Go behind the scenes of the new documentary film exploring Icelandic ski culture
In April 2022, we teamed up with Holmlands – a UK based media company specialising in storytelling inspired by adventure.
Seeking Asgard © Holmlands – Captured by Cameron Hall
They reached out to CampEasy with a plan to circumnavigate Iceland to shoot a film project exploring Icelandic ski culture from a human-interest perspective – getting to know the personal stories of some of our country’s most pioneering outdoor industry figures – all of whom have helped to push the boundaries of skiing in Iceland to new levels, through adventure, exploration and hard work.
That sounded like something we could get behind! So we welcomed the crew to our HQ in Keflavik before they headed off on the three week film shoot in one of our Easy Clever 4X4’s – fully equipped with bedding, kitchen equipment, stove, mini fridge, water tank, sink, heater, charging points and an information tablet with onboard WiFi – to help the team manage their production schedule on the go.
With interviews held in all four corners of Iceland – Cameron and Matt from Holmlands travelled to Ísafjörður in the West, Eskifjörður in the East, Dalvik in the North and Reykjavík in the South, covering over 3000km on their journey.
Ahead of the film release, this winter, we caught up with film’s Director and Producer, Cameron Hall to learn more about the project, and take a look behind the scenes of their shoot…
Cameron Hall- Seeking Asgard © Holmlands – Captured by Matt Grayson
‘I first visited Iceland in 2014, setting sail in the WestFjords for a week of sailboat skiing with Aurora Arktika – owned at the time by Sigurður Jónsson.
As a passionate skier, I’d been looking for a different kind of ski experience, away from the major resorts and more closely connected with nature; so seven days on a boat in the Noth Atlantic Ocean, touring between fjords felt like just the kind of adventure I was looking for!
With a week spent sailing in the Hornstrandir Nature Reserve in late May, having 24 hours of day light meant the first turns of the trip were taken at midnight, setting the tone for a very special week – disconnected from the digital world and reconnecting with the natural environment – in all its desolate and remote beauty.
Watching ski movies with Captain Siggi after a long day ski touring, the creative cogs in my brain started to turn and the seeds were planted to create a project that explored the deeper connections skiers carry for the sport – and what leads us to search for something more – using skis as a vehicle for exploration.
In the years that followed, I’ve returned to Iceland with Holmlands several times, hosting ski film premieres for major production companies in Reykjavik – and on each occasion, had the opportunity to connect with Icelanders that share a deep-rooted passion for skiing – ultimately leading to the idea of exploring local stories from around the island – spotlighting Icelandic ski culture through the eyes of some of the country’s most pioneering outdoor adventure enthusiasts.
With an initial plan to commence filming in April 2020, we had to hit the brakes on production for obvious reasons – but during the pandemic, the idea had time to breathe and grow –as the narrative developed to feature relationships between fathers and sons, female empowerment in the outdoor industry, overcoming life threatening injuries, and conversations around the effects and impact climate change is having on the country as a whole – and ski industry specifically.
Guðmundur Jakobsson – Seeking Asgard © Holmlands – Captured by Matt Grayson
When we arrived in Iceland in April, day one of our film shoot saw us head straight to ‘The Blue Mountains’ just outside Reykjavik to meet Guðmundur Jakobsson- a passionate skier, ski coach, filmmaker and photographer.
The conditions were perfect, with several hours spent shooting at Bláfjöll before heading back to Reykjavik to interview Guðmundur at his home about his personal story and deep-rooted connections with the mountains of his home country.
Our initial plan was to film in Kerlingarfjöll – a place where Guðmundur’s father had been a founder of the local ski school – but sadly our journey was not possible due to excessive amounts of snow making the road to the mountain inaccessible.
Determined to get into the backcountry with Guðmundur – after three weeks on the road, we wrapped up our film shoot by spending another ski day together – this time touring up Bláfell – a beautiful mountain located east of Langajökull glacier on the edge of the Icelandic Highlands.
In what proved to be another fantastic weather day with Guðmundur , we had the entire mountain to ourselves, making for perfect filming conditions – and whilst we still couldn’t gain access to Kerlingarfjöll – we could see it from Bláfell and felt its presence.
As a man who has dedicated a large part of his life to skiing – a passion he shared with his father – Guðmundur has passed on his love for the sport to his own children; and this is where our journey to ‘Asgard’ begins…
Einar Sveinbjörnsson – Seeking Asgard © Holmlands – Captured by Matt Grayson
We were keen to interview a weather expert in our ski documentary but had no joy in reaching anyone suitable prior to our arrival in Iceland.
Then, whilst filming with Guðmundur at Bláfjöll on the first day of the shoot, we were fortuitously introduced to Einar Sveinbjörnsson – an acclaimed meteorologist who works as a consultant for many Hollywood productions.
That fact he was also a passionate skier was a bonus.
So the next morning we drove over to Einar’s home in Reykjavik and chatted to him about Icelandic weather systems – gaining a deeper insight into the unique nature of the Icelandic climate, it’s patterns and behaviours.
As film Director, I’m a planner and like to be organised, but this chance encounter was a reminder that going with the flow and being open can also pay dividends; with Einar proving to be the perfect interviewee for the weather focused aspect of our film.
From Einar’s house, we then travelled to the West Fjords on day two, driving from Reykjavik to Ísafjörður on a 450km stretch in our CampEasy van as we prepared to set sail with Aurora Arktika.
A female led company offering sail to ski experiences in the remote and isolated Hornstrandir Nature Reserve.
