Norway: Strap yourself in for a ski tour de force

Accessing the Norwegian slopes via a speedboat in the Arctic, Colin Nicholson discovers new thrills high above the fjords

If you want the adrenalin rush of downhill skiing, but in a virtually untouched landscape, there is a solution: ski touring. By boat. In Norway. Not only will it save you carting your worldly goods on your back, as you would going touring from hut to hut in the Alps, but you'll also be rewarded with spectacular views over the Arctic Ocean.

Early last May, I flew to Tromso, some 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle, where the crystal-clear waters were ringed by bright white mountains. After a three-hour transfer along the fjords, spotting sea eagles and reindeer on the way, my group arrived at the stylish Lyngen Lodge. Here the giant head of a musk ox set above a roaring fire gazed impassively over the bare log walls and Nordic-chic furniture towards eight en suite bedrooms. The lodge was built by an Englishman, Graham Austick, who founded the Piste to Powder team of ski guides in St Anton, Austria. Having been seduced by the beauty of the fjords when he came skiing here on a yacht, he wanted to create something more permanent.

Two Austrian ski guides were to lead us through the mountains. The experts set off with Paul, while Burkhard guided our group, which included two newcomers to ski touring. Before we were let loose on the boat, we set off to conquer the mountain near the lodge.

On the face of it, ski touring is a parallel skiing world, and one that you might never guess existed. However, if you've seen fit-looking people trudging up the side of a piste on skis, then the chances are that on the bottom of their skis are "skins", which stop them sliding backwards. Once you are kitted out with this sort of gear, anywhere in the mountains is yours to discover.

Trudging up our practice hill, everyone fell into step, our poles moving in a wave-like rhythm, so that our phalanx of eight ascended the mountainside looking like a centipede.

After two hours of zigzagging up the steep incline, we stopped for avalanche training, doing timed searches for the transceiver buried in Burkhard's bag, deep in the snow.

"Faster, faster," he commanded. "My sandwiches are freezing."

Two hours later we had climbed 1,000m. To descend, we had to peel off our "skins" – traditionally sealskins were used but ours more closely resembled strips of carpet – and lock the heels of our bindings to our skis. While he was helping us, one of Burkhard's skis slipped straight down the mountain, so he descended, elegantly enough, on one ski, as we kept close behind.

Further down, the risk of avalanches and hidden cliffs lessened, so we could find our own lines down. Carving S-shapes on the wide open slopes, we followed the water back to the lodge, where we collapsed into oversized armchairs while Burkhard headed back up the mountain to search for the missing ski.

Our time in Norway came just before the longest day of the year (which lasts two and a half months). It never got dark. Had I not been exhausted, I would have taken up Graham's offer of midnight skiing, which you do on north-facing slopes to get the full glare of the midnight sun.

Instead, after a suitably Arctic dip in the sea, I basked in the outdoor hot tub and the sauna, and admired the view of aquamarine glaciers flowing through the waves of white peaks. It was just after we had sat down to a magnificent dinner of reindeer meat when the elated figure of Burkhard burst through the door, clutching the errant ski.

The next day, having proved ourselves more or less capable, we went to the tiny harbour down the road, where the lodge's Spirit of Lyngen speedboat was bobbing in the clear blue water. To augment our collection of ski touring gear – skins, shovels, transceivers, probes – we added life jackets. Cutting through the calm waters of the Arctic Ocean, Burkhard and Idse, the skipper, consulted the charts for the best ascent of the island of Utoya. This remote isle had no dock nearby, so we launched the dinghy, piled high with skis, and picked a sandy beach for our landing spot where we could set up.

It took me a while to get the hang of things, foolishly sticking one of my skins on back to front and then wondering why I couldn't move my left ski. Once I'd rectified the problem, I discovered that part of the pleasure of ski touring is stopping to admire the scenery. After just half an hour's climb, the boat looked like a tiny toy in a huge bathtub, before disappearing entirely from view.

What kept me going – other than the thought of my glorious packed lunch – was knowing we were in for another brilliant descent on slopes that at times appeared to drop straight into the sea. You don't have to be a pro to get down them either. Even on the steepest slopes, the deep powder slowed down our skis beautifully. The only other people we saw were some fishermen, who waved at us when we put out our own lines from the back of the boat to catch supper for the cook to prepare at the lodge.

The third day had us practising our kick turns, which are necessary for the steepest climbs. It was the sunniest day so far. However, as we neared the top, we ran into the clouds; I saw Burkhard consulting his GPS ever more regularly as we inched our way forward in the white-out.

Had I been paying more attention the evening before, I would have realised why he was being so cautious. Over the dinner table hung a picture of skiers peering down a sheer drop of 1,000m – and we were at the very same point. Our view was utterly obscured yet there was still the reward of skiing down pristine slopes, and the search for the way home through the maze of forest back to the sea.

And if we were deprived of an incredible view at the summit, we had a far more amazing sight on our return. From the shore, we saw a school of porpoises put on a fantastic acrobatic display of corkscrew jumps. Now that's the way to finish off a ski season.

Travel essentials

Getting there

SAS (020-8990 7000; flysas.com) flies to Tromso from Heathrow and Manchester via Oslo, as does Norwegian (020-8099 7254; norwegian.com), which also flies from Edinburgh.

Staying there

Colin Nicholson stayed as a guest of the Lyngen Lodge (00 47 476 278 53; lyngenlodge.com), which offers week-long stays in a double room from mid-February to the end of May for Nkr25,500 (£2,948) including full board and transfers, as well as boat, 4x4 and snowmobile rides, but not equipment hire or drinks. Ski-touring hire packages start at £150.

 

More information

visitnorway.com

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Sport
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
sport
Life and Style
Cheesecake frozen yoghurt by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi
food + drinkThink outside the cool box for this summer’s frozen treats
News
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Sport
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Sport
Alistair Brownlee (right) celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men’s triathlon alongside brother Jonny (left), who got silver
England's Jodie Stimpson won the women’s triathlon in the morning
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    C++ Software Engineer - Hounslow, West London - C++ - to £60K +

    £40000 - £60000 per annum + Pension, Healthcare : Deerfoot IT Resources Limite...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Visitor Experience volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary role: Old Royal Naval College: To assist the Visitor Experien...

    Telesales Manager. Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Day In a Page

    Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

    Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

    The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

    Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

    Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
    German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

    Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

    Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
    BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

    BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

    The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
    Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

    Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

    Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
    How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

    Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

    Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
    Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

    Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

    Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
    10 best reed diffusers

    Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

    Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

    Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

    There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
    Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

    Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

    It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
    Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

    Screwing your way to the top?

    Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
    Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

    Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

    Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

    The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

    Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
    US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

    Meet the US Army's shooting star

    Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform