This unique and magical destination 200 miles inside the Arctic Circle is the ultimate off-the-beaten-track skiing experience.
The dramatic coastal landscapes of the Lyngen Alps in northern Norway include many fjords, glaciers and snow-capped peaks that rise nearly 2,000 meters above sea level.
This Arctic playground provides unique peace and isolation surrounded by an amphitheatre of mountains against a backdrop of cobalt skies and ink-blue fjords.
There are no lifts, helicopters or snow cats to help you up the hill. Instead you ascend your "private" mountain by ski touring, which is like conventional cross-country skiing, only uphill with much huffing, puffing and muscle burn. Your heel isn't clipped into your rear binding, and "skins" are attached to the base of your skis to provide traction on steep slopes.
Touring may sound old-fashioned, but it buys you valuable space compared to crowded resorts, so no need to battle in lift queues during next Spring Break!
Every day we would snake up a challenging 1,500 meters of virgin powder to an unforgettable summit. Safety is always of paramount importance, and everyone carries an avalanche transceiver, shovel and probe for protection against the high avalanche risks, which are prevalent at this time of year.
On the four- to five-hour daily ascent, you find yourself hypnotized by the repetitive motion as you force your body up the hill surrounded by backdrops straight out of author Philip Pullman's "Golden Compass." The movie adaptation was, in fact, filmed not much farther north in Svalbard.
After a week, we'd conquered more than the equivalent height of Everest (29,029 feet) in an incredible physical and mental journey.
On the descent, you feel you deserve every turn and appreciate each carve through the endless virgin spring snow until you reach the snow-covered beaches at sea level. While the uphill slog is long, the downhill takes only 30 minutes at most, but as a ski touring convert, I have begun to understand that the ascent is a just-as-important, endorphin-packed satisfying experience.
The Arctic makes most people think of polar bears and icy cold days, but due to the Gulf Stream, the sea never freezes at Lyngen, and in April, it was glorious shirt-sleeved spring skiing. If you are a daredevil and in need of cooling down, consider taking an early bath and ski straight into the icy cold waters! And if you take advantage of skiing into June, I can only imagine how refreshing plunging into icy cold water at the end of a hot day's skiing would be.
We were staying at Lyngen Lodge, which is located an exhilarating speedboat ride away from snow-covered beaches, a far more preferable way to hit the pistes than a lengthy cable-car ride. Instead, stand on the deck, wind tugging at your hair, as the dramatic scenery flies by before being dropped off on a snowy beach where your upward climb begins.
Our timber-walled, grass-clad roofed accommodation wasn't the usual mountain refuge you might expect. Not only did it have electricity and running water, it had a hot tub, sauna, masseuses and haute-cuisine round the clock. Every evening a feast of local cuisine replenished the hundreds of calories burned during the day.