Our guide for the week was Erla Guðný Helgadóttir.
Erla shares her story with us discussing her love of the mountains, passion for geology and how her two worlds combine through guiding – also touching on the evolution of outdoor pursuits for women in Iceland and being a role model for the next generation of girls looking to test their limits in the mountains.
With seven ladies on board and four guys, the girls certainly showed the boys how it’s done in the Icelandic backcountry.
Erla Guðný Helgadóttir – Seeking Asgard © Holmlands – Captured by Matt Grayson
We spent eight days with Aurora Arktika. The conditions were mixed, making filming difficult at times – but the variable weather was made up for by the people who we shared the adventure with.
Anyone who has sailed with Aurora Arktika over the years will know it’s not just a sailboat company – but a community – attracting likeminded people from around the world; all of whom seek to swap the creature comforts of daily life for a some simplistic way of living removed from the digital world and reconnecting with nature through adventure – just as I had done when I first sailed onboard back in 2014.
Each day we found time to re-energise ourselves – and not just our camera batteries -by taking a dip in the freezing cold fjord – before quickly climbing back on board to warm up with good food and even better company.
Since we filmed in April, Aurora Arktika has been made available for sale – where we hope new owners will be able to carry forward the legacy of a ship that has meant so much to so many for so long.
Jökull Bergmann- Seeking Asgard © Holmlands – Captured by Matt Grayson
In our journey north to meet Jökull Bergmann, Founder of Arctic Heli Skiing, the weather gods were shining down on us – with an incredible blue bird day on the Troll Peninsula making for optimum skiing and filming conditions.
After a day in the helicopter, we sat down with JB in his ancestral family home, as he shared the remarkable story of how he developed a small sheep farm that had remained in his family for generations – to become a world renowned heli-ski destination.
After suffering the death of his grandfather, followed by a life-threatening injury whilst Ice climbing – his grief and focus to overcome injury propelled JB to pursue the goal of becoming Iceland’s first UIAGM internationally certified mountain guide, and paving the way for Artic Heli Skiing to be formed – where his inspiring and remarkable story could be a feature film in its own right!
As part of our trip to Dalvik, we also got to film with pro skier, Sven Brunso who was visiting on a personal trip but had played a key role in helping JB map out the terrain for Arctic Heli Skiing in the mid 2000’s prior to their first winter of operations.
A man known as the most photographed skier of all time – with more front covers on ski magazine’s than any other athlete – it was a terrific surprise that Sven was there during our filming window and could be part of the project.
Sven Brunso – Seeking Asgard © Holmlands – Captured by Cameron Hall
In the East we reunited with Sigurður Jónsson, now sailing his ship Byr with wife Annuka and their two young daughters – operating private bookings, pleasure cruises and scientific expeditions.
En route to meet Siggi in Reyðarfjörður, he asked if we could collect some guests from Egilsstaðir Airport who would be sailing with him for the next week. Happy to oblige and much to our delight and surprise, it was pro skier McKenna Peterson – an athlete I greatly admire.
Hoisting the masts, we sailed to Mjóifjörður with the Peterson family – on the high seas – taking sailboat skiing to the next level.
On arrival in Mjóifjörður, we found time for some short morning runs with Siggi on the edge of the fjords – boot packing to some patches of low-lying snow, as the April sun began to raise the level of the snowline considerably from the shore.
An apt setting, as our conversation shifted towards climactic change, and the impact human beings are having on the natural environment and what we can do to help to try and improve behaviours to leave a better legacy for the generations to follow.
Sigurður Jónsson & Annukka Pekkarinen- Seeking Asgard © Holmlands – Captured by Cameron Hall
Prior to leaving the East, JB advised us we must meet ‘The King of the East’ before we left – Mr. Sævar Guðjónsson.
We called Sævar and he advised us he was out snowmobiling, but could we meet him by the side of the road just by the Klifbrekku Waterfall at 5pm the following day.
We had no previous dialogue with Sævar or plans to film together before arriving in the East – and we didn’t quite know what to expect when he turned up on his sled – but we couldn’t have been more charmed by his kindness and hospitality.
Staying at his collection of lodges, Mjoeyri – before enjoying an excellent meal at his restaurant Randulff’s Sea House.
Over dinner it wasn’t long into the conversation before realising Sævar was a real character, storyteller and someone we NEED to interview in our film.
A man of many hats – Sævar is a hunter, skier, snowmobile enthusiast, entrepreneur and fisherman (not necessarily in that order) as he shared stories on the history of reindeer hunting in his family over many decades.
The following day we spent the morning interviewing Sævar at is restaurant – before filming with his family at the local ski resort – which was actually closed for the season but was opened up especially to allow us to shoot.
If it wasn’t for the fact we had to move on to the next shooting location early the next morning, we might still be living in Sævar’s boat themed hot tub!
Sævar Guðjónsson – Seeking Asgard © Holmlands – Captured by Matt Grayson
After three weeks of intense filming and four and a half months of relentless editing, the project is almost complete – where we have launched a Kickstarter campaign to help with the final post-production work and distribution costs – with a number of backer rewards available – in what we believe will be a definitive ski movie for Iceland.
With your help and support, we can finish the film and hopefully you can help us meet and surpass our target and enable us to share the project with the world! We hope that you can join us on our journey around Iceland and into Asgard!’
Be part of the project! You can show your support for; ‘Seeking Asgard: Ski Life Stories from Iceland’ by backing Holmlands Kickstarter campaign before November 1st 2022! With a number of rewards available – discover more and make a pledge online here.