These three regions, all within a couple of hours drive of Ålesund international airport include some of the most iconic destinations and iconic imagery in the whole of Norway. From the truly epic Sunnmøre Alps in the south to the UNESCO Geiranger fjord in the east and the colossal Troll Wall in the north this region packs in Switzerland, the Dolomites and Alaska in one neat package, while retaining a quintessential Norwegian character and culture. A culture now finding it’s renaissance in striking modern architecture, a rediscovery of local food traditions and not least as an adventure lovers ultimate playground.
Tafjord, Sunnmøre and Romsdal in winter
The Tafjordfjella (Tafjord Mountains) range lies at the head of Norddalsfjord, an arm of Storfjord. To the northwest lies Trollstigen (Troll ladder) mountain pass (closed in winter) and beyond that the mythical Trollvegen (Troll wall), the highest vertical mountain wall in Europe. The eastern part of mountains here are rounder in form and rise to between 1500 m and 1999 m, despite the local’s efforts to build a cairn taking Puttegga over the magical 2000 m mark. The mountains are almost deserted in winter, a perfect playground for those wanting the mountains to themselves for a few days. The climate is colder and more stable than the coastal areas giving a good chance of catching some dry powder for much of the season.
Our base for ski touring in Tafjordfjella is in the upper Valldal valley at the simply stunning Juvet Landscape Hotel, where the raging Valldøla River plunges 25 m into Gudbrandsjuvet (Gudbrands ravine) and then bends right below the hotel in a torrent of white and turquoise. The river in winter is a tamer version of its spring self but nonetheless the sight of a free flowing river in wintertime bubbling over cotton wool boulders is something special.
For those in the know Sunnmørsalpene (Sunnmøre Alps) are perhaps the most dramatic ski touring region in Norway if jagged alpine like peaks, wild fjords and long summit to sea descents are your thing. The peaks ringing the shores of Hjørundfjorden, considered by many to be Norway’s wildest fjord, rise an awe-inspiring 1700 m directly from the sea. With the right snow conditions, it’s possible to ski all of those 1700 m. With the open sea less than 30km away as the crow flies the weather conditions here are coastal in nature giving milder temperatures and more precipitation. Some of the classic ski touring peaks of the region include, Randers Topp, Kolåstind, Blåbretind (Blue Glacier Peak) and the majestic Slogen.
Our bases in the region includes some wonderfully charming wooden boutique hotels in the Swiss chalet architecture style, local hostelries, unmanned mountain log cabins and top modern hotels by the edge of the fjord.
Romsdal in winter is a ski tourers hidden gem, though Romsdal in summer is a ski tourers hidden gem might be a more accurate description. The region centred around the town of Åndalsnes on the Romsdal Fjord includes some “must do’s” for all Norwegian ski tourers. When the mountain pass over Trollstigen (Troll Ladder) opens in spring it’s possible to ski in July direct from the car without getting a fleck of soil on your boots. At the head of the fjord at Isforden lies Kirketaket (church roof), a mountain rising almost 1500m from sea level that seems made for skiing with a wide even flank that will have even beginners feeling like seasoned pros. In Vengadalen a trip up Blånebba 1320m is rewarded unexpectedly with a view over the valley to the mythical Troll Wall. Rising 1100m from the valley bottom with an overhang of 50m from the base this is a truly awe inspiring sight that will leave you feeling somewhat small and insignificant in such majestic surroundings. The region usually gets heavy snowfall from December to April, though can experience milder periods due the coastal climate.
Tafjord, Sunnmøre and Romsdal in summer
The region has been attracting foreign tourists in summer as far back as the 19th century and can count Keiser Wilhelm II, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and composer Edvard Grieg amongst it’s most famous visitors. Less well known is that Charles W. Patchell, a teacher and keen mountaineer from Scotland, claimed many first ascents in the area and gave his name to a mountain cabin he established under the summit of Slogen. Patchellhytta is still providing shelter to adventurers today. William C Slingsby from England, widely recognised as the godfather of Norwegian mountaineering claiming many first ascents across the land, had this to say about Sunnmøre
"The wildest alpine valley I ever saw was not in the Alps, it was the valley Norangsdalen at Sunnmøre”
The mountains are equally as dramatic in summer as winter and offer great pinnacle climbing around Molladalen including the must do Bladet (the blade) a 15m pinnacle with stunning views of the fjord below. For mountain bike lovers the single track options are endless around Romsdalen, for road cyclists a trip up the 11 switchbacks and 850 vertical metres of the Trollstigen is a bucket list must. For mountain runners the route around Hjørundfjord offers a summer “haute route” to rival the winter version and for those liking their hikes with an edge the route over Romsdaleggen (Romsdal ridge) from Vengedalen back to Åndalsnes is fast becoming a contender for the world’s best one day hike.
Nearest international airport: Ålesund 1.5 - 2 hrs
From Oslo by road: 6 – 8 hours
From Bergen by road: 7 – 8 hours