SUMMIT TO SEA: SKI TOURING IN ARCTIC NORWAY

250km inside the Arctic Circle, above uninhabited, snow-bound fjords, Daniel Wildey discovers the perfect solitude of Norway’s spring ski touring

Either the Norwegians truly detest kick turns, or they take masochistic pleasure in hurting themselves. Or perhaps they’re simply superhuman ski-tourers who like to be efficient and direct. I’m none of those things, and feel an embarrassing level of relief when James Thacker – one of our guides for the week – carves out an altogether more forgiving uphill line for our grateful legs to follow.

The flight into Tromsø ought to have primed me for this head-on attitude to Arctic life. If you think the approach into Innsbruck airport is hairy – with the Alps looming large in those tiny windows – try Tromsø. There appeared to be a mountaintop blocking our descent path, and I swear it came close enough to the undercarriage that I could have dropped out on skis and made my own descent.

Either the Norwegians truly detest kick turns, or they take masochistic pleasure in hurting themselves. Or perhaps they’re simply superhuman ski-tourers who like to be efficient and direct. I’m none of those things, and feel an embarrassing level of relief when James Thacker – one of our guides for the week – carves out an altogether more forgiving uphill line for our grateful legs to follow.

The flight into Tromsø ought to have primed me for this head-on attitude to Arctic life. If you think the approach into Innsbruck airport is hairy – with the Alps looming large in those tiny windows – try Tromsø. There appeared to be a mountaintop blocking our descent path, and I swear it came close enough to the undercarriage that I could have dropped out on skis and made my own descent.

But beyond the foreground peril was a maze of snow-covered coastline, islands and peninsulas blending into one another making it almost impossible to tell where the mainland ended and the archipelagos began or how far the fjords forged inland. It was a sprawling, disorientating landscape, even looked down on from the sky, all covered with mountains surging out of the dark, glassy sea and draped in a thick layer of snow, with the occasional bubbling mass of cumulus clouds above.

Once on the ground I was met by Alison Culshaw and James, of Chamonix-based Off Piste Performance, and as with any ski trip, snow coverage was the top priority for conversation. Even inside the Arctic Circle it’s a treat to have snow lying right down to sea-level in early May, and Alison and James were infectiously excited about the possibilities ahead of us. We left the city of Tromsø behind – along with the area’s only ski lift – following the coastal road 40 kilometres north-east to Oldervik, noticing that almost every inch of the land was accessible to anyone with ski-touring gear and energy.

Oldervik was deserted; a scattering of simple wooden dwellings stretched along the seafront either side of a harbour. There were more boats than people, and only one road out. Our accommodation for the week was a cosy wooden box behind a huge window filled with the waters of Ullsfjorden and the dramatic peaks of the Lyngen peninsula five kilometres across the water, catching the low sun on their western faces. With a widescreen centrepiece like this there was, naturally, no TV.

Oldervik is barely visited by tourists, which is partly why Alison and James chose it as a base; it is convenient for Tromsø airport, and the island of Kvaloya is within driving distance. Even the more frequented Lyngen Alps – standing tall across the fjord – are accessible for a day-trip. But more importantly the town delivers the kind of view that I could never grow tired of.

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