visibility without falling frequently.
Given that you will be spending a week together on a boat in the sparsely traveled waters of the arctic sea, you need to be comfortable sleeping in confined quarters under deck and sharing limited space on board with your fellow travellers. If you are easily susceptible to motion sickness, you may also be better off with one of our land based trips. If in doubt weather you have the required skills and fitness level, feel free give us a call to discuss your options!
We definitely do not recommend this trip for backcountry ski touring beginners!
Client / Guides
18 participants with 3 guides
- Day trips boat-based
- Peaks between 700m – 1200m asl
- Up to 1500 m climbs / descents / day
- Glaciated terrain
- Often variable snow conditions
2019 and 2020 Departures:
- 7 nights on board, 8 days with 6 prospective ski touring days:
22 – 29 May, 2019
20 – 27 May, 2020
- 3 day pre-trip extension ski tours town-based in Longyearbyen / Spitsbergen:
19 – 22 May, 2019
17 – 19 May, 2020
11 Day trip:
Please inquire for pricing for shorter trip duration (i.e. boat trip only).
7 nights yacht rental with crew, harbour fees, permit fees, UIAGM / IFMGA mountain guides, multi-course dinners and breakfast on board. Pre-trip extension: 3 additional days of town based ski touring and excursions, 3 x Hotel B&B in Longyearbyen.
Not included: Air travel, alcoholic beverages, dinners in Longyearbyen, hotel in Oslo en route