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Northern Light

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The road north from Iceland’s capital, Reykjavík, around the cold waters of Faxaflói and out to the western tip of the Snæfellsnes peninsula, is rough and desolate. Over time, the highway’s surface has been grooved by the studs of passing snow tires. Traffic is sparse. Open gas stations come at long intervals.Toward the end of the peninsula, the glowing snows of the Snæfellsjökull ice cap, high atop a 4,744-foot dormant volcano, come into view. Jules Verne set the opening of his adventure novel Journey to the Center of the Earth on this glacier. With the help of a local snowcat and a set of fat skis, adventures of another sort are within reach.

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Maritime storms and Snæfellsjökull’s glacial ice conspire to create strange snow conditions, like these crumbly, icy, cauliflower swells.
Skier: Woody Lindenmeyr

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Sunrise or sunset? Tough call¿in wintertime at Iceland’s latitude, they’re only a few hours apart.
Skier: Joe Smith

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Snæfellsjökull is covered with skiable lines, and almost every one is a first descent waiting to happen.
Skier: Woody Lindenmeyr

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Back in Reykjavík, the Icelandic high country is a constant presence. Even in this city of 175,000, the clean subarctic air can squash depth of field to the point that mountains 20 miles away appear as though they were at the end of the street.