Tag Archives: Lofotens

Stashes in the Lofotens


the top!
the top!

After a couple of really nice days out with Erin Smart – we were kind of sad to see her go! She was a really good guide and one I hope to book again in the future – which is, in the end, the only real measure of satisfaction. Still – because my wife and I had been out with Seth Hobby a few years prior, and kind of considered him a friend, we were excited that he would be spending the next two days with us to finish out our trip. Erin’s season in the Lofotens was coming to an end, and it was back to Chamonix for her – I am sure she was glad to get home and see her hubby again!

Seth knew that we had been to a lot of the Lofoten “standards” – and he aslo knew that we had seen a lot of other tourers underway, so he wanted to take us somewhere off the beaten path.

Most of the touring in the islands is done in the immediate vicinity of Solvaer and Kabelvag. While there is certainly a lot to do there – we had seen quite a few people, and sometimes – that area is quite exposed to the sea. The islands are really pretty thin there, so you get the winds from the south, as well as those from the north. It is obviously very maritime.

Seth has been all over the islands and he has noticed that there is an area located a bit farther afield that has two advantages: one – being about a 30-40 minute drive from Svolvaer, they don’t get all the tourists, and two – at this location the islands are a bit “fatter”. While this doesn’t change the character of the snow that much – this little bit of the islands is less windy, can often be colder, and can offer snow when other spots fail. (of course – depending on the situation at hand, it can be a low-snow area as well.)

Seth keeps tabs on this spot for just these reasons. Sometimes – if other spots are not going – he can still find a bit of the goods here. In fact – several years ago, he chose the spot as the site of the Scandinavian Freeriding Championships. There was good snow – and the area’s promise was cemented in his mind.

If you follow the road out of the islands for about 40 minutes, you’ll see a small parking area off to the left of the road. We were lucky – it had been plowed, but this is apparently pretty common. We parked and skinned up before even leaving the parking area.

this is what he looked like - just fatter
this is what he looked like – just fatter

There are a couple of spots you can reach from this parking spot – but the one we chose was on the opposite side of the road, so we walked across and skinned alongside the road for about 400 meters or so before turning up an obvious drainage and into the woods.

We were treated to the sight of an arctic hare making a run for it as we approached. It looked a lot bigger than I had imagined, certainly at least twice the size of the rabbits back home in Munich – but perhaps most of that was fluffy fur for those cold arctic winds.

We continued up the drainage, and like always in the Lofotens, the trees soon gave way and we were in the alpine – although we were only about 80 meters or so off sea level. We followed a meandering route to a bench below a peak – itself just a bit higher than another prominence off to the climber’s left. All of the area looked skiable, but over to the left under the other peak, the lines looked a bit steeper and the runout was not as forgiving.

We spaced out for the last ascent up the steeper face of the final pitch to the top, going to the left around an outcropping of rock. The “peak” was a really a long, sloping relatively flat plateau , but we stopped at the edge we climbed up on because there was no good skiing to be had by continuing the few meters higher and 100 meters further.

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panorama from the top
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how many times a season does Seth have to do this?
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pano from the other side
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obligatory fjord shot

We took the time to look all around. Quite a view from here. You’re closer to the mainland here, so you can see the mountains there in a little more detail than other places, and because the islands are a bit thicker here – the view is more alpine than the other spots we had been. (as opposed to maritime – remember – all things are relative)

What followed were some of the best turns of the trip to that point. We snaked down, this time around the other side of the rock we had avoided on the way up – making for nice, steep untracked. The powder was light and dry, and everybody was throwing plumes of it in the air. Regrouping on the bench from the way up – we group skied down, taking the opportunity to air off of a couple of drops and enjoying the rolling terrain.

the last pitch before the woods were straightlined, especially by our snowboarders, as the snow was heavier down here and we also had a little flat to cover through the woods back towards the car. No amount of coaxing helped though – all the snowboarders had to get a leg out to make the last meters to the road.

