Svalbard Ski & Sail
Explore the Fjords off the west coast of Spitzbergen from the s/v Noorderlicht
2023 // May 17-27 (8 SPOTS); WAITLIST ONLY: April 26-May 6, May 3-13, May 10-20
2024 // April 25-May 5 (17 spots), May 2-12 (14 spots), May 9-19 (7 spots)
Backcountry ski touring and sailing expedition along the west coast of Spitsbergen, 1000 km from Norway and 1200 km from the North Pole. The Svalbard archipelago of over 60 mostly unpopulated islands is a wild and remote place, and at a latitude of greater than 78º it is level with Canada’s Ellesmere Island, or the northernmost end of Greenland. Our Ski and Sail expedition in Svalbard is a journey into one of the most unique and surreal ski touring destinations in the world with its juxtaposition of sea, mountain, and arctic environment. Yet, it is surprisingly easy to access, with three-times daily airline flights into the modern airport at Longyearbyen.
The west coast of Spitsbergen is protected by a long, thin island called Prins Karls Vorland, which protects an inner channel and allows straightforward sea access to dozens of fjords. The fjords harbour countless peaks rising 500 to 1000 m out of the sea, and offer outstanding ski touring opportunities. It is a land perfectly designed for skiing. Gaining access to these beautiful glaciated peaks is only possible by boat, as helicopter skiing is strictly forbidden in Svalbard. And a good thing, too: a sailing yacht is really the best way to visit this country, a tradition that has existed since whaling boats first made use of the area over 200 years ago. The s/v Noorderlicht, which we have chartered again this year, is also the best boat around for the job. At almost 50 m (150 ft) long it’s comfortable and stable and provides exceptional luxury with the classy lines of a gaff-rigged schooner.
Backcountry skiing – from a Sailboat!
Our Ski and Sail trips use a comfortable and spacious double-masted gaff-rigged sailing yacht, the s/v Noorderlicht (Dutch for “Northern Lights”). Our captain is Gert Ritzema, an old salt who rebuilt the Noorderlicht in the 1990s to its present form. Travel by boat enables us to sample the best ski touring and ski mountaineering spots along the west coast of Spitzbergen, Svalbard’s largest island. Given the long days in spring, there will not be any rush: around the clock the midnight sun provides an amazing soft light that is unique to ski touring this far north. Our goal is to ski tour every day after lifting anchors in Longyearbyen. Skiing days last from 5 – 9 hrs. Due to the presence of polar bears, the guides will be carrying bear deterrents and firearms during the ski touring days. All in all an amazing adventure – a trip of a lifetime!
Longyear City – Ski out of your hotel
For our guests who want to spend more time in this amazing area we offer an optional 3-day pre-sail trip extension to do backcountry ski tours and / or a snowmobile tour based in Svalbard’s main town, Longyearbyen.
Longyearbyen, with a population of about 2000, is the northernmost town in the world and is the staging point for our trip with its airport and harbour. Despite its remote location, Longyearbyen offers exceptional amenities. It has a quaint town center with bars, restaurants, shops and two arctic history museums. We will stay at Mary-Ann’s Polarrigg – a unique hotel, close to the harbour and with a remarkable ambience including a lush greenhouse restaurant complete with a stuffed polar bear. At this latitude, even in May, we can often count on being able to put our skis on right at the hotel at sea level and tour up into the mountains above town.
Trip reports, Photos and Maps
To get a better idea of what to expect from our Svalbard Ski and Sail ski trip, please check out our Svalbard photo album and Ski Touring in Svalbard blog post about our 2018 Ski & Sail adventure. A great resource is this topo map of Svalbard made available by the Norwegian Polar Institute. Finally, our 360° Virtual Tour is a great way to get a feel for what to expect when you step on board the s/v Noorderlicht.
DATES 2023 // NO23-1: April 26-May 6; NO23-2: May 3-13; NO23-3: May 10-20; NO23-4: May 17-27
DATES 2024 // NO24-1: April 25-May 5; NO24-2: May 2-12; NO24-3: May 9-19
See Itinerary for details.
2023/24 PRICE: $8395 CAD / $6350 USD per person.
Optional pre-sail ski touring included in this price; contact us for details on special pricing for trips without this component.
