The magical archipelago of the Lofoten islands extends for 150 km and located at 68° north on the west coast of Norway. Despite being in the Arctic Circle the islands benefit from an anomaly, the presence of the warm Gulf Stream, and its extension, the North Atlantic Drift, which keeps the Arctic cold at bay and keeps temperatures more akin to those found in Scotland 10° further south. The mountains are alpine like, rising straight from the sea giving a rugged coastline interspaced with deep sheltered fiords and sandy beaches with clear turquoise waters.
For centuries fishing has been the main source of food and it remains the main industry. The north east Arctic cod makes a migratory journey from the Barents sea to spawn in the Lofoten waters and fishing this cod run has become a traditional event that provides stability to the local economy. The cod is preserved by hanging it our to dry on huge racks which are visible at every port. Like any commodity in the far north, nothing is wasted and the heads are dried then ground up to make fish stock which is exported to Africa. The Norwegians adhere to tight fishing quotas to manage the stocks in a sustainable manor, and you may be surprised to learn that the highest quality red meat you are eating is actually Minke Whale.
Here its common to see 40 foot trucks with spiked tyres thundering along the impressive road network which connects the islands by tunnels under the fiords or bridges over them. That road network means that almost any skiing zone can be accessed in a day hit, and it doesn’t require an early start. Lofoten must be one of the few places where the mountains look bigger than they actually are and it was a welcome break to find us gaining the tops in 2-3 hours rather than full day slogs and this added to the relaxed unrushed feel!
As with any west coast there is no shortage of precip and the average is around 130 mm / month for the months of January, February and March. That roughly equates to 1.3 m of snowfall per month! We headed up there in mid March to benefit from colder snow and dark nights in which to view the Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis.
There are many options for accommodation and we elected to stay at the beautiful Lofoten Ski Lodge that is run by the charming couple of Maren Eek Bistrup and IFMGA mountain guide Seth Hobby. They provide a fantastic homely relaxed atmosphere that allows you to completely unwind and adjust to the natural rhythm of the days in the far north. The lodge is located on the edge of an idyllic bay surrounded by snowcapped mountains and everyone stays in their own cosy log cabin on the shore. Waking up involves drawing the parting the curtains and being greeted with beautiful views over the bay that included in our case, Bob the heron on his morning fishing trip.
We start the day with a hearty breakfast to fuel us for the a good day’s ski touring. From the table we would be awestruck by the sunrises over the ocean and the ‘magic mountains’ on the mainland beyond which called out to us with the promise of adventures. After breakfast Seth then gives you the beta on the best places to ski or sorts you out with a guide who knows where to go. Following a great days skiing we return to the lodge for afternoon tea and cakes, sauna, a dip in the fiord, apero, dinner and watching the Aurora Borealis.
While Lofoten is best visited in March or April (its very dark beforehand), Lyngen and Tamok are great through April into May and both have fabulous lodges to stay at and a network of roads that allow easy quick access to the mountains.
Guiding ratio 1:1 for ski mountaineering, 1:4 for freeride touring, 1:6 max for general touring
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