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.
I asked Chef Elisabeth Braathen about her favorite dishes and she said: "Serving the wild local reindeer and fish dishes directly from the Lyngen fjord as they are local produce from the region. It's part of the whole experience at Lyngen Lodge to taste the local Arctic way of life, all complemented with wines from around the world."
Manager Graham Austick discovered the unique location of Djupvik in Olderdalen by chance. One day six years ago, he lost his camera on the mountain on a day trip to the area, and luckily it was found by the head of property development in the community, who returned it to him and subsequently helped him buy the plot of land.
While relaxing in the hot tub with a glass of champagne, it was clear to see why he had fallen in love with the area as I marveled at the magical chocolate box views, which are illuminated round the clock. However, he told me that in December and January there is no sunrise at all, only a glowing pink light on the horizon, and for much of winter you can see the green strobe-like northern lights, which are eerily spectacular. This regular phenomenon appears when solar wind particles collide with air molecules in the Earth's atmosphere, transferring their energy into light and creating glowing dancing curtains of rich green light that illuminate the sky.
Graham explained to ABC News why he is so fond of the area, "It's the contrasting combination between dramatic mountains, deep fjords and Arctic wildlife, and also importantly, extremely friendly and helpful locals who without their help this project would have been virtually impossible to realize."
So, if you find double-black diamond runs too tedious and you consider adrenaline winter sport fads — cat- and heli-skiing — passé, save your dollars, ditch your lift pass, and dare to tour next season and discover breathtaking alpine solitude.