PAYMENT SCHEDULE: 40% payment secures your booking; 70% due September 1; balance (full payment) due February 1
INCLUDED: Pre-sail – 3 additional days of town based ski tours, 3 x Hotel B&B in Longyearbyen. Ski & Sail – 7 nights two mast sailboat rental with crew, harbour fees, permit fees, UIAGM / IFMGA mountain guides, multi-course dinners, breakfast on board as well as lunch supplies.
NOT INCLUDED: Air travel, alcoholic beverages, dinners in Longyearbyen.
Heather is a long time ski bum and recently-minted ACMG Apprentice Ski Guide. Heather enjoys long glacier walks, summits in the sun and steep and deep pow turns. Heather has worked in the ski industry, mainly as ski patrol and snow safety, since 2007. In the offseason she is a journeyman Millwright and backcountry lodge cook. Heather will be on the boat for all three weeks this spring (NO23-1, NO23-2 NO23-3).
In 1979 Roger started working for Canadian Mountain Holidays (CMH) in the Bugaboos. He developed an interest in the mountains, which later turned into a professional career. After 12 years of managing CMH’s premier lodge “The Monashees” Roger has since retired, and is now operating Battle Abbey, a ski touring hut north of Golden B.C., with his partner Loree. Throughout the rest of the year he can be found working on photography projects and guiding private clients. Roger will join us in Svalbard for NO23-1.
Emelie is a skier at heart and has followed her passion into the mountains all around the world. She has skied and worked extensively in the Canadian Rockies, the Columbia and Coast Mountains of British Columbia, the European Alps, the Caucasus in Russia, the Pamir Mountains in Central Asia, the high arctic of Iceland, Svalbard and beyond. She was born and raised in Sweden and came to Canada in 2004 to experience BC powder skiing, and was immediately hooked. Emelie is an ACMG Ski and Hiking Guide and lives in Revelstoke, BC. Emelie will be on the boat for the second (NO23-2) sailing this spring.
We meet in Longyearbyen on the first day. You can arrive as late as the afternoon of Day 4 as the boat departs at around 17:00 PM on that day. We will be done with the trip on the morning of the last day, which is Day 11. Here’s the exact dates for each of our upcoming trips for your reference:
- NO23-1: meet at the hotel on the evening of 2023 April 26, which is the day before our first pre-sail ski touring. You can arrive in Longyearbyen as late as early afternoon on April 29 as the boat departs around 17:00 PM on that day. Day 11 (final day) is on May 6.
- NO23-2 meet at the hotel on the evening of 2023 May 3, which is the day before our first pre-sail ski touring. You can arrive in Longyearbyen as late as early afternoon on May 6 as the boat departs around 17:00 PM on that day. Day 11 (final day) is on May 13.
- NO23-3 meet at the hotel on the evening of 2023 May 10, which is the day before our first pre-sail ski touring. You can arrive in Longyearbyen as late as early afternoon on May 13 as the boat departs around 17:00 PM on that day. Day 11 (final day) is on May 20.
- NO23-4: meet at the hotel on the evening of 2023 May 17 which is the day before our first pre-sail ski touring. You can arrive in Longyearbyen as late as early afternoon on May 20 as the boat departs around 17:00 PM on that day. Day 11 (final day) is on May 27.
Day 1: Arrival at the airport in Longyearbyen from Oslo (with SAS or Norwegian Airlines) in the early afternoon (usually one overnight required in Oslo). Transfer to our Hotel and time to check out the town including a visit to the “Polarmuseum”.
Day 2: Ski touring day trip close to town and return to our Hotel
Day 3: Ski touring day trip close to town or alternative a snowmobile tour to the town of Barensburg, as small Russian mining town.
Day 4: Potentially another shorter ski touring trip from town or a visit to an ice cave (4 hrs). Arrival day for those participants who chose to participate in the boat trip only. Embarkation around 4 pm at the earliest, safety briefing, departure from pier usually around 6 pm.
Day 5 – 10:
We usually only sail one hour to our first ski tour in the Isfjord; harbours like Ymerbukta or Tryghamna. From there, we continue to sail along the West Coast of Spitzbergen to sample the best ski touring and peak ascent the group of islands has to offer. In May and June the sun will be with us for 24 hours in Svalbard, which leaves a lot of flexibility for our departures. After each day of skiing we return from the shoreline by Zodiak motor boat back to our Yacht, where the smell of dinner will usually welcome us. We usually finish the day on deck with a glass of wine, enjoying the contrast of the sea and the magnificent mountainscape with the everlasting sun above the horizon.
