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For many, April is a time to reflect on the season and reminisce about the epic powder days and humming corduroy as the ski resorts begin to close down for the summer. Living very far north on the planet gives you more options. Scandinavia is known for Vikings and IKEA, but not so much for one of the best benefits, late season snow. In April we took splitboards and skis to Tromsø, ready to get lost in some of the many labyrinths of long fjords along the western coastline of Norway. When I first started to plan this trip, I sat in the library of Göteborg, Sweden reading in Jimmy Petterson book "Skiing around the world". He states that, "Norway is an appropriate place to begin a ski tour of northern Europe, for this is where it all started thousands of years ago. While skiing was primarily a form of transportation for many centuries, the Norwegians are given credit for starting and developing it as a sport as well." Looking back at our trip, a great feeling fills me. We met so many warm-hearted people during our adventure. We skied in breath-taking nature and could eat all possible variations of cod for dinner!
In this article, I want to talk about what we learned about the weather, touring, budget and where to stay around Tromsø and Lyngen.
We were really lucky with the weather in April 2015. Yes, it rained and clouds got stuck in the low peaks, but these days were outweighed by the good days: Days with 17 hours of touring time and long views to other fjords and mountain ranges. Enough time to slow down your pace of life and really enjoy your time in the mountains. When looking closely, you could almost see Spitsbergen peaking over the northern horizon. I remember when living in Zermatt, Switzerland, touring was an early adventure, and it was best to be back down around lunch. In Lyngen, we met people starting after lunch, aiming for a nice sunset tour. It took us a few days to adjust, but soon we got up when we felt like it, went fishing and enjoyed Knäckebröd with Kaviar out of the tube and still managed to satisfy our hunger for great lines.
Spring above the Arctic Circle turns the country-side to a fairy tale land. Lyngen is in line with other outposts of civilization such as Lappland, Greenland and the Brooks Range of Alaska. Okay, there was no champagne-powder, but always enough snow to get a good ride and draw your lines down to sea-level.
The snow report of Lyngen can give you an idea about the conditions, but since the area has so many different exposures and faces that can be affected by weather and climate, it is better to take the report only as a rough guide. As always, be sure to use your backcountry skills for accurate predictions wherever you decide to ski. For our adventure, we never had bad conditions. We could hike up wherever we were inspired, and enjoy the untouched lines on the way down!
The first half of the trip we stayed at the northern part of the Lyngenalps, around Lenangen. Russelvfjellet, Storgaltan, Stetinden, Trollvasstinden, Istinden are a few nice runs to start with. The second half of our trip we stayed at Mainland Tromsø and explored the western island Malangen and Kvaloya. We went for Tromsdalstinden, Andersdalstinden, Gorzelvtinden, Storstolpan, Bentsfjordtinden, but we also did a bunch of other tours. You'll find that many of the possibilities for tours do not yet exist in any touring book. This is exactly what is so nice about this area - you can hike up any mountain you feel like, there are hundreds of them, and they are only a short drive away.
Our best companion was the book "Touring in Troms". Thank you Espen Nordahl for putting such a fine book together. In case you cannot find it online, you can buy it in the local book shop in Tromsø. The town of Tromsø holds a small University and is worth a visit. The local charm and culture is very welcoming and holds many opportunities for good food, an old brewery and friendly locals. One of our favorites was a nice little place named the Bastard Bar. We also enjoyed the world's northernmost Brewery!
Being so far North, the weather forecast was important. We checked it constantly to find the best windows for touring. For local weather and reports the Tour in Lyngen Alps site was the best. In case you are looking for more detailed online maps, we found a great Norwegian Maps site.
After our trip I was surprised when checking the bank account. We did not spend that much money! Surprisingly, the Switzerland of Scandinavia can be organized for the low budget traveler. I met my friend Tim with two ski bums from Andermatt at the start of the trip and we were all prepared for an expensive few weeks. In the end, he only had to spend less than 1.000€ for two weeks in Norway, flight included! So, there are ways to get around for a really good price, but these may include camping and using public transport. A quick Google search of the internet will help you find resources for both of these online.
We experienced that the best offers for flights go from Munich to Tromsø. Friends coming from Munich spent 260€ for their return ticket including a boardbag. For such a remote destination I would say that is hard to beat. For our trip we rented an off-road-car and squeezed everyone and everything into the cab, strapping extra luggage on top. We decided 25€ a day/person is totally worth some mobility and I would recommend it. Shopping, spot checks, fishing and taking a break from the rest of the group now and then - everything became so much easier with a car.
We used Air B&B to find accommodation. We heard it can be difficult to get a place to stay, especially when you are a bigger group and getting into the remote places. Even with Air B&B the prices can get up to 60€ a night. We experienced that between 30-40€ per person is a fair price to calculate for this area. From my perspective now, you can also find something when you get there. It might be a bit of a hustle, but people are very helpful and it leaves you with all the choices. You can also find places with a sauna and whirlpool, but keep in mind that such amenities will drive the price up. However, it will still usually be much cheaper than the other options like staying in a hotel, or on a boat.
When you talk about touring in Norway, many people think it should include a sail boat. This is the iconic idea of sailing to the shore of a 1000-meter pitch, hiking up, and skiing/snowboarding back down to your boat. We actually did not miss living on a boat. Prices for staying on a boat vary between 80€-120€ per day. Therefore, make sure you really want to spend that money. For our adventure we appreciated our warm cottage where we could hang out, cook our meals, and lounge around comfortably after a long day of touring. Not to mention space to dry our skins, boots and clothes. We found that touring by car was perfect. There is much to see and explore by road in the area. More importantly, the mountains are so easy to access by car. We felt like we were on a winter safari most days. Everywhere we looked, lines and faces were looking back at us, tempting us to pull the car over and carve our names on the slopes.
Our first recommendation for accommodation is a cabin in north Lyngen, Lenangen:
Our host, Reidun, has created a wonderful place to stay in the northern part of Lyngen. This luxurious cabin has just finished being built. It has got everything you can think of and the host fills it with so much love that you want to stay there forever. As a true local, she also has got a good network of friends and connections that come in handy in case you looking for something special. Here is the link: Lyngen Cabin
The second place we can recommend was located 15 minutes from the airport of Tromso.
It was a perfect base, where we really enjoyed our time with the hosts, Reinhold & Karsje. They are the heads of a wonderful family what you truly can call addicted to the mountains. They helped us out with their expertise and showed us their local mountain "Tromsdaltinden". They have got space for 3-5 people with a nice terrace from where you can see the city of Tromso. Every day here ends with a large mug of warm coffee, big stories, and an epic view of the Scandinavian skyline.
As in every adventure, this one had to come to an end. Norway welcomed us like old friends, and allowed us to explore the fjords and mountains along the coast, maybe like the Vikings used to do so long ago. For us, April was the best part of our year, and not the end of it. As always the journey is the goal, not just the destination. Until next time, and the next destination.
Last but not least - a big thank to all the people taking us in.