May 2019

This spring I ran another two Ski and Sail weeks in the arctic archipelago of Svalbard!

Tom leading the way down one of the many perfect ski peaks in the Svalbard Archipelago
Tom leading the way down one of the many perfect ski peaks in the Svalbard Archipelago. Photo credit: Phil Wickens, May 2019

This year we used two boats, the s/v Rembrandt van Rijn as well as the s/v Noorderlicht. Each boat is well suited to Ski and Sail trips, but both quite different. The Rembrandt is easy to love — spacious and comfortable with a sprawling cafeteria complete with automatic espresso machine and a large crew of 11 the boat has a the edge when it comes to luxury. The disadvantage is that it’s almost a bit too big: with a guest capacity of 33 we shared the space with a large group of snowshoers. The Noorderlicht on the other hand is smaller with a skeleton crew of 4, but the advantages of a smaller boat dedicated to our single group of ski tourers and the charm of the traditional lines of a century old gaff-rigged schooner were undeniable.

The improbable bust of Lenin in the equally improbable town of Barentsburg
The improbable bust of Lenin in the equally improbable town of Barentsburg

In any case, both trips were a great success with our guests. The first week was spent on the Rembrandt. We had a mixed bag of weather but managed to pull off great ski tours day after day with only one “down day” spent exploring the coastline and goofing around on ice chunks. Sally pushed it a little too far and ended up going for a bit of a swim! Spurred on by this (mis?)adventure, Deb and Sally showed us all the true grit of Canadian women by going for a swim in the frigid waters at the end of a long day of ski touring. They must have made it look like fun because the next day they led the charge jumping off the Rembrandt, followed by at least a half dozen others. Judging by the expressions on everyone’s faces as they lunged back up the ladder and into warm clothes, the experience is not really something that can be recommended for pleasure!

Ascending the perfect ski peaks overlooking Ymerbukta
Ascending the perfect ski peaks overlooking Ymerbukta

Highlights of the Rembrandt week were: amazing powder skiing down the glaciers above Tenayrebukkta; the ski traverse across the peninsula and into Ny Alesund; our tour along the Lillieh√∂√∂k glacier, which is Europe’s longest calving glacier; and skiing alongside galloping reindeer in Sankt Jonsfjord.

Our second week was spent on the Noorderlicht. Immediately I felt at home in the cozy dining rooms of the Noorderlicht — rustic and compact but with the feeling of a true arctic expedition. We had the pleasure of having perfect weather every day of the week: blue sunny skies were a welcome change from the high clouds of the previous week and made for spectacular views from our summits of the interior of Spitzbergen with its seemingly endless, massive glaciers.

Highlights of the Noorderlicht week were: a perfect ski tour loop above Sankt Jonsfjord with a 10 kilometer descent from the ski peak of Drottsetten, down Charlsebreen to the sea under the shadows of towering cliffs and seracs; our ski tour above Borebukta where we had tremendous views of the shattered glacier Svermisen rolling into the sea; and, as if the week wasn’t perfect already, our incredible opportunity to view a polar bear up close from the safety of our sailing vessel on the last day!

Here are a selection of photos from our weeks. First the Rembrandt:

2019 Rembrandt

Second, the Noorderlicht:

2019 Noorderlicht

We still have a few spots remaining on our 2020 voyages, book now before we sell out!