Arrival back in Longyearbyen usually around 4 PM. Farewell dinner on the boat.
Day 11: We bid farewell to our yacht and crew in the morning (after a final breakfast onboard) and head back to the airport. We will fly to Oslo (usually via Tromsø for a brief stopover if you fly with SAS; direct with Norwegian) from where we can catch our international connections, which may require an overnight.
Svalbard Ski and Sail Logistics
This year’s Svalbard Ski and Sail trip starts in Longyearbyen on Svalbard. There are usually multiple daily flights between Longyearbyen and Oslo, Norway.
If you choose to only participate in the boat portion of this trip, you must arrive in Longyearbyen at the latest on Day 4 (see Itinerary tab). We will be boarding the boat at around 4:00 pm. Unfortunately in 2023 both airlines servicing Longyearbyen chose to cancel flights on Saturdays, which requires booking a hotel room for an extra night. This last night accommodation is not included in your trip fees, as it was unanticipated when we scheduled our 2023 trips. We recommend Mary-Ann’s Polarrigg, Basecamp Spitzbergen or Gjestehuset 102 as great options for that last night.
There is an optional 3 days of ski touring offered (see above Itinerary tab for dates). If you arrive in Longyearbyen on Day 1 then you can participate in all three pre-sail ski tours, but you can also arrive later than that if you like. Please advise us of your intentions so we can make hotel bookings and other arrangements.
When you book your return flight, the best option is to book a flight (even a very early one) from Longyearbyen on the last day (see Itinerary tab)
AiRport Hotel Transfers
Please consult our up-to-date Covid Response Info page for details on travel to Norway and Svalbard during covid. Scroll to near the bottom for specifics.
Booking your flights & Oslo hotel
There’s no fast way to get to Svalbard. That said, I do have some hard won advice.
Finding a good deal on a good flight itinerary to Longyearbyen takes a bit of work. Book well in advance of your trip. Be careful of using the discount sites as additional luggage fees — charged for each leg of your trip potentially — can be pretty hefty. You will need two 23-kg bags so factor that into your planning.
Look for and spend a bit of extra money if necessary to get flights with shorter (<4 hr) stopovers and as few connections as possible.
For your flight to Oslo, look for flights with shorter durations and the fewest connections. Direct flights to Oslo from North America are only available from New York City, Miami and Los Angeles (see this webpage for a comprehensive list of direct international flights to Oslo).
I recommend you use one of the big airlines like KLM/Delta or Lufthansa/Air Canada all the way to Oslo, aiming to arrive in Oslo in the early afternoon. Remember to account for baggage costs. SAS offers direct flights from a couple of US hubs (I believe Newark and Denver) to Iceland Air offers a slightly different schedule and is worth checking out — not to mention they allow a “free” multi-day “stopover” option for those thinking of checking out Iceland as part of this trip!
If you want a budget option from the USA then you might consider Norse Atlantic Airways — I don’t have any experience with this small airline so buyer beware. But they do advertise some attractive deals: $119 USD one way JFK-OSL, or a $169 direct flight from LAX-OSL! The most amazing thing about this airline is flights that leave Oslo mid-afternoon, which means it’s technically possible to make it back from Longyearbyen to Los Angeles in a single day (however, flights are not every day and probably won’t line up perfectly with our trip dates).
From Oslo you will almost certainly need to overnight and catch the next morning’s flight to Longyearbyen (with SAS or Norwegian airlines), unless perhaps your previous flight was very early in the day (from within Europe).
At the Oslo Airport (Gardermoen) my recommendation is the Radisson Hotel & Conference Centre Oslo Airport ($$$). It’s very comfortable and has the best Norwegian-style breakfast buffet — definitely get the “with breakfast” option! It is a short walk from the airport (turn left out of arrivals and walk about 400 m; you can bring a luggage cart with you). It’s very comfortable, and my recommendation for efficiency. I do not recommend booking with a third party agency for the Radisson as making changes will be more complicated and booking directly with the hotel also ensures the best rate (lowest rate is guaranteed).
