Ranger Bucket List: Norway


Ranger Bucket List: Norway

One skier's journey to northern Norway provides the experience of a lifetime.

Text by Sven Brunso, photos by Liam Doran

As skiers, we are naturally drawn to creating a “bucket list” of ski destinations we must visit before checking into the Motel Deep Six. The Lofoten Islands of Norway were always on my list, and I was fortunate enough to check them off my ski bucket list back in 2019. While the box was technically checked, I felt we had only been served an appetizer, and I wanted to return for a five-course meal. Along with photographer Liam Doran, we found a way to get back during the spring of 2022 to resume the feast.

The plan was to spend a week ski touring around the mainland port town of Narvik, and then head to the Lofoten Islands for a week of island hopping and exploration. Northern Norway is rugged, isolated, and famous for unpredictable and often violently stormy weather. Getting here isn’t easy, but once you arrive you know you are in for the trip of a lifetime. This far north, the spring days are long and the Arctic light is surreal. If you aren’t opposed to earning your turns, I say welcome to Valhalla my friends.

After 38 hours of travel from Colorado, we arrived in Narvik, Norway, to fresh snow, cold temperatures, and clear skies. After 30 years of traveling the globe and skiing for photographers, I have learned that you never pass on good shooting conditions as there is no guarantee they will return. So when the conditions lined up right after we got to town, we fought through the jet lag, put skins on, and started climbing. Getting out on night one was the right call as the rest of the week was quite stormy, and we didn’t have another evening in Narvik during our stay where the light and snow aligned.

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That first night we skinned above the gondola of the local town ski hill called Narvikfjellet. From the summit is a massive bowl called Morkholla (Dark side) was bathed in the soft evening light and we shot until the sun dipped below the horizon well after 10 pm. Narvik is one of the world’s northernmost ice-free harbors and is the location where iron ore from Kiruna, Sweden, is brought by train to be loaded onto massive ships for transport around the world. It is commonplace to see multiple massive ships anchored in the harbor waiting their turn to pull in for the 24-hour plus fill-up of rich iron ore.

After Narvik, we climbed into the van and headed west to the Lofoten Islands and the Lofoten Ski Lodge, our base camp for the next week. A photographer I had previously worked with mentioned that there was some spectacular scenery above the village of Digermulen, on the Island of Hinnoya, and if the snow went to the ocean we could likely get some fantastic shots. Fortunately, a clearing storm left a healthy mantle of fresh snow from the summit to the sea.

After some time putting some sweat equity in on the skin track, we emerged from the forest to be blown away by the landscape that awaited. The view into the Troll Fjord in Arctic light is why we had come to northern Norway to shoot. While there is no way to capture the magnitude of a location in a photo, the image above provides a pretty solid sense of place and shows why it was so hard to keep my eyes on the next turn and not the scenery.

After a 12-hour day of climbing and skiing, the crew took some downtime to stop and soak up the scene in the idyllic village of Henningsvær. While this may be a picture-postcard setting, this isn’t a movie set but a working fishing port. The waters surrounding Henningsvær are full of world-famous for cod, including Skrei, the most coveted cod on earth. Each spring, the Skrei migrate from the Barents Sea and local fishermen bring their catch to be hung on wooden racks to cure in the cold, salty sea air, the same way they have been for more than a thousand years.

The life of a cod fisherman in Lofoten isn’t for the faint of heart, but nobody can say these hearty souls don’t have an office with a great view. After thirty plus years of traveling the world to ski, I have finally learned to slow down and smell the flowers, or in this case the fermenting Skrei!

While there are plenty of places to ski in Lofoten that don’t terminate at the water edge, the practice of skiing straight to the water was a recurring theme for our crew. Our Colorado-based group never took the ability to spy water from nearly every vantage point for granted.

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The photo above was taken on the approach to Stauren, a peak above Morfjorden (Mother Fjord). From this summit, we skied a steep snowfield of exceptionally variable snow for 1,000 vertical feet before nosing our way into a perfect sheltered couloir that delivered us to an apron of nearly endless powder turns to the cobalt blue water below. A mile-long skin along the sea delivered us back to the door of our chariot. Since it was only 5 pm, there was plenty of time to find another trailhead and lap another gem before dinner.

This photo came from the last run of the two-week epic journey in Norway. Without a day off from skiing in two weeks, the crew was ready for a low-key recovery day. After a leisurely breakfast at the Lofoten Ski Lodge, we climbed into the van and rambled through the island chain playing tourist, stopping to check the surf at Unstad, trying to find the Dragon’s Eye at Uttikleiv, and visiting the village of Reine, arguably the most photogenic spot in Lofoten.

On the way to Reine, we passed this vast hanging snowfield and made a mental note that if we had enough time and energy, we would ski it on the way back to close out our adventure. The day of travel was wearing on us and the motivation to don our ski gear was lukewarm until we rounded the highway bend and were looking up at a powdery amphitheater jutting from the Fjord below. Being skiers, the call to get in one more lap in Lofoten powder was simply too good to resist. An hour skin delivered us to a saddle where we soaked in our surroundings one last time. Even though we had been savoring these views for two weeks they were still breathtaking.

I tucked skins deep into my pack and clicked into my skis before I took one last look at the crew and nodded in appreciation, giving thanks for the spectacular harvest we had enjoyed over the fortnight. I pushed off and started my descent to the sea one last time. My heart was full, and I was reminded of how much joy the simple act of making one turn after another can bring.

Skiing anywhere brings tremendous pleasure, but skiing in Norway turns it up to 11!