Norwegians consume more frozen pizza per person than any other nation, and yet they are almost all very fit and good looking.
Another thing about Norway: I’m convinced that everyone in the whole country skis and/or snowboards. No matter where I’ve traveled there, from small towns to big cities, everywhere I’ve been there are people schussing along beside the roads, getting on a subway in downtown Oslo with alpine or nordic equipment in full gear to literally take the train to go skiing, or lining up at the town rope tow to make laps in the rain. Norway boasts the most ski jumps per capita of any country. They have literally millions of kilometers of groomed cross-country ski trails, and there are over 700 lifts and rope tows for downhill skiing. No matter how remote I’ve been in the mountains there, I’ve encountered cairns on top of peaks. The Norwegians have lots of mountains, and they love getting up in them.
I do too, which is why I was thrilled to be invited on a trip to the Lofoten region, way up north in Norway, with the Volkl BMT team this past February.
Arriving in the Tromso airport after over 30 hours of travel, I met up with Stian Hagen (Norwegian, mountain guide, badass, and former MSP star who lives in Chamonix), Christina Lustenberger (Canadian, mountain guide, badass, and former Olympic ski racer who lives in Revelstoke), Austin Ross (Canadian, paraglider and speed-flyer, badass, and all-around highly talented skier from Whistler), Adam Clark (Salt Lake City-based photographer, badass, talented skier and mountaineer with an artist’s eye), and Fred Arne Wergelund (Oslo-based Norwegian filmer and editor, badass, snowboarder with a high level of patience and a huge tolerance for suffering with a massive pack). Naturally, we shared a few frozen pizzas in the airport before boarding our final flight to Svolvaer, a small fishing town nestled at the base of 6000 foot peaks.
Seth Hobby, a mountain guide and fellow Washingtonian who now lives in Svolvaer with his partner and Lofoten Ski Lodge co-owner Maren and their daughter Nora, excitedly greeted us at the lodge and showed us around, but I was too tired to properly appreciate the gorgous historic fishing lodge and the surrounding fjord. I collapsed in bed, only to be woken a few hours later by a pounding at our door, and a yell that sounded like someone saying “lights going off.” Christina and I drug ourselves outside in the freezing arctic air to catch the tail end of a brilliant northern lights display. I was getting the hint that Lofoten might be even more spectacular than I’d heard.
We had a few cloudy days to get the lay of the land. We got turned around from one objective due to blowing snow and rising avalanche danger, and explored a more sheltered ridge near the lodge, getting some creamy turns through the low trees and views of mountains and water every which direction. We skied an amazing couloir winding up directly off the road above a fjord, topping out a few thousand feet up, with powder at the top, a little crux air in the middle, and rain-smoothed corn at the bottom.
There’s a small ski area in Lofoten, but the heavy snowfall and easily-accessed peaks make it a pretty ideal backcountry destination. Our ski touring set-ups–carbon BMT skis with Marker Kingpin bindings and glueless skins–turned the area into a virtual playground. Anything we could see, we could ski.
The third day we woke early to the sun creeping over the horizon, the kind of angel-boner sunrays and pastel purples, pinks and oranges that favor far northern latitudes. Drinking strong Norwegian coffee and taking a gazillion pictures, it felt like the sunrises and sunsets in spring there might be nature’s first little present to the locals for enduring the dark winters. Luckily they don’t mind sharing.
We drove into a neighborhood in Svolvaer and started skinning up the street and through some backyards on Seth’s instruction. Soon, we gained a small lake and could look out over town and the surrounding ocean and fjords. The farther we climbed, the more spectacular the views. We worked just ahead of the sun, skiing short shots in the small window between when the light hit but before the snow began to rollerball in the heat. Christina has a thing for summits, so she led up to the top and we hung out on pointy peaks overlooking the ocean for as long as we could before the sun started setting and we reluctantly descended, squeezing in as many shots as we could.
The next few days were stormy and rainy to high elevations. We skied, checked out the sweet local ski area one day and scouted some Alaska-like spines on the next (not enough snow–maybe next time), and went to the beach at Unstad and marveled at the massive waves. We had fresh, local cod, apres-ski waffles with brown cheese, lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, and not a frozen pizza in sight. We sweated in the sauna and then jumped in the fjord, shrieking and sprinting back into the cozy lodge.
I know we lucked out with conditions to get some sun and powder, but even the rainy days in Lofoten were kind of magical. The mountains, the fjords, the Lofoten Ski Lodge and the vibe that Seth and Maren have created, as well as the awesome Volkl crew and gear made it a trip to remember.
Norway is a skier’s country, full of healthy people that also happen to love frozen pizza. Therefore, Norwegians prove the theory that skiing is beneficial–so good, in fact, that it outweighs other seemingly detrimental lifestyle choices, including mass consumption of frozen processed foods.
Thank you to Volkl and Marker, Lofoten Ski Lodge, Seth, Maren, the BMT team for being such badasses, and to Norway for being awesome and proving my theory.