If you want something a bit cheaper and close to the airport there’s the Scandic Gardermoen ($$). It’s a 7 minute cab or shuttle drive away, which adds to the cost and complication factor. The shuttle service stops at Oslo Airport are on the lower level of Oslo Airport – platform 39. Vy shuttle S55 runs every 15 minutes weekdays from kl. 04.35 – 10.20 and 14.20 – 17:20. Saturday and Sunday every 30 minutes from kl. 04.35 to 01.05 (last departure from the airport). Cost is 80 NOK.
Oslo is a great world class city to visit. There are also good, interesting hotels in downtown Oslo if you want to spend a night or a few days there before or after the trip. I recommend storing your bulky gear at the Gardermoen airport (See Avinor Baggage Check for details & pricing) and taking the train into town with a light overnight bag. Here are a few to consider:
Hotel Continental Oslo – Owned by the same family for four generations, Continental is the only Norwegian member of “Leading Hotels of the World”. The hotel is home to the renowned restaurants Eik Annen Etage and Theatercafeen, and BAR BOMAN, a lobby bar with Munch’s art on the walls. $$$
Scandic Victoria – Central hotel in Oslo, only a short walk from Karl Johans gate, Stortinget parliament and Spikersuppa ice skating rink. Vibrant Aker Brygge and Tjuvholmen are only a 5 minute walk from the hotel, with many trendy bars and restaurants right on the waterfront of Oslo. Akershus Fortress is also within walking distance. $$
Comfort Hotel Grand Central – The Comfort Hotel Grand Central is one of Oslo’s most centrally-located hotels and is found in the main train station, just a 30-minute transfer from Oslo airport. $
Hotel Rosencrantz – Design hotel in the centre of Oslo, just around the corner from Karl Johans gate, public transport and many of the city’s biggest attractions. $$
On the way back, book a flight on the morning of Day 11 (see Itinerary tab for dates) to Oslo. If you are heading to a European city as your final destination you should be able to continue on same day. If you are heading across the Atlantic, plan to stay in Oslo again that night and catch an early flight back home, again with one of the big airlines.
Eating in Oslo and Svalbard
Here are a collection of tips for eating in Norway & Svalbard.
OSL – cheap eats
If you need a fast bite to eat before heading to your hotel, “cheap” pizza is the way to go, located at airport arrivals level. Peppe’s Pizza, grab it before you leave! Large pizza about 300 NOK ($42 CAD). OK, not cheap — welcome to Norway! Despite the mixed Tripadvisor reviews, Peppes is “Good enough” after a long flight. Get the 1, 2 or 3 slice deal with a soda and you won’t go hungry.
LYR – restaurants: best to book ahead with large groups.
Great little restaurant adjoining Basecamp Spitsberten Hotel has a beautiful round table perfect for group dinners. Burgers, pizza, etc (Restaurant Kroa) $-$$
Vinterhagen, which adjoins Mary-Ann’s Polarrigg Hotel, is in a greenhouse full of tropical plants — a unique place to experience arctic vistas simultaneously — and serves arctic fare such as seal, char and reindeer $$-$$$.
Baretnz Gastropub (located in the Radisson) has best pizza and beer pub in town and a nice atmosphere (very crowded on weekends). $-$$
Pub next door to Basecamp across from the parking lot (Svalbar Pub) has good food and prices $-$$
Svalbard Brewery claims to be the world’s northernmost brewery and is down by the ocean, not too long of a walk, worth getting a reservation for a tour and tasting one night. 429 NOK pp for 5 samples, minimum 4 persons, Fridays 16:00, 18:00 and 20:00 only $$$.
Coal Miner’s Bar and Grill is good $-$$
Sushi on Svalbard? Why not? Svalbard has always been multi-ethnic, with no aboriginal population, and it’s an ocean town so it should come as no suprise that they have an excellent, authentic Tokyo-style sushi joint: NUGA $
Stationen is a pub-style restaurant with a great menu. Try the beef tagliata for one of the best budget meals in town $$
For a special high end expensive dinner try Polfareren which is close to Basecamp. Expensive and small portions but classy. Eat something before you go, or hit the Svalbar afterwards of pizza if you have a big appetite 🙂 $$$-$$$$
My favourite restaurant of all time is the Gruvelageret which is located about 3 km from town $$$-$$$$
A few web resources
Images from the Noorderlicht Sailing Yacht
Svalbard Topo Map – Check out the amazing archipelago of Svalbard with this excellent online topo map. See the terrain that makes our Svalbard Ski and Sail so incredible.
