Local Guides Greenland


Local Guides Greenland

For skiers, Greenland's appeal might initially be the varied terrain of glacier fjords and granite cirques, mostly accessed by boat or helicopter. North of Nuuk, iceberg-dotted waters and glacier tongues make for dramatic backdrops for even the mellowest of slopes. But visitors who over-focus on terrain can easily miss the country’s unique culture, which extends beyond city limits and into every mountain.

Words and photos by Emily Sullivan

After nearly two days of travel and four hours in a turbo-prop De Havilland Dash-8, the city of Nuuk finally appears through my left-hand window. Dark blue fjords stretch in every direction, surrounding a glowing cluster of city lights. Above the fjords, Greenland's granite peaks and snowy slopes extend for miles. It’s hard to peel my eyes away. 

Locals Adam Kjeldsen and Thorlak Nielsen, founders of Two Ravens Guides, have deep bonds to the lands they guide. As is the case for many Greenlandic people, they grew up deeply connected to nature, relying on the lands and waters to provide subsistence foods like reindeer, seal, and fish. The two are actively developing the potential for human-powered ski adventures in the terrain surrounding Nuuk, but also offer a unique cultural experience to their clientele.

Tucked away in a deep blue fjord an hour’s boat ride from the city, their spring adventure basecamp offers a breathtaking jumping point for skiers looking for 900-meter descents from summit to sea. After a scenic water taxi ride, their guests are greeted with fresh seafood pulled straight from the fjord - mussels, anemones, cod - staples of the Greenlandic diet. 

man in orange jacket bootpacks up a snow slope with Fischer skis on his backpack

Adam grew up in the Arctic village of Aasiaat, a town with 3,000 residents. There, he learned to ski by traversing across frozen sea ice, hiking uphill with his skis, and racing back down with fellow members of the local youth ski club. Now he guides clients from all over the world in the same terrain he visits for ptarmigan hunting with his family.  

man on skis points down snowslope with cloudy fjords in the background

As Greenland experiences climate change, a lack of snow has become increasingly common. A ski season that used to easily extend into June now tends to end in late April or early May. Despite a very low snow year and somewhat marginal conditions in late May, Adam always knows where to find the goods to make for a great day of skiing above the fjords.

As we skin away from camp one the morning, thick fog shrouds the mountains and any view of the surrounding terrain. Adam points out the rocks that ptarmigan often perch on and shares the story of his son, Mikki, hunting his first bird in the very zone we plan to ski. His connection to the surrounding landscape is palpable, and his local knowledge enriches the experience of skiing a new-to-me zone. As we top out around 900 meters above the sea, the clouds begin to clear and we’re treated to a stunning view of the neighboring peaks.

A man skis a slope with snowy and cloudy fjords in the distance

We begin our descent bag to camp, taking breaks from skiing to enjoy the views of the world’s second-largest fjord system below. These waters provide stocks of cod, seal meat, whale meat, and many other foods that Greenlandic people are known to harvest. The country’s remote nature makes groceries incredibly expensive, and self-reliance remains a core value of Greenlandic culture. Hunting and fishing are more than sport to the local communities, they are a way of life.

A man skis a slope with cliffs and clouds in the background

Adam’s ski racing background is evident as we continue our descent. Despite growing up without access to a ski lift, the Greenlandic Ski Federation (founded in 1969) provided camaraderie and competition for Adam in his youth and fostered a deep love for the sport. This passion has formed the basis of a successful career for the guide, who is proud to be one of only a handful of Greenlandic ski guides. Adam hopes to increase opportunities for youth to train for avalanche safety and backcountry travel skills in Greenland—paving a path for future guides who can continue his work of connecting visitors to the landscape through Greenlandic culture.

Learn more about Two Ravens Guiding on their website.