Magical skiing in Lofoten
“The peaks are often much easier to climb than they look. Most mountains here in Lofoten offer very easy access and many are well suited for safe ski touring.”
Adam Erik Gunnarsson is speaking over his shoulder. A strong gust of wind from the Norwegian Sea makes the freshly fallen snow swirl up around him. The light from the low winter sun gives the alpine peaks a red and purple glow. The broken landscape of peaks shooting straight up out of the ocean contrasts beautifully with the water stretching calmly to the horizon.
“You almost always have a wonderful view of Lofoten, as long as the weather’s good like it is today,” says Gunnarsson, who lives here and works as a guide for Norgesguidene. “It’s also unique for alpine mountains to be as low as they are here. The result is that you can find yourself in spectacular surroundings with relatively little time and effort. Most of the peaks in Lofoten are less than 1,000m high.”
Had he and his party been in the Alps or any ski resort on a day like this, they would most likely have been among crowds of people. Out on Vestvågøya island in Lofoten, it’s a different story.
However, it’s no ordinary ski trip you have to go on to experience the Lofoten archipelago at its best. Although there are three small ski resorts here, it’s the ski touring using ski mountaineering equipment that’s drawing an increasing number of skiers to Lofoten. Also known as randonnée, ski touring is an increasingly popular form of skiing that involves going up to the top of the mountain on skis or a snowboard with skins, removing the skins at the top and then skiing or snowboarding back down again through the breathtaking, unspoiled natural scenery.
“Ski touring is definitely a growing trend in Norway, with Lofoten high on the list for skiers from many countries,” says Haaken Christensen, senior adviser on adventure tourism for Visit Norway. “The idea of skiing from mountain to fjord is very special to Norway. Other places that can offer the same are Canada and Alaska, but there isn’t as great a range and it’s often much more expensive than in Norway. We have a well-developed network of airports across the country and the range of ski tours offered by operators is steadily increasing. There’s no doubt that ski touring and unspoiled nature are hot.”
Christensen emphasizes safety and the use of local guides.
“Many people come here from abroad with their own guides and don’t have the right skills and knowledge for the areas they will be skiing in,” he says. “We want people to have safe experiences, so local, certified guides should be a priority.”
Back on Vestvågøya, the skiing party has reached the summit. It’s late January and the days are short here, north of the Arctic Circle. The sun has barely peeped out before disappearing again. Ragnhild Pedersen sets the bindings to downhill mode and smiles.
“Ski touring combines mastery of the conditions with beautiful natural scenery and exciting descents,” she says. “We’ve also had a lot of snow recently, so this is going to be amazing.”
Pedersen is originally from Lofoten and only recently moved back here after finishing her studies on the mainland. She’s come back partly to work, but mostly to enjoy the natural surroundings.
“People like me, who are relatively inexperienced in the mountains in winter – and have limited knowledge about avalanches – need to be very careful in Lofoten,” Pedersen says. “Although I’ve found that there are plenty of tours here you can go on without being an expert. There are tours for everyone in Lofoten, but you have to show the mountains respect and always keep safety in mind.”
A few minutes later, only traces of the group of skiers can be seen. A silhouette disappears over the crest of a ridge like a gull at sea. A joyful shout can be heard.
It’s no wonder. Lofoten is a skier’s paradise.
Published: March 4, 2019