Words & Photos Mattias Fredriksson
There are only a couple of places in the world where the skiing comes close to Norway's Lyngen Alps - the remote north of British Columbia in Canada, and Alaska. It's pretty special - you've got water all around these rugged peaks, with near-total daylight. There are no cars, no tourists, just you, the fjord and the mountain. It's the total package.
I'm a ski photographer and I went to the Lyngen Alps last spring in a group containing three of the world's best skiers, a film crew and a mountain guide - though you don't have to be an incredible skier to do the trip. You should go at the right time, however: April and May are the best months to ski at Lyngen, when the weather is most stable and the snow is still great.
We stayed on a boat, the Vulkana, which sailed a few hours from Tromsø and moored off Koppangen harbour for most of the seven-day excursion. The trip consisted mostly of hiking to the top of the peaks and skiing down the fresh powder terrain all the way to the sea.
The Vulkana is big and really cool. Originally a fishing boat built in 1957, it's been kitted out like a modern boutique hotel on water. There's a saltwater hot tub on the deck, a 7m diving tower, a wood-fired sauna down below the lounge and a great restaurant. The food's brilliant - just about everything you eat is fresh and organic, from the big chunk of reindeer that hangs in the kitchen to the flatfish and cod that are hauled straight from the sea onto your plate.
It's not cheap - about NOK100,000 for the week for 10 of us - but it's all-inclusive except for the beer (local Mack). If you go skiing at a normal resort and pay for accommodation, lift passes, ski rental and food, it probably doesn't work out much cheaper. And even just going on the boat here is a pretty special experience, from waking up to the sunrise over the fj ord to jumping into the icy water, and meeting Helge the skipper, a classic man of the sea and a really rad dude. There's no internet onboard, but there are books. It's just all really conducive to properly chilling out.
I was there with Field Productions, one of the world's top producers of ski videos, who were filming for Supervention, a ski video that's been a two-year project and will be aired in November. We were with Norwegian alpine skier Aksel Lund Svindal, an Olympic gold medallist and four-time world champion skier, Eirik Finseth, one of Norway's top big-mountain skiers, and Eric Hjorleifson, a Canadian freeskier known for his amazing skill in ski movies. Red Bull footed the bill for us, but I would say it's totally worth doing it yourself - it's an amazing trip and on the dream list for any ski-touring nerd. But you really don't have to be a world champion skier.
The skiing at the Lyngen Alps is incredible, but you earn your turns, as they say, because there's no way to get up there other than walking. Most days we'd get up at about 4am, have a breakfast of porridge, eggs and sandwiches, and ski until lunch. The harbour at Koppangen is home to about 10 people, so it's not really more than just a place to put the skins on your skis before climbing up the mountain. The skins - which are a bit like carpets - mean you can walk up pretty steep slopes.
We went with Tor Olav Naalsund (www.themountainguide.no), who's one of Norway's best mountain guides, and who planned the routes and organised all the equipment. You need to go with harnesses, ropes and avalanche equipment in case anything happens - you're on your own out there and you can't just call the ski patrol if something happens.
The equipment is good, though you need some experience of ski touring if you want to do it. On the way up, the skis have a loose binding so that you can lift your heel up. At the top, you take offthe skins and rearrange the binding so that your heel is fixed.
For our trip, we mostly skied around the Koppangen Glacier, where the peaks rise from 1,000m to 1,800m straight up from the sea. On the first day, for example, we walked about 12km up the hill to a peak around 1,400m. You might walk about nine hours and ski for one. Even without the skiing, though, it's just insane to be there - you're one hour from the harbour and you're in one of the most beautiful places ever.
I've been to the Lyngen Alps three times and there's always been fresh powder. Because you're close to the ocean, the snow packs and sticks to the side of the mountain, making it a bit more stable.
Once you get high up, there are no trees - it's all big powder fields, rollers, steep faces and lots of cliffs. You look at your lines as you walk up and really plot your route, so it's a slightly different mentality.
We skied 1,500 vertical metres, literally from the top of the mountain down to the sea - it's usually just one of those a day, but it's an amazing feeling carving these big lines overlooking the ocean. Eric Hjorleifson has skied all over the world and he said that it reminded him of Alaska in terms of its remoteness. He was blown away by the possibilities, as was everyone. Aksel, an Olympic skiing champion, skied the steepest line he's ever skied and loved it.
There's no heli-skiing allowed, so there's a purity to it - and obviously you don't see many other groups of skiers (though we did see some guys from Germany and France).
We were lucky with the weather, as the last couple of springs in Scandinavia have been amazing - there was only one day when the weather came in and Tor, our guide, was testing the route with a ski pole to make sure it was safe.
You can't come here if it's your first time ski touring, but any intermediate skier could have come with us. You can make of it what you want - it doesn't have to be crazy and you can go on routes that are pretty mellow. You do have to be fairly fit, though. Really, a trip to Lyngen is about more than skiing - it's about being in one of the more remote and beautiful parts of the world. Anyone can appreciate that.