Ski Exploration in the Arctic
In the summer of 1888, Norwegian explorer Fridtjof Nansen set out on a daring expedition to become the first to traverse Greenland by ski. In doing so, he set the stage for us to continue his legacy of ski exploration in this Arctic dreamscape.
The World’s Most Exhilarating Skiing
It’s hard to define Greenland by anything other than what it lacks. Framed by mountain ranges and tundra along its coasts, the 1,700 mile long island primarily consists of a sprawling ice sheet reaching nearly two miles in depth, crushing the land below it. At first glance, the landscape seems devoid of life or features; the view is dominated by the pristine white of Earth’s second largest ice cap and the soundscape is often serenely quiet except for region’s cold powerful winds that pour from the landmass at its highest point.
But upon a closer look, there is an abundance of diversity and adventure to be found within this sparseness. Tundra species found nowhere else in the world, glacially carved fjojrds that curve through miles of ancient geology, and dramatic, unsummited mountain peaks. These vast, boundless conditions are what make the island so challenging to visit, so distinctly untouched, and so exciting to explore. They’re also what make it the ideal destination for some of the world’s most exhilarating skiing. After pioneering yacht-based heliskiing in the extremes of Antarctica, we sought out the same adventure in Greenland in 2022, giving our guests access to virgin runs in this breathtaking polar desert unlike any expedition before. This year, we’re returning with the same team in search of more alpine adventure without lifts, without lines, and without limits.
Fridtjof Nansen’s Daring Journey
But skiing in Greenland hasn’t always been a possibility. In fact, until the late 19th century, the country was hardly documented by modern explorers.
It wasn’t until 1888 that Norwegian explorer Fridtjof Nansen, the namesake of our yacht for the expedition, set out on a groundbreaking mission to explore and document the geography of Greenland. During his expedition, he discovered new species of animals and plants, traversed towering mountain ranges, glaciers, and fjords, and even made it as far as the North Pole. His daring journey not only provided valuable insight into Greenland’s geography but also helped to further our understanding of the Arctic as a whole and opened the region to future exploration.
An Audacious Plan
Nansen’s audacious plan was met with skepticism from nearly every angle of press, colleague, and competitor. Described by one critic as ‘absolute recklessness’, Nansen charted a course approaching Greenland’s eastern coast through treacherous ice floes and crossing the vast expanse of inland ice by sledge and ski. The area around the Sermilik Fjord west of Angmagssalik at 65⁰35′ N was chosen as the starting point – Angmagssalik being at this time the northernmost Inuit settlement in east Greenland. Christianshåb by Disco Bay was the goal, a daunting linear distance of 372 miles away.
However, in large part due to Nansen’s detailed planning, this expedition, unlike eight previous attempts, was a resounding success. And it’s thanks to this success, along with the subsequent publication of The First Crossing of Greenland (Paa ski over Grønland), Nansen’s personal account of the expedition, that skiing for sport in Europe later developed, spread, and grew into the popularity we know today.
It’s because of Nansen that we continue to return to the expanse of Greenland. Our modern day heliski expeditions live in the legacy of Nansen and his team, capture their same exploratory spirit, and continue the tradition of ski exploration in this Arctic dreamscape.