A postcard from Norway’s wild west coast, where you’ll find long fjords, big snow, small ski areas, few people, and plenty of tradition.

Wielding an engraved silver ladle, Captain Charles Wara dredged homemade leek soup from an 18th century ceramic tureen. The skiers noisily slurping seconds around a thick wooden table in his ship’s mess hadn’t left him much, but Charles was still grateful for a share—if only to fund the energy required to cook dinner. Later, around 9 p.m. (no one would know for sure as the sun never really set) Charles would whip up some reinskav, a traditional Sami stew of sautéed reindeer meat. Afterward, we’d all lounge on deck in a spell of bluebird warmth unprecedented for late May at 70˚N above the Arctic Circle. We’d watch dolphins and condor-sized sea eagles, count the silver-thread waterfalls lining the fjord, spin maps in sunburned hands and point to ski lines on the horizon. And though it was only Day One on the boat, and most were Norway veterans who’d often plumbed this land of mountainous grandeur in winter, we’d all entertained the same thought: this is the best trip ever.

 

There’s no other place I’ve been where you can access skiing by boat as much as in Norway. It adds an exotic element and you always get very beautiful views of the fjords. Here, Mårten Pettersson, Åsmund Magnetun Thorsen and Björn Thorn-Andersen ready themselves for the boat’s arrival on shore in Hjørundfjorden, Sunnmøre region.

While most in the Northern Hemisphere are done with skiing by May, Norway’s second season is just beginning, and its airports bustle with people dragging ski bags to the likes of Lofoten, Lyngen or Sunnmøre, no small number of whom would be heading off on boat/ski trips like the one that found us slurping Captain Charles’ soup.

article continues below

 

American skier Sven Brunso reaps a powder reward after hours of ski-touring near Strandafjellet ski area in the Sunnmøre region. When the local council in Stranda bet big by replacing an ancient push-button platter and beat-down lodge with a stateof-the-art €20,000,000 lift-system to serve a two-mountain, 300-bed ski area in the middle of nowhere, it proved the point that politicians rarely make “build it and they will come” scenarios work. Too isolated to draw tourists, the state stepped in to sell the area at a huge loss… but not before the cognoscenti did come: with decent lifts accessing Scandinavia’s deepest snow and best off-piste, the town of Stranda is now the destination for core Scando skiers and international tourers.

In our first 24 hours on Goxsheim we climbed and skied all day, and then, anchored in a pretty fjord, made a post-dinner tour in midnight sun, with above-freezing temps, copper light, and genuinely amazing turns that ended at the water’s edge. We’d do it all again the next day. And the next. For a week in fact, and never in the same place twice. Most would be map-in-hand exploration, the daily theme an eight-hour tour and single 1,000-metre descent from a nameless summit in perfect weather.

“It can’t get any better,” we would say. And then the next day it would do just that—better terrain, better snow, better everything.

 

Oscar Almgren, a young Swede who has established himself as the most successful guide in the popular Sunnmøre region. His guiding company, Uteguiden, is based in Stranda.
Chad Sayers hiking in Finnmark.
Endre Hals’ award-winning skis are handmade from scratch in a 200-year-old barn in Lønset near Oppdal. Endre has helped Canadian freerider Eric Hjorleifson and 4FRNT Skis with the design of Hoji’s pro models several times.
Charles Waara is the owner and skipper of Goxheim, the sailboat we lived on while ski-touring in Finnmark in 2013. The sail-and-ski concept was developed during the 1990s in the Lyngen Alps by the Italian mountain guide, Lucas Caspari. In 2005, Charles began offering sailing/skiing tours with a two-mast, 25-metre wooden ketch to fund a necessary refi t for his dream trip of sailing the world. Shuttling skiers around without participating (he’d only ever cross-country skied), he was nevertheless intrigued; obtaining a ski-touring set-up, he followed groups when the weather was nice and soon became hooked.

“The plan is to go to Norway…” I’ve lost track of the number of times over the years I heard this via phone or email from my friend, Swedish photographer, Mattias Fredriksson. But every time I do, I get pretty excited. As a result of numerous trips made in his company, I’ve been fortunate not only to experience the depth and breadth of skiing along the western spine of this stridently alpine nation, but also through his lens afterward.

 

Strandafjellet in the Sunnmøre region might be one of the most beautiful ski areas in the world. Its location above the Storfjord with rugged mountains all around is simply breathtaking. This shot of Espen Linnerud is one of my personal favourites and was captured at about six in the morning during a fi lm shoot with Field Productions in the spring of 2009.

One of the world’s most celebrated outdoor photographers, Fredriksson has spent considerable time exploring the almost endless ski possibilities in “the cradle of skiing,” one of the planet’s most mountainous countries, and whose 100,000 kilometres of convoluted coastline rank it seventh in the world.

 

The Lofoten archipelago is the most stunning and picturesque place I’ve ever been. Its small islands, fjords and rugged peaks are truly unique. And yeah, the skiing is amazing too. The kind where you just land anywhere, walk up and ski down—like most places in Norway.

 

Canadian ski-tour guru Greg Hill fishing cod in the Hjørundfjord in Sunnmøre during a down day while shooting an episode of Salomon Freeski TV in March 2013.
Goxheim sits at anchor in a fjord on Stjernøya.

On assignment from Songdal to Stranda, Lyngen to Lofoten, Narvik, Finnmark and everywhere between, working with film companies and on his own, Fredriksson has captured the Norwegian ski experience and its relationship to life along the fjords like no other shooter. Along the way he has photographed the stalwart locals who hold the keys to their kingdom—from ski makers, to binding and head-lamp innovators, captains, guides, tour operators and others searching for environmentally sustainable ways to move their art and craft to the cutting edge in a tradition-bound country. As much as his photos show us about the land, they also capture the stories that he is only too happy to share, as these captions attest.

 

Stjernøya is located west of the city of Alta in the Finnmark region. This island has no roads and a population of about 80. Of course, you have to earn your turns, but with amazing skiing it’s well worth the effort. Here, globetrotting skier Chad Sayers bites into the golden fruit of a midnight ski tour.

Mattias Fredriksson’s photography can be found in pretty much any magazine in the world devoted to skiing or mountain biking. He and his partner Elle live in Åre, Sweden, with a husky named Tikaani who has 8,000 Instagram followers. mattiasfredriksson.com

 

.

SUBSCRIBE TO MOUNTAIN LIFE ANNUAL NOW

Mountain Life Annual is a once-a-year visual and journalistic ode to the intersection of planet Earth and its people. Designed to appeal to the outdoor lover, regardless of age or activity level, MLA employs ideas, art, thoughtful words, and exceptional photography to go beyond the bravado of adventure, highlighting the social, cultural, political and environmental contexts behind many of our endeavours. By engaging the outdoor state of mind over its physical dimension, Mountain Life Annual values inspiration over aspiration… Read it online or subscribe now.

Comments