10 Reasons to ski tour in Norway

 

Two hours away by plane, friendly English speaking natives, 5000 years of skiing pedigree, the best winter sports nation on earth, a mountain chain stretching 1800km, an 8-month long season, a network of 500 cabins opened with a single key, ski touring festivals, the northern lights, polar bears, reindeer and not another soul in sight…phew!!!

Is Norway the ultimate ski touring playground. Here’s 10 reasons why you should head north this winter

1.      Fjords

Whether you drive round them, sail on them, or swim in them their magnificence never fails to amaze. Of course we believe the best way to experience them is to skin up from them and then ski down toward them tearing up the wonderful white stuff as you go. Skiing the fjords is the stuff of legend and a must do on every ski tourer’s bucket list.

2.      Terrain

From the alpine like peaks of the west coast with fjord and ocean views, to the soaring summits of Sogndal, from the glaciated peaks of Hurrungane and Jotunheimen to the gentle hills around Oslo and Bergen the shear amount and variety of ski touring terrain is enormous.  With the entire country covered in snow for the winter any hill becomes a ski touring target providing great snow and challenging lines for everyone.

3.      Access

Two hours by plane from most major European cities, Norway in the middle of winter is like being teleported to Alaska, Japan or Antarctica for that matter. People have settled in all corners of this land and in winter it seems even the most out of the way single lane farm track is methodically ploughed and kept clear of snow. Great for accessing huge swathes of mountains and great for cutting down on the skinning.

4.      Summit every day

If you like your skinning up to be rewarded with a summit and a 360-degree panorama, then Norway is the place to do it. A typical days ascending will always bag you a summit, will always get you your photo and will in return always give you all those lovely metres back again on the descent. It’s no wonder the Norwegian for ski-touring is “topptur” literally summit trip.

5.      No altitude sickness

There simply is no altitude danger because the mountains aren’t high enough. Great if you’re a bit out of shape as you won’t be punished by the thin air, that said you’ll be robbed of an excuse.

6.      Long season and long days

Every day from October to July someone somewhere in this long thin country way up north is out in the backcountry finding a great skiing line. In Norway your ski touring addiction can be fed from as early as October to as late as August. In the summer you can sleep all day and ski all night, if that’s your thing. Long season, long days, long lasting memories!

7.      Peace and quiet

We are not saying that ski tourers are an anti-social bunch but there’s a reason why you choose to walk up a mountain when a perfectly good lift would get you somewhere similar. The freedom and distance from the madding crowds is a life affirming experience and nowhere is the freedom and distance greater than in the Norwegian mountains in winter.  

8.      A good night’s sleep and long breakfast

Long days and stable snow equals long breakfasts! In Norway we wake up at normal times, we have a long breakfast and we ease ourselves into the day, safe in the knowledge the snow is as safe at noon as it was at midnight.

9.      Tradition and culture

They say Norway the birthplace of skiing. We’d go one further and say Norway is the home of winter. Winter is in this nation’s blood. For the ski tourer this means a complete winter experience in the valleys as wells as in the mountains. It can also provide for some quite humbling experiences. Don’t be surprised if a group of teenage girls come whizzing past you on the way up or down that steep Norwegian mountainside.

10.   Northern lights

OK, this is the one thing we can’t guarantee, but if you are lucky enough to see the Northern Lights we guarantee this alone will have made your trip worthwhile.

 

The marshmallow test

Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty…”

Theodore Roosevelt knew it, and philosophers down through the ages have known it

In an ever more on-demand world where anything we want or wonder about is at our finger tips maybe unconsciously we are all striving for the elusive goals that come only from hard work. It seems we humans are somehow programmed to value more the rewards achieved through effort and difficulty than those handed to us on a plate.

Examples of this core programming crop up in all walks of life: Most people want a challenging and interesting job. The artist struggling for her art. The movie hero is always the poor hard working kid, not the spoilt rich kid. Some people devote their entire lives, a good deal of money and sometimes the odd toe or two to the transient goal of 10 minutes on the summit of the world. In his darkest hour Churchill used the sentiments of struggle to galvanise an entire nation’s fight against overwhelming odds.

This programming might even help to explain why football is the world’s favourite sport – because most of the time, if we are honest, the beautiful game is anything but beautiful, yet 89 minutes and 59 seconds of hard work and frustrating, dire tedium is worth the one elusive, euphoric moment when your team scores the winner.

Common in all of these endeavours is that the reward is worth tenfold the effort to achieve them.

And so it is with ski touring, while we at Headnorth love skiing in the slopes and enjoy every second of it, nothing can compare to the fleeting reward of standing atop a mountain summit or ridge, sweat dripping from your forehead from the effort of getting there and nothing again can compare to those dream like moments on the descent as you put in one wonderful turn after another.