The way home was great – and along the way, Seth hatched a plan to get one of the rib-boats and take it out for a spin! The reason was two-fold: One, we had decided that, if the boat was in order, we’d like to take it the next day for a boat-only-access tour to the Trollfjorden (!) and two: the weather was great and a beer in Henningsvar sounded good!

We got the boat! We all put on the rescue suits which are mandatory here – which was fun. They are big and bulky but if you happen to fall out of the boat – they’ll keep you alive for about 10 minutes and floating on top. Even with ski jackets and hats – the ride to Henningsvar was cold and windy.

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taking the rib boat out – this is the lodge as the people it was built for would have seen it

The view of the islands from the water is a MUST however. You really get a feeling for what this place is, only when you see it from the sea. Passing by each little town you notice more than ever they are not randomly placed – but rather that every one of them is intimately connected with the sea – and that the true face of every one of them is not the road leading in – but the harbor connected to the world.

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seen from the water, the mountains become even more impressive
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selfie on da boat

Henningsvar is the best example of this. It is a town built entirely on small rocks jutting out of the sea. Most of them would not be big enough to put a gas station on – but they have been covered with buildings on stilts – and these in turn have connected to each other with bridges. There are no roads to speak of – and the town surrounds a small protected area between all the rocks that is something like an aquatic town square – where all the boats are. It is a town built only on the waves.

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pano around the main “lagoon harbor” in Henningsvaer
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another shot – all those houses are partly on rocks, partly on stilts in the water

This place must be jammed in the summertime. There can surely be no place else like it on earth. Hotels abound – and at one of the nicer ones I bought a round. 8 people – about 90 Euros! At that price – we enjoyed the sunset and then piled back into the boat past hot-tubbing Norwegians – and sped back to the lodge for dinner.

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this is how Stephan thinks 10 Euro beer tastes

An early night again – as we were excited about the next day – Trollfjorden! The biggest fjord in the islands – accessible only by boat with a hidden entrance and wild. Only having been skied by few – and only a couple in this season. More to come!


Lofoten Huts Look Like the IKEA Catalog – Only Cleaner

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This is the place – this hut is gorgeous – so gorgeous that we forgot to take photos of it.

So we took off under cloudy skies and parked over near the little ski hill in Svolvaer. Its not a big place – tiny by any standard, but it deserves mention perhaps because it is what ski hills should be – cheap and run for the love of it. The whole thing is a non profit, run by the local parents of the kids in town – mostly so their kids will have a place to ski, race and generally get good at skiing – since the expectation is that when they have got the skills to really ski – they’ll head into the hills on their own as we do.

I like the idea of that: a ski hill acting as a feeder for a thriving ski-touring scene. Unfortunately – for the largest part of the skiing world, it’s the other way around. Although I am encouraged by the new interest in human-powered skiing – so much of it is all about beef and macho that I wonder how long it will be before lifts start getting built in the name of “access” and the only use for a set of DIN 16 Super-Bad Bindings with DeathGrip Boots and a stumble function is so you can skin from your runout back to the bar. To me that’s just a ski resort by another name – not that I mind ski resorts, but we’ve got enough of them.

So up we went, and despite some cloud, we managed to stay mostly out of the snow and rain- with occasional sun.

Toby wants to wait for the lift – we didn’t tell him it was closed except on weekends and school holidays
Toby wants to wait for the lift – we didn’t tell him it was closed except on weekends and school holidays

Up and around – with nice snow. The night before had given some fresh, so we made nice tracks all the way.

We kept going for more
We kept going for more

The air was quite cold though – so none of us was all that unhappy for a little lunch break out of the cold in a brand new hut of the Norwegian Trekking System (DNT). These things are all over Norway – and they are some of the nicest I have ever seen. Part of this is due to the lower traffic they see than many Alpine huts – but its also true that they are much newer, and that the Norwegians – being cancerously polite and ordered, take much better care of them than your typical French Weekend climbing / beerdrinking party.

This one was a beaut. It looked nicer than home!

