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Nikulás Buch

The skiing area is located at a plateau above Húsavík © Aija Kotleva
© Aija Kotleva

In summer 1777 a Danish boat landed around the area of Hafnafjörður, what is now capital region close to Reykjavík. Onboard were reindeer from Hammerfest in Finnmark. The idea was to colonize reindeer in Iceland as an additional source of meet for the locals. The transport was accompanied by the son of the donator, Nikulás Buch. When the deer were left from board he decided to stay in Iceland and not to return home.

Memorial tablet for Nikulás Buch © Húsavíkurstofa
Memorial tablet for Nikulás Buch © Húsavíkurstofa

Nikulás Buch asked for work at the Danish trading company in Reykjavík and was hired as assistant at the local shop in Húsavík. Here he would spend most of his life, marry an Icelandic wife and have twelve kids.

Nikulás always talked about himself as “being born with ski on my feet”. When the snow started to fall in autumn 1777 he put on his ski and traveled between the farms. The locals- who had never seen such a thing before- were more than surprised of this sight. The news traveled all the way to Copenhagen and caught the attention of the Danish king who then send a messenger asking whether a skiing course would be of use for the Icelanders. Assistant Buch was entitled by the Danish king to instruct Icelanders on skis. Later on he was awarded for his effort.

In the course of this events the first officially documented skiing school in the entire world was founded in 1777- and the only one in Iceland with special permission from a king- despite the fact that the first course had only three students willing to learn cross-country skiing. By the end of the 18th century skiing became known in the entire island.

To keep up the memory of this honorable man the Buch-gangan or Buch-run cross-country skiing competition as held annually. In the past years the name changed to Orkugangan, but the competition remains the same. A memorial plate next t the sports hall reminds of the great sportsman.