Polarmuseum website – Everyone who visits Longyearbyen has to check this place out. The North Pole museum is old and run down and not very good but still probably worth a visit.
Photo album from our May 2018 trip – A collection of my best photos from this year’s trip
Blog post from our 2018 trip – A little blog post I wrote about the trip.
Norwegian Airlines – Norway’s “budget” airline that somehow also manages to offer world class service and free WiFi internet!
SAS Airlines – Scandinavian codeshares with United, Air Canada, Lufthansa, etc. for seamless itineraries.
Iceland Air – offers “free” stopovers in Iceland with flights between North America and Europe, as well as a slightly different time schedule that might work better for you than United / AC / Lufthansa connections.
You need to bring all of the following personal equipment. Please don’t bring extra equipment. If you have any questions at all about gear please do not hesitate to contact us.
Ski crampons are a must for spring ski touring on Svalbard. They are specific to your binding type. Order well in advance as this is something that’s often not available at the last minute. If you can’t find a crampon to fit your binding, G3 crampons have an attachment system that works for many bindings. Again, do this well in advance of the trip.
There are currently no ski rentals on Svalbard for equipment that will meet the requirements for this trip. This could change; contact Sportcenteret to see if they have updated their dilapadated fleet. We do rent ski gear. If you need to rent from us the fee is $550 CAD for this trip, and you must sign a rental waiver. In any event it is highly recommended you bring your own equipment and that you make sure it is in top condition. The Greenland sea is not a great place to go shopping for new gear after breaking your ski in half!
- Wool or synthetic socks and liner socks
- Long underwear top – synthetic or wool
- Light fleece or wool sweater
- Wind shell – nylon or ‘Schoeller’ type jacket
- Waterproof breathable jacket
- Warm insulated jacket – down or synthetic
- Long underwear bottoms – synthetic or wool
- Multipurpose stretch nylon or ‘Schoeller’ type pants
- Waterproof breathable pants
- Warm hat – wool or synthetic
- Brimmed cap for sun protection
- Face warmer – scarf, neck tube or balaclava (optional)
- Light gloves – wool, synthetic or leather
- Insulated gloves or mitts with waterproof outer shell
- Spare gloves or mitts
- Handkerchief for blocking the sun (optional)
Snow Safety Equipment
- Avalanche beacon with good batteries (and spares)
- Probe (2.4m or longer preferred)
- Skis or split board
- Ski strap
- Ski or snowboard boots
- Climbing skins
- Skin wax (or a simple wax candle) — pre-treat your skins ahead of time and bring extra skin wax. Spray-on wax (e.g. mountainFLOW eco-Wax Skin Wax) is a great idea too for field treatments.
- Ski crampons (mandatory)
- Binding repair kit to fix your personal travel setup
- Ski helmet
- Ski scraper
- Pack (30-40 litres)
- Sunglasses (both orange and dark lenses help a lot for travel in all conditions)
- Goggles (orange lenses)
- Sunscreen and lip cream (SPF 30+)
- Head lamp with good batteries
- Insulated water bottle or thermos (1-2 L)
- Lunch bag or container
- Personal blister kit (i.e: Leukotape-P and Compeed, blister pads). Be sure to pre-tape problem spots on your feet with Leukotape, prevention is the best medicine!
- Tincture of Benzoin (see this how-to for an explanation) or a medical product by 3M called Cavilon — these products help the Leukotape stick for the whole week if necessary.
- Pocket knife (optional)
- Camera (optional)
- Binoculars (optional)
- Utility cord for hanging stuff to dry (helps if you want to hang personal items in your cabin)
- Harness – fitted for over your ski clothing
- Locking carabiners (x2)
- Non-locking carabiners (x2)
- Prussik cord – 5m x 6mm (optional)
- Sewn sling – 120cm (optional)
- Lightweight ice axe (optional, don’t bring if you don’t have one or don’t like steep skiing)
On the Sailing Boat & at the Hotel
- Duffle bag to contain your clothes in your berth
- Micro-spikes — especially the early season (late April / early May) trips as melt-freeze cycles can create very slippery conditions in the town
- High rubber boots for entering/exiting the dinghy (optional; the vast majority of exits/entries do not require this and we can always get by without)
- Comfortable clothing
- Personal medications and toiletries
- Ear plugs
- Reading material
- Chargers & adapters for electronic devices (normal AC power is available as 220V Euro plug)
- Norwegian cash in NOK or Euros to pay for your beer tab, souvenirs, and tips/gratuities (for both guiding staff and boat crew)
Note the following are provided:
- Beer and wine are available to purchase on the boat at a reasonable price. If you choose to bring your own you must declare it to the crew when you board. A corkage fee will apply (approx. 15 EUR per bottle of wine for reference). Please do not bring any hard alcohol and be modest with quantities — this is an expedition, not a party, with crew who work hard and keep long hours.
