“Don’t worry guys, it will be even sunnier tomorrow and the conditions will be epic” was the statement casually but clearly called out over a gusty breeze by Steve Banks, our guide for the day. That gave me pause. My hair still damp and skin still salty from a morning sea kayak outing, I was standing on the crest of a ridge high in the snow caped coastal peaks above the small fishing village of Siglufjordur, Iceland. The helicopter that had expressed me to this point was doing a classic maximum performance takeoff and was rolling out over the ridge back to sea level. Before me sprawled an untracked bowl that would rival – and perhaps exceed – any spot accessed by a chair lift in North America. On one knee in a neat line were three like-minded skiers whom I had just met but whom had all traveled the same road in life and were as eager as I was for first tracks. Seriously . . . this was going to get better? I found it hard to believe, but I stand corrected.
This particular departure had begun approximately 4 weeks earlier with an e-mail from Tyler King, the Global Sales Director for Eleven Experience, which is based out of Crested Butte, Colorado but offers destinations worldwide. Eleven Experience has been described as an “experiential” travel company that specializes in pairing outdoor adventure with renovated, high-end lodging.” While the trip’s focus was heli-skiing in Iceland, the visit was more about all of Eleven Experience’s properties and beginning an international relationship between the two luxury groups – Frontiers and Eleven Experience.
Partnering with internationally traveled and well tenured backcountry guides and positioning each unique destination with an Experience Manager, Eleven Experience immerses guests into the local outdoor culture in a well-orchestrated and controlled fashion. Things are not left to chance and guides uphold the highest levels of training and offer top of the line equipment to enhance the adventure.
While the Eleven Experience fishing is of supreme interest, this trip brought a lot of exposure to the Eleven Experience product. I have Frontiers travelers looking at the cat skiing in Crested Butte at Scarp Ridge Lodge, a group of local lady mountain bikers booking the VIDA / Eleven Experience instructional retreat in September, and my son who is leaning on me hard for a summer sport and “trad” climbing instructional trip for rock climbing. It’s is going to be a busy year.
First Impressions – Iceland on a whim:
To be quite honest, and before receiving the invitation setting foot in Iceland had never been a thought that had crossed my mind. Now, reflecting, I cannot imagine having not been there and am already plotting my inevitable return. A mixture of cultures and with a personality all its own, this country may have been the most “user friendly” destination I have ever explored, and I immediately felt comfortable. From a personal perspective, the population’s interest in the outdoors and corresponding activities – of all levels and disciplines – and simple luxury were intoxicating. Trekking, sea kayaking, biking, surfing, skiing, adventure driving and another of my passions, fishing are all activities readily available to guests of the country. Combine these activities with the opportunity to see the Northern Lights in winter, a must for a traveler looking for a dynamic experience, and Iceland should be on every traveler’s must-visit list!
Reykjavik and North:
Eleven Experience the group owns a few small properties in downtown Reykjavik that will be perfect for guests with layovers between flights or intact parties who want to spend a few nights exploring the city. I stayed in The Red House located on Smiojustigur Street just a casual stroll from shops and the city sights and near the harbor. While presently cozy and comfortable, The Red House is slated for a renovation and expansion that will make it one to keep your eye on if you plan to visit the city.
Departing Southeastern Iceland we took a quick and easy flight to Akureyri finally making our way to the small village of Siglufjordur. This village is world famous for the Icelandic Herring Museum, the country’s largest maritime museum. While our schedule repeatedly deterred us from visiting to the property, locals and guest alike echoed its historical significance and encouraged a visit. Maybe I better go back to Iceland next week and stop by?
With just a short visit to Reykjavik, Akureyri and Siglufjordur I have realized that Iceland is a visitors dream, and there is just a colossal amount of interesting sights to visit. I could have easily driven the coast for hours just looking out the window at wind, waves and sea life.
The helicopter dropped us on a peak and the guide pointed down to a sprawling valley with a serpentine river running to the coast. On the horizon I could see coastal waves breaking on what seemed a perfect right point break. A couple of thousand feet below us was Deplar Farm; an endeavor by Eleven Experience which when finished will be a hallmark Icelandic countryside family destination. We each pointed our skis down and, following an epic spring skiing run, we quite literally skied to the front door of the property, which is a future regular occurrence for groups.
Deplar will be a central accommodation for all sorts of activities in Iceland, including heli-skiing, mountain biking, trekking, sea kayaking, surfing, fly fishing and horseback riding – just to name a very few. Of particular interest is the fact that the great hall, which will be the dining room, is that it is lined with specially designed glass created to enhance the brilliance of the northern lights. It was at that moment I realized that this is not just another building; exceptional thought went into every aspect.
An hour later and four three stories deeper in the ground, our tour finalized, and the sheer immensity was apparent. A family oriented destination for active guests, Deplar will host year round. They offer seasonal appropriate activities and immerse guests into the courtside, making a vacation a living, breathing thing. Perhaps the gents would like to artic surf and the ladies to experience the famous fifth gait of Icelandic horses while others wet a line for local trout in the river? Possibly some wish to have a snowmobile tour of the region with snow picnic and then an afternoon at the spa and thermal indoor/outdoor pool and sauna. Really, the opportunities are quite endless!
As Deplar and the excursions surrounding it develop I will expand my reports and insight. She is slated to open next December, an exciting time for the crew and staff!