The other side of a weird story in Iceland
Back in April we wrote a piece about a particular tour company in Iceland putting the lives of their customers at risk and seemingly disregarding official weather and avalanche warnings. Our take on the issue was to stay clear of such companies unless risking death was high on your agenda.
The report was written mainly from local news sources and regrettably we never heard quite the whole side to the story as we have now.
The owner of the company in question, Arctic Heli Skiing, operating in the North of Iceland and offering specialty skiing tours by helicopters or snowmobiles in the Trollaskaga mountain range, maintains his words about ignoring weather warnings was taken well out of context at the time.
What is true, he says, is that far from taking avalanche reports lightly as was the gist of the story back in April his team of professionals confers regularly with the official Met office of Iceland regarding the daily outlook on these mountains. This has been verified by team Total Iceland.
What weather reports for the public don´t mention is particulars regarding amount of snow, steepness of hills and ranges and the specific wind direction in or around mountain ranges. All these factors are taken into account by Arctic-Heli before anyone is allowed on the mountains. That was what was the tour operator was referring to when he spoke about not following the normal publicly broadcast weaher report.
What happened back in April was that the avalanche warnings that particular day only applied to the northernmost mountain area and the risk elsewhere considered none or low by the Arctic-Heli team of people, many of which hold a level II certificate from the Canadian Avalanche Centre. Low enough in any case to allow skiers to take off but unfortunately an avalanche happened injuring one person while others barely escaped.
He points out that in spite of reports his team is composed of knowledgeable professionals and is the only tour operator in the country whose team has gotten professional validation in mountain tourism.
Last but not least is the fact that heli-skiing is by definition a more risky sport than normal skiing since customers are taken to spots not accessible by other means. It is the risk-factor that many skiers are actually looking for.
Team Total Iceland for its part believes this company is genuine and professional. For those interested in skiing in Iceland should be just fine and safe with Arctic Heli Skiing. Oh, and by the way, if Iceland is not enough these guys also offer stuff in Greenland.