For us this our art, this is our beloved football club, this is our Dunkirk and this is our 10 minutes on Everest and yes, like Teddy Roosevelt said its’ worth having and its worth doing.

The horizon is a state of mind

We have been travelling since we could walk, that’s how we humans got here and there and everywhere we are. Since our earliest ancestors took their first tentative steps north, south, east and west from our African Rift Valley home we humans have been driven by a need to explore and head for the horizon in a restless urge to know what lies beyond it.

We are no different today. No matter how sophisticated we have become in transferring the knowledge gained from previous generations to the current one through education and the written word, the one thing we can’t learn are the emotions gained from experiences. No matter how good a storyteller you are no one can truly experience what you experienced as you stood peering into the swirling maelstrom of Iguassu Falls, stood enchanted for minutes in front of the Mona Lisa, or stood head back spellbound as the Northern Lights danced overhead.

These experiences and the feelings they create inside you are yours and yours only, to keep for the rest of your life. Maybe this is why most people hate looking at other people’s holiday photos. They just do not trigger the same emotional responses as the experience itself in "real-time”.  

So even though YouTube, Google Earth and Street View can make us more familiar with distant places than has ever been possible before, the desire to experience the human emotions that go with the images is even greater. For this reason we are no different than our ancient ancestors on the African plains, looking out at the distant horizon with wonder and trepidation…………and taking that first brave step toward it.

The quiet Norwegian

There’s a quiet, almost unseen, revolution going on in the Norwegian mountains. However if you look close enough, in wintertime, you’ll see traces of it in the S-shaped tracks just visible on the snow covered flanks of great mountains.

There is evidence of skiing in Norway dating back 5,000 years. For at least most of recorded history, Norwegians have used skis as a means of transport over a landscape covered in snow for six months of the year. The endless mountain plateaus (“vidda” in Norwegian) lend themselves perfectly to cross-country skiing with light narrow skis and boots fastened only at the toe. With skiing being so much a part of life, not to mention the national identity, it’s no wonder that little Norway, a nation of only 5 million, out guns sporting giants like the USA , Russia and Germany when it comes to most golds ever at the winter Olympics. (118 vs USA in second on 96)

However there’s change in the cold dry winter air. Twenty years ago or so groups of intrepid Italians and Germans heard rumours of incredible off-piste skiing from remote mountain summits to the shores of inky black fjords in the “mythical” land at the top of Europe. They began exploring these peaks, staying on boats and possibly laying claim to many a “first descent”.  It seems perhaps fitting of the humble, understated Norwegian character that it was foreigners who first began to appreciate just how special these landscapes were.

Now all that is changing. From skiing on narrow skis over plateaus and in valley bottoms, more and more Norwegians are now seeking out the summits of the myriad of mountain ranges using the latest lightweight randonee equipment. Sales of randonee skis have increased c 40% the last few years, amounting to approx. 35,000 pairs sold each year, compare that with 41,000 in the US! Norwegians it seems have finally gotten the ski- touring bug.

Not such a quiet, unseen revolution you might say but when you consider that almost the entire length of this land, stretching 1,800km over 13 degrees of latitude is one unbroken mountain chain offering endless ski touring possibilities you’ll have to look pretty hard to find those tell-tale S-shaped tracks on that beautiful mountain flank.

where’s your head at, where’s your head at, where’s your head at?

Right now it’s summer, the birds are singing, the sun is shining, the people are chilling. Your head? It’s probably at the beach already. The heads at Headnorth? Well our heads are at winter. We’ve been putting in the miles literally (1,000 over two days), and metaphorically to make our first winter season the best ever:)

On our last road trip we headed north to meet partners in Sunnmøre and Sogndal and were amazed, yet again, at the potential for adventure in this wild and rugged land. At every swing, and there are a lot of those on Norwegian roads, it seemed there was a perfect ski-touring line, a perfect rafting river, a perfect bouldering stone, a perfect cycle route, a perfect canoeing lake or a picture perfect wooden built hotel anchored to the foot of a mountain so as to not drift off into the fjord.

The trick of course is remembering all these places, as most of them don’t appear in any guidebook. Keep following us while we do all we can to bring these experiences to you.

One unforgettable memory was the sight of four metre high snow banks on the side of the road over Sognefjellsveien, the highest mountain pass in northern Europe, followed 5 minutes later by hundreds of people cross country skiing on the substantial remains of last winter’s snow. Bearing in mind this was the beginning of July, it was finally reassuring to see people swimming in the fjord on the other side of the mountains not 45 minutes later, incidentally wearing not much less than the folks skiing.

With these memories fresh in our minds our heads are suddenly not just at winter 2016 but at summer 2016 too.