- Pillows, duvets, bed linen and towels supplied on the boat (& hotel)
Group Gear (supplied by the guides)
- Map and compass
- Snow study kit
- Snow and/or bush saw
- First aid kit
- Emergency tarp
- Emergency toboggan
- Group repair kit
- Radio & satellite phone
- Ropes for glacier travel
Our Booking Form takes a few seconds to complete. We will then contact you to discuss your trip and answer any questions you might have. This is your opportunity to figure out for sure if this trip is for you, without obligation. To secure your booking you must complete our Online Waiver and Application Forms and pay your deposit.
Final payment is due 3 months in advance of your trip start date unless otherwise indicated. Please note that deposits are absolutely non-refundable, and final payments are non-refundable after the final payment date.
All of our trips are priced in Canadian Dollars. The approximate exchange rate is given for your convenience on each trip information page.
You will receive your invoice via Flywire, our online payment and foreign exchange service, after we review your booking application.
Foreign clients: You will have various options of payment by credit card or bank transfer and the exact rates you will be charged in your local currency will be listed. These rates are competitive and offer good value compared with other options like bank transfers. There is no additional fee for credit card payments as this is wrapped into the rate offered (hence the higher cost of credit card payments).
Canadian clients: Flywire provides Canadian clients options to pay via bank transfer or an online banking portal. If your bank is not in the list of options, you can use your bank online banking to send an E-transfer to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you prefer to pay by credit card in CAD indicate this on your Application Form. We charge a 3% processing fee for CAD card payments.
Booking Conditions Fine Print
READ CAREFULLY – BOOKING, RESERVATION, DEPOSIT: A deposit of 50% of the total price or private guiding fee is due with your booking unless otherwise indicated. You are required to complete our waiver and application forms during the booking process. You will be sent an invoice via our invoicing system, Flywire which provides all payment options available except Interac e-transfers. Flywire also provides foreign currency rates for the various payment options so you can pay in your local currency. If you wish to pay in CAD by E-transfer send funds to email@example.com. Final payments are due 90 days before your trip starts. CONFIRMATION / TRIP INFORMATION: Upon receipt of this registration form we confirm your booking and you agree to pay your deposit within 7 days. Each trip we offer has a detailed trip information page (available on our website) with the trip details, equipment list, proposed itinerary and logistics, etc. Read through this carefully before completing your registration. TRIP (CANCELLATION / MEDICAL / EVACUATION / THEFT) INSURANCE: Once you complete your registration, we enter into financial obligations on our side and we cannot refund payments or release you from your contractual obligations. Therefore, we highly recommend buying cancellation insurance to cover your losses for the case that you can’t participate or have to interrupt your trip “for any reason”. Also, all participants need to have internationally accepted health insurance for all activities pertaining to the trip, including coverage for emergency rescue and evacuation. If you already have insurance, please make sure that you will be covered for “roped travel” booking a technical trip including “Via Ferrata” trips. We will gladly refer you to a travel insurance provider who offers “adventure travel insurance packages” and with whom our clients have had positive claims experiences in the past. Generally, you will receive the best benefits if you buy your insurance within 10 days of our booking confirmation. We strongly urge you to read our Insurance Information page carefully before booking your trip. CANCELLATIONS: If you need to cancel a reservation, please do so in writing (best by e-mail). CANCELLED PROGRAMS: Once we confirm your booking, we guarantee your trip departure. However, we do reserve the right to change guides, particular lodging or the itinerary or venue should unforeseen circumstances (guide sickness, hut or route closing etc.) force us to do so or should the physical condition of the participants (see below), weather or mountain conditions make a continuation as planned too risky. We will not be deemed to be in default for any delay or failure to perform our obligations under this Agreement resulting from acts of God, the elements, war, acts of government, civil or military authorities, natural calamities, catastrophe, fire, flood, accidents, epidemics, shortage of transportation, or any other like events beyond our reasonable control. PERSONAL FITNESS and GROUP TRAVEL: Our programs rely heavily on the integrity of each individual to assess his or her skill level and physical condition accurately. It is the responsibility of each participant to be aware of the necessary skill and fitness level for a particular trip. When in doubt, please call and discuss this with us! For the protection of yourself and other group members, we reserve the right to deny participation to any unprepared participant at any time of the trip, in which case we cannot offer a refund! In order to accommodate diverse levels of ability and ambition as well as diverse personalities, the decision making of the guide has to be geared towards safety and finding a consensus within the whole group, which may not please each individual participant at all times.
