Svalbard. (Photo: Josh Crawford)
Snowboarding Svalbard. (Photo: Josh Crawford)
Dramatic Svalbard. (Photo: Josh Crawford)
Svalbard. (Photo: Josh Crawford)
Svalbard local resident! (Photo: Josh Crawford)
Ski touring Svalbard. (Photo: Josh Crawford)
Svalbard skier transport! (Photo: Josh Crawford)
Svalbard skiing. (Photo: Josh Crawford)
Svalbard ski touring. (Photo: Josh Crawford)
Skiing Svalbard. (Photo: Josh Crawford)
Skiing Svalbard. (Photo: Josh Crawford)
Svalbard snowboarding. (Photo: Josh Crawford)
Ski Svalbard. (Photo: Josh Crawford)


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Ski Svalbard

So, you consider yourself a bit of an explorer and like your ski destinations a little exotic? What if we told you there was a place where you could ski amazing, untracked lines at midnight in full sunlight all the way to beach whilst having to avoid the largest land carnivore on Earth!

Well such a place does exist – Svalbard – a pristine Norwegian Arctic wilderness that offers some of the world’s finest ski touring with some of the most incredible scenery you will ever witness.

Svalbard Skiing & Snowboarding

While snow covers much of the islands year-round, most Svalbard ski tour operators run the ski and sail expeditions in May and June, which allows them to take advantage of the relatively low sea ice levels and endless daylight. There are no ski lifts in Svalbard, so come prepared with touring gear & in good physical condition.

The majority of Svalbard skiing is done amongst the fjords & islands along the west coast of Svalbard, between the latitudes of 77o & 80o. Access is generally by boat. Sea ice conditions, which can change extremely quickly, can dictate which areas are accessible. If you’re on a smaller boat that gets stuck in the sea-ice, you’d better hope that the boat is well stocked with the essentials! Note that some excellent ski touring & powder snow descents are also possible straight from one’s door at Longyearbyen.

The skiable terrain on Svalbard is endless. With almost 3,000 km of accessible coastline and 40,000 km2 of untouched terrain, it just depends on how far you (and your guide) are willing to search for it. Snow conditions can vary from light, dry Arctic powder through to spring corn and everything in between. And with everything from mellow open bowls and glacial valleys through to long spines and technical 500 chutes, there’s terrain for skiers & riders of all abilities.

Where is Svalbard Norway?

Svalbard is an archipelago of islands located deep within the Arctic Circle between mainland Norway & the North Pole. With a resident population of just under 3,000 (mostly spread across the main settlements of Longyearbyen & Barentsburg on the island of Spitsbergen) the majority of the islands remain virgin, snow-covered wilderness.

Longyearbyen on Spitsbergen has the most northerly major commercial airport in the world, making Svalbard accessible via a three times a week flight from Oslo, or a daily flight from Tromsø. flight frequencies increase in the spring & summer months into Longyearbyen. Try to reserve a window seat on the right-hand side of the plane on the flight in, as the views across a landscape of endless snow-covered peaks & glaciers will definitely get the juices flowing for the upcoming adventure.

All Svalbard ski tours begin & end in Longyearbyen. Search & book flights to Longyearbyen (LYR) in Svalbard here.

Svalbard Accommodation

Svalbard comprises numerous islands, only one of which is permanently inhabited. The island of Spitsbergen has two ‘major’ population centres on its west coast - Longyearbyen & Barentsburg. Both are charismatic towns in dramatic settings. Each even has its own craft beer breweries - yay! Some wonderful accommodation is available in both villages, all with ski in/ski out (i.e. put your skis on & skin away!).

Search & book all Svalbard accommodation here.

Svalbard Ski Tours

Due to the uniqueness & quality of the experience on offer, the number of operators providing guided Svalbard skiing tours is increasing. The original operators – Swedish-based Arctic Guides – have been running trips to Svalbard for over 15 years. The highly regarded Ice Axe Expeditions crew also run a couple of tours each year.

Most expeditions operate from the base of a boat, which provides the flexibility to move up and down the coastline relatively quickly, depending on weather, ice and snow conditions. Boat sizes range from more intimate 8-guest sailing vessels up to larger vessels capable of comfortably hosting up to 26 guests (plus guides and crew). Some of the larger vessels even come equipped with an on-deck hot tub for soaking sore bodies and a little aqua-après!

If you don't want to join an expedition or tour, you can explore the mountains of Spitsbergen on your own terms. Note the Polar bear warning below though!

More Reasons to Ski Svalbard

Polar bears are a real highlight of a trip to the Arctic Circle. However, the potential for a close encounter with the largest land carnivore on the planet is definitely taken seriously, with all guides carrying high-powered rifles and flare guns when on land (it's actually illegal NOT to carry a gun if you’re travelling outside town limits!). You will appreciate why when you see the size of the polar bear footprints next to your skin track!

Encounters with curious walruses bobbing up near your zodiac as you head ashore, and sightings of arctic foxes and reindeer grazing on the sparse, green patches as you skin or ski or snowboard by, are also common. Numerous whale species, including beluga (white) and blue whales, can also be spotted passing through the fjords.

The Experience

If modern lift systems, spacious hotel rooms, Wi-Fi, phone reception & regular night/day are what you’re looking for in a ski destination, then Svalbard isn't for you.

But if you’re willing to travel to one of the most remote, untouched & beautiful destinations on Earth to earn your turns, lay skin tracks over polar bear footprints, drink vodka in Russian mining outposts, swim in zero-degree water & ski untracked lines surrounded by some of the most incredible scenery imaginable … well you will undoubtedly be rewarded with one of the most unforgettable ski experiences of your life.

Words: Josh Crawford & Powderhounds Europe 

Tours in Svalbard

Boat Skiing Tours

Photo: Kim Havell
9 Days | 8 Nights
Ability: Advanced to Expert
Head way way north to Svalbard for this inimitable ski touring/split boarding experience. Cruise around the Arctic Sea on a sail boat and head ashore to ski amazing mountains in the land of the polar bear. Only 10 guests: join as a solo traveller or small group.
Price p/p
AUD 10,145
View Details
See all Boat Skiing tours that visit Svalbard here