Chasing Winter: Changing Course

Posted on 29 May 2020

In March 2020, six skiers from four countries joined forces in Ísafjörður, Iceland with the intent to sail to Greenland to ski its fabled couloirs. After lots of prep and planning, they anticipated unknown obstacles - weather, avalanche conditions, sea sickness - but they never could have imagined getting a call from land in the middle of the ocean that Greenland had closed its borders to foreigners to protect citizens from COVID-19. You could say it was the perfect storm, turning the crew back to the icy harbor after 40 hours at sea...

Anne Cleary and Florence Gross captured the essence of the trip in Changing Course, a film about an attempted ski expedition in the Arctic during a global pandemic. Long-time Skida friend and photographer, Mary McIntyre narrates the events as they unfold and uses her camera to capture still moments in the midst of the chaos. Here's Mary's perspective on the trip that almost was:



"It was a kind of dream trip for a lot of us, to take the boat for three weeks and sail from Iceland to Greenland and hope we get to ski some really big, beautiful couloirs up from the ocean."

The Plan | Graphic by Ilka HadlockGraphic by Ilka Hadlock

"Being on the boat and being able to go up the coast and look as we go and decide to ski things...it's kind of the only way to access that terrain."

All Aboard | Photo by Mary McIntyreSetting Sail | Photo by Mary McIntyre

"We all showed up right on the cusp of this big pandemic. We made it less than halfway across when we found out that Greenland had closed its borders. We sailed for about 20 hours, and got a message from a contact back on land that said that Greenland had closed its borders to foreigners. So, we would not be allowed to enter the country on the boat. That, combined with the fact that our skipper was coming down with the flu and pneumonia-like symptoms, we made the decision to turn back around and return to Iceland."

The Reality | Graphic by Ilka HadlockGraphic by Ilka Hadlock

"We were stuck in Iceland. Definitely getting a little stir crazy and with the coronavirus and things changing really quickly, there were just so many unknowns about when we'd be able to get home and if the flights were still going out. Everyone was getting a little bit nervous and pretty ready to get home."

Making the Most of It | Photo by Mary McIntyreKeree Smith takes a sled for a spin while waiting to travel home from Iceland | Photo by Mary McIntyre

"It seemed like most things went wrong that could've, and more things would still keep going wrong. We all just kind of realized there's nothing you can do, and we need to make the most of it."

Bad Weather, Good CompanyMaking the most of the extended stay in Iceland | Photo by Mary McIntyre

"In the end, the pandemic shut us down. But luckily, everyone is healthy and happy and safe, and we'll be able to try again next year. Greenland will still be there, and maybe the seas will be less stormy."

Photo by Mary McIntyrePhoto by Mary McIntyre

See the adventure unfold in Changing Course, the story of an attempted ski expedition in the Arctic during a global pandemic. Watch the full-length film below.

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