We make this place look crumby
We make this place look crumby

We could have easily overnighted here. I wish we would have. As it was though, we had our lunch, warmed up, and tried to decide if we wanted to go back out or just take a nap in the sun on the couch.

In the end, most of us went – except Sabine – my wife of extraordinary beauty and intelligence. She stayed behind while the rest of us took a couple more laps. These were good – but I think a cuddle with the missus would have been good too.

Since I’ve given away the secret of these great huts – please keep in mind that they are not free. There is a small cost associated with them and you are on your honor to pay it. Please do – the fee finances the hut. You can find out more about the kinds of huts there are and how it all works by googling DNT.

Even our guide was having a bit of fun – and when I did a pro call-out on a guide running another group through – she filmed it. Smiles were everywhere.

Erin Smart - a good one, based out of Chamonix
Erin Smart – a good one, based out of Chamonix
Another lap
Another lap

Eventually – it was time to get gone though – so we looped around the hut and picked up this lady….

Sabine Maschina - oh so meana
Sabine Maschina – oh so meana

and continued on. There was a small climb, and then a small traverse with some flats to get us back to the top of the ski resort. Flats plus snowboarders – you guessed it:

Slowboarders - STILL TRANSITIONING! Its ok - we like them anyway
Slowboarders – STILL TRANSITIONING! Its ok – we like them anyway

And that was that!

When we got home – there was some of this:

Whale Meat
Whale Meat

Which was grilled – and tasted….well…..like kind of dry beef. Some claimed a slight fishy aftertaste – but I didn’t. We got the whole story from the owner of the lodge – it was a point with him.

It seems that the Norwegians allow limited whaling – and only of pilot whales. Accourding to him – these smaller whales have recovered, and while they can’t be fished in large numbers – the amount allowed by Norway is ok. Even that, he says, is not reached – and less than half the allowed amount is even taken.

I decided not to discuss it – also because I didn’t have any reason to disbelieve him. All in all though – even though it was ok – I’m not hankering for a whale steak in the future. You’re not missing a bunch – I can assure you.

A few beers – a few jokes – round disapproval of Tyler’s remarkably stinky socks – and off to bed.

Lofotens – First day out touring

Heading up the local hill
Heading up the local hill

We were stoked to be getting out for our first day of touring together as a group in the Lofotens – and the weather did us a favor as well. We’d come in quite nervous as the snowpack in the islands had been pretty miserable all winter.  Just like most of the rest of Europe (excepting South Tyrol) – but our optimism had paid off, with two storm cycles moving through right before we arrived. Since snow only grows from the ground up in 5 star Swiss ski resorts – we were ready for the weather to be grey with intermittent periods of shitty. The sun on our faces only improved our already good moods.

Tyler's in a good mood
Tyler’s in a good mood

Stitend – who knows how its really spelled – is a nice hill just behind Svolvaer. Its the local’s hill, so its not uncommon to meet others there, but the place is big enough to let everybody have some space. There is a small parking spot by the start of the local cross-country trail (which is lighted – Scandinavia has got its shit together.) and you follow that for the first bit until you come to an obvious ridge running down from the summit. Up that you go, but there are already no trees – you’re above the arctic circle here – just stunted growth and some bushes. There is almost always a well-worn skintrack in. You’ll land on a bench after a little while – which is a good stop for a drink and then from here on in you can see your route to the top.

this is the stuff you'll be seeing
this is the stuff you’ll be seeing

Water in pretty much all directions – with the scent of the ocean at even the highest elevations. Keep an eye out for sea-eagles. They are by no means rare – but the sight of them is impressive nonetheless. This is the last, best place in Europe to see lots of them.

Sabine and I could tell on the way up that there was a lot less snow on the ground compared to our last trip – but things were stable anyway and there was enough. Even a bit of fluff, which is what we do this for anyway, right?

Toby - breaking shit
Toby – breaking shit

So this is Tobi – and this is how I usually see him. He’s forever out there breaking trail and carrying 40 kilos of gear and crap like that. He’s big and built like a brick shithouse and he skis like he means it. For years I’ve been giving him crap because he uses the heaviest touring gear I’ve ever seen – so just before this trip he pulls the trigger and buys a gazillion Euros worth of gear.

