A few years ago my wife and I had a great time up in the Lofotens for a week of ski touring. The Lofotens are islands hanging off the coast of northern Norway, about 350 kilometers north of the arctic circle – and have been known for centuries as a beautiful and wild place at the edge of Europe.
The location is stunning – and yes – in a way, its wild too – but the best part about all this is that while you are far away, this is Scandinavia – so everything works. The infrastructure is there, the public sector is impeccable in its performance, and even at the edge of the world, you can still get a great cup of espresso in a cute cafe and catch a movie in a first-run cinema with seating for 12.
Add to that the fact that, while these mountains are alpine in character and striking – they are not that big. In two or three hours you can get to the peak of nearly all of them, which is a great thing if some in your party are new at this – or perhaps just not that hardcore. The high latitude means that in some places, you’ll skin up on the beach, hit treeline about 50 vertical meters later, and have views of the ocean in all directions when you top out!
This time – we’d done so much talking about all this good stuff that I convinced 5 other friends to come along. None had been to the Lofotens before, although two of the crew had been skiing in Norway before.
Getting to the Lofotens is not too bad. The Norwegian government subsidies flights to the islands as it does to a lot of its far north in a effort to make development there more enticing. You fly into Evenes airport which is about two and a half hours away from Svolvaer – the main town on the islands. Alternatively – you can take a ferry from Bodo – which is the nicer way to go, I hear, but it takes a half a day and the times can be dicey – so I’ve never done it. Several members of our group did though – and they gave the scenery a thumbs up.
While there may be some direct flights from the UK, for the most part, everything runs through Oslo. There’s not much to say about this airport in Europe’s smallest capital city – except that you should do the math before ordering a second coffee – at roughly 8 Euros a cup, your first experience with Norwegian prices is likely to be all the stimulant you’ll need for your layover. Coffee is bad – booze is worse – which is why a trip to the duty free is an integral part of pre-trip planning in Norway.
If all goes well – you’ll land in Evenes in a few hours. The airport is refreshingly small – making coming and going a breeze. You can get shuttles here to the Lofotens – but as access to the best ski spots needs a car – you’ll probably be picking up a rental and cruising out on your own. There’s really only one road on the Lofotens – so when you leave the airport – just take a left and follow the signs. Be prepared for winter travel, and if you want snacks or a bite to eat – its probably best to do these either at the airport – or at the gas station directly after that left turn. There is quite a bit of nothing on the way to Svolvaer.
If you come in at night – you might get treated to some sights like these:
We all got in ok – each of us coming from different corners of the globe, and settled into our new digs. These were a significant upgrade over the last time, which is to say they were quite swanky.
The place is an old whaling station converted to a hotel for skiers. Its built out into the water on stilts so you could service the boats, so views are built in. There is a main house, where you eat and can hang out describing how rad you got to all the other guests, but you sleep in separate little cottages with a small living room and kitchen and up to six beds. We had two of these back to back with room for 4 in each – so we had a little space to stretch out – play Cards Against Humanity and air out our socks.
Which is what we did when we got in…..
Tomorrow: First day touring in the Lofotens – or – What gear will Tobi break?