We have chartered the s/v Noorderlicht through Swan Expeditions, a Dutch company specializing in tall ships. The Noorderlicht is the ideal vessel for a ski and sail trip. It is 50 m (150 ft) long, has a capacity for 20 passengers and 5 crew. Not too big but also not too small either. Spending a week on a boat it’s nice to have lots of room to move around and a variety of friends to mingle with throughout the week.
A captain, second mate, third mate, cook and expedition coordinator are Swan Expedition’s staff who will ensure a successful and safe voyage.
This is categorized as a Classic Pace trip.
- Day trips boat-based
- Peaks between 700m – 1200m asl
- Up to 1500 m climbs / descents / day
- Glaciated terrain
- Often variable snow conditions
Our Trip Ratings Page outlines more specifically how we rate our trips.
Will covid cause problems with travel?
That’s the trillion dollar question in the tourism industry. It certain has. We have had to postpone our spring Ski & Sail trips twice due to the coronavirus crisis, first in 2020 and again in 2021. We are hanging our hopes with the rest of the world on vaccines as a panacea for the pandemic. So far things are looking quite promising, knock on wood. Norway has recently announced their intention to allow international travel as early as Summer 2021 with the implementation of a vaccine passport. We will operate our spring 2022 Svalbard trips if indeed Norway is allowing travel, in spite of inconveniences like vaccine passports and potential covid testing requirements (e.g. rapid tests at airports) or quarantine measures. If Norway’s borders are still firmly closed, however, we will simply postpone the trip by a year, at no additional cost to our guests, once again.
What is included with the trip fee?
Included: 7 nights yacht rental with crew, harbour fees, permit fees, UIAGM / IFMGA mountain guides, multi-course dinners and breakfast on board.
Pre-trip land-based ski touring: 3 additional days guided ski touring and excursions out of Longyearbyen, 3 x Hotel B&B.
Not included: Air travel, alcoholic beverages, lunches and dinners in Longyearbyen, hotel in Oslo en route
What will the snow and weather be like?
May is the month for Svalbard Ski and Sail trips. The temperatures are mild and stable, with lows typically around -5°C and highs around +2°C. The snowpack is typically stable and skiing of the spring corn variety for the most part, although often Arctic Pow can be found on the steep norths. While there is 24-hour daylight the sun never creep so high above the horizon as to cause the same kind of intense radiation you get elsewhere so the snow stays remarkably preserved.
“Will we get a chance to take photos of Polar Bears?” / or: “Will we be attacked by Polar Bears?”
The short answer to both questions is “No”. While it is possible we will see polar bears on this trip it is highly unlikely. Many tourists travel to Svalbard with the goal of seeing polar bears, and join trips that specifically go into the polar bear’s prime habitat — which is north into the pack ice. The goals of our trip are simple: to get the best possible skiing accessible by sail boat. This means sticking to the ice-free waters further south. As a result, I have to disappoint those of you hoping to see polar bears.
At the same time, polar bear safety is always an important consideration. There will always be at least one person in each group carrying a rifle as well as flare guns (a type of bear deterrent). Since we move from place to place and do not camp on land, there is also no chance of enticing a bear over time into our midst.
The reports we hear every couple of years about encounters with polar bears on Svalbard are either with habituated bears close to the towns or far north with tour groups actually seeking out polar bear encounters. Unfortunately in each case the end result has been the destruction of a bear who is usually emaciated, desperate and close to death already.