A pair of boots, two pairs of skis, two bindings – you get the idea. Why? because Tobi is a skier – and like all skiers, he loves gear. He also has poor impulse control. In any case – I was wondering how all this new stuff was gonna work out with big, meaty Tobi and his iron-fisted ski technique. Tobi has a history of poorly fitting boots and busted gear – so the new stuff was….umm…concerning.

On the way up: some strange clicking and mushy boots. Tobi had already loosend up the locking mechanism on  his Scarpas – and he hadn’t even locked them down!

Later: clicking at the toe-piece of his new Fritschi Vipecs. These are the ones:

new bindings - seldom a good idea
new bindings – seldom a good idea

I gotta admit that they are really slick, but there is an adjustable pin on one side of the toe-piece. Its meant to allow for adjustment to different boots out there -but the word on the street is that very few boots actually need it, and the adjustable screw tends to go loose on the new bindings.

You can fix all of this by adjusting and locking it up with green loctite – which you can’t even get everywhere – and then, of course, checking it in five-minute intervals, etc – but what a pain. I expect this “feature” will disappear off next year’s versions.

I fixed things up by screwing the thing in tight until the boot would not release, and then backing off of it little by little -checking each time to see if I could get the boot to release laterally. I took the boot out and pushed it sideways and let it pop back into place. Problem solved. Until it wasn’t again – and I did it all over. Wasn’t that bad once I had it figured out – but who wants to be doing that? Does anybody test these things anymore?

On a side note: what book was that, that said you should always release beta products and let the public work the bugs out?

a place to get rad
a place to get rad

So we get to the top – and meet up with Norwegians, Americans, some Frenchmen and some Swiss (who oddly refused to speak German to us – Swiss are snobs, anyway….) and then got ready for a trip down.

It was filled with creamy goodness all the way out. Here are some pics from a previous trip….one is a shot you will see in every article about the Lofotens, ever. Always.

sabine stitend



You can, of course, make it better.

One thing to note: on the way out – your path takes you down to the edge of a little lake – back to that cross-country path, and right next to the town’s shooting range.

Norway is kind of like Europe’s Texas in that everyone here has guns and goes hunting. Since they live in the middle of a wilderness – I suppose this is OK, and unlike Texas, when they want to practice their shooting, they don’t target the neighbors – they go to the range.

The problem with this is that the slope we toured on is the backstop for the range. The place all the bullets fly into. If you come out on the wrong day – you could be in serious danger of getting a bullet in your bubblegoose. So check! There is a sign at the parking spot, and it makes sense to ask some locals before going. If you do hear shots or strange noises on the rocks, duck and cover, or put big Tobi in front of you.

When we got back, we had some beer at the bar until we realized it was ten Euros a bottle. An impressive shopping tour followed with lots of this:

most northerly brewed beer in the world. Made with polar bears.
most northerly brewed beer in the world. Made with polar bears.

A meal at the lodge that was big and good was followed by a little conversation and ski-binding maintenance. Then – sleep. On to day two,

A trip to the Lofotens – Again

Kalle i Lofoten, near Kabelvag Norway


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.

solvaer town


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 looks like a Viagra ad. It is not.
this looks like a Viagra ad. It is not.
scenery in the Lofotens
scenery in the Lofotens

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.

Most of the group - with our guide - without Tyler. Sorry buddy, somebody had to take the picture!
Most of the group – with our guide – without Tyler. Sorry buddy, somebody had to take the picture!

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.

know your limits - everybody stock up. Do not become distracted by the offers for various forms of fish dubiously preserved for your pleasure.
know your limits – everybody stock up. Do not become distracted by the offers for various forms of fish dubiously preserved for your pleasure.

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:

blurry - but you get the idea
blurry – but you get the idea

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.

Kalle i Kabelvag
Kalle i Kabelvag

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?