From the land of the midnight sun, to the polar powder of the Arctic, this State of the Backcountry report comes to you from Sisimiut, Greenland. Sisimiut is a special place home to just under 6,000 residents. It has been inhabited for more than 4,000 years and is one of the fastest growing municipalities in Greenland. Of note to intrepid backcountry skiers, Sisimiut is the basecamp for Igloo Mountain, a group of Greenlandic people that hold the key to opening the doors to some of the most inspiring backcountry skiing on the planet.
Last spring, I was fortunate to join three other skiers on a reconnaissance mission to explore the ski potential of the region. After an incredible journey, I returned earlier this month, fresh off another successful season of Points North Heli-Adventures Tour Camp, as a co-guide for this years Ice Axe Expeditions ski trip. With two solid trips to this region now under my belt, I can safely say that it is a ski destination like no other. The local people are what set this trip apart from the rest. Steeped in culture, the local terrain accessible a few kilometers outside the city of Sisimiut make this a worthy adventure on its own. But the true ski potential of the area is not fully apparent until you hop on a snowmobile and travel through the unique Arctic landscape for a few hours.
Along with co-guide Glen Poulsen, we welcomed Sarah Halas, Jillian Raymond, Scott Wood, Tom Hicks, Tim Kellam, Archie Kasnet, Paul Oelerich of Ascent Magazine, and world renowned photographer Keoki Flagg to this years expedition. Greenland has long been an area of interest to adventurous skiers and riders. One of the harder to reach landmasses on earth, Greenland is mostly situated above the Arctic Circle, holding some of the highest concentration of unskied peaks in the world. The ticket to exploring Greenland on skis has largely been held by helicopter access since the first pioneers explored areas that are still being skied today back in the early 1990’s. One of the areas greatest leaders, Lasseraq Skifte, helped show outsiders the bounty of Greenland’s mountains back then. Today, he works on a plethora of projects aimed mainly at bringing sustainable economic development to the local area by focusing on environmental stewardship, cultural well-being, and support for Greenlandic youth. With a particular orientation towards tourism as industry as opposed to traditional resource extractive means, Lasseraq is also the main contact we at Ice Axe Expeditions are fortunate to work with as a result of his time visioning with the great polar explorer, Doug Stoup.
After a memorable expedition last spring, this years trip was full of hope and anticipation. Along with our guests, we took time to visit the sights of the quaint Sisimiut community. Dog sledding, ski touring, and spending time around town were highlights. However, from a ski perspective, the biggest highlights from this years trip include our team establishing new ski lines in an area our group explored last season, with an end of the trip polar powder session that will forever be etched into our collective memories. We left satiated, filled with gratitude, and even more aware of how much incredible ski exploration/potential is left in the region.
Ski traveling is like gambling at the casino. You can win big, or loss it all in the blink of an eye. We were lucky this year to have a decent storm blanket the surrounding peaks as soon as we arrived. With a diverse group, we skied varying terrain matched to the ability of our guests, which included moderately pitched chutes, open glory bowls, and a few couloirs as spectacular as they come. After half the trip was spent out in the field, housed in a small cabin on the flanks of a frozen fjord, we returned back to Sisimiut to a strong, albeit swift storm that dropped some of the lightest, fluffiest powder any of us had ever seen. Our last day was spent easing into the new snow conditions before ramping up to a couloir we had all skied earlier in the trip. However, this run was anything but a repeat. The snow that lined the walled confines of this splitter couloir was stable, dynamic and explosive. All you had to do was move to initiate a turn before wave after wave of polar powder enveloped you. Pitted in the white room with overhead barrels of blower powder seemed a fitting way to end our trip. As the storm vacated the area, the skies turned from gray to pristine blue and our group shared in one more meal to celebrate our safe, joyous adventure.
We’re already planning the 2016 expedition to Sisimiut, Greenland so please be in touch if you’re interested in joining us next year. You can also visit the Ice Axe page for more details on this trip and all the other adventures offered by this unique guiding outfit.
“State of the Backcountry” is sponsored by Alpenglow Sports. Established in 1979, Alpenglow Sports is Tahoe City’s original mountain shop. Specializing in Backcountry and Nordic skiing, snowshoeing, trail running, backpacking, hiking, camping, and the mountain lifestyle apparel, Alpenglow is always psyched to offer premier user-based customer service.