Saturday, 20 April 2024

Exploring Solitude: Discovering Europe's Most Secluded Ski Slopes

Exploring Solitude: Discovering Europe's Most Secluded Ski Slopes
Saturday, 27 January 2024 14:43

Skiing Serenity: Unveiling Europe's Most Secluded Slopes in Norway

As we embarked on a steady three-hour climb, a majestic sea eagle soared overhead, heralding our ascent to the peak of Maudekollen. The morning had kept the summit hidden beneath a lingering mist, preserving an unusual warmth beneath its ethereal veil. However, as we reached the last 164ft, the fog dissipated, revealing the breathtaking expanse of deep blue fjords that surrounded us. The sudden unveiling attracted a sea eagle, adding a touch of technicolor grandeur to the scene.

The warmth on that particular day was an unexpected companion during our 3,350ft skin up to the summit. Despite my lack of fitness, the gradual incline chosen by our mountain guide, Sol Idland, allowed me to make confident progress. Altitude fatigue wasn't a concern in Norway's ski touring, often commencing at sea level and featuring summits ranging from 1,970 to 4,600ft. The highest peak in the Sunnmøre Alps, Slogen, at 5,131ft, made uphill journeys less daunting compared to the higher altitudes of other alpine destinations.

Solli, our guide, acknowledged the warmth, embodying the friendly and relaxed atmosphere of Norwegian ski touring. In contrast to the bustling scenes of the Alps, Norway offers a quieter, laid-back approach to this increasingly popular winter activity, seamlessly complementing the nation's world-class scenery.

Our journey began by the water, applying skins at the dock, and ascending past vibrantly painted houses onto a forest track that unfolded into a lunar landscape. The tranquility was interrupted only by the gentle murmur of a stream winding its way through mountain birch. During our initial climb, a local skier, exuding the relaxed Norwegian spirit, paused to chat in the sunshine. "I’m going up to the lake by the dam to eat my lunch," he declared. "Then I’m not sure after that, just out for a nice day.

Exploring the secluded slopes of Norway offers not only a physical adventure but also a serene escape into a landscape characterized by its calm and awe-inspiring beauty. The nation's approach to ski touring reflects its commitment to harmony with nature, providing an unparalleled experience for those seeking solace in the midst of breathtaking surroundings.

Nestled within the Sunnmøre Alps, one of Norway's renowned ski touring destinations, our day unfolded in splendid isolation. With over 100 peaks, the vast terrain caters to skiers of all levels, including beginners. Dedicated ski touring trails provide a gateway for novices to venture off the beaten track without requiring avalanche training or expertise in off-piste skiing. Solli, our guide, highlighted the joy of introducing beginners to the mountains, allowing them to experience the thrill of mastering this captivating activity.

My journey commenced in Ålesund, an Art Nouveau port town at the entrance of Geirangerfjord, a UNESCO World Heritage Site on Norway's west coast. Joining a "Ski the Fjords" adventure with family-owned and -run company 62 Nord, the mission was clear – to offer luxury accommodations and unique outdoor experiences in this picturesque region. While Norway might not be synonymous with luxury lodgings in the Sunnmøre Alps, the sail-ski adventures are renowned. Unlike the more rustic experiences of sleeping on a sailboat, 62 Nord's program provides guests the opportunity to stay in their three luxurious hotels and travel by motorboat each morning to a new location—a perfect arrangement for those seeking a more comfortable introduction to ski touring.

Our overnight haven was the Storfjord Hotel, a mere 45-minute drive from Ålesund airport. Perched on the edge of an evergreen forest, the hotel offered bedrooms adorned in wood, stone, rough-hewn linens, and wool throws. Floor-to-ceiling windows framed views of the surrounding trees, creating an immersive connection with nature. The evening's culinary experience was equally enchanting, featuring locally caught crab, lobster, succulent venison, and a pre-dinner cocktail infused with Norwegian birch syrup, tonic water, gin, and lemon. A restful sleep ensued, soundless and serene, setting the stage for the next day's ski adventures in the Sunnmøre Alps.

Following a hearty breakfast, we found ourselves at the jetty, greeted by a sleek motorboat ready to transport us across the tranquil waters. Embracing the Norwegian philosophy of "friluftsliv," 62 Nord encourages guests to relish a simple life in nature without causing disturbance. The alpine terrain, boasting over 100 jagged peaks, becomes an idyllic playground accessible from the water. Quiet hamlets and solitary farms scattered along the fjords feature wooden pontoons extending into the still waters, serving as perfect landing spots.

Our journey unfolded along Hjørundfjorden, where towering 3,280ft cliffs framed the dark, clear waters. A detour led us to the roadless village of Trandal, home to approximately seven residents and renowned on social media for hosting the "most beautiful swing in the world." Reality exceeded Instagram's allure as we discovered the charm of a remote, rope-and-plank swing suspended from a tall pine.

The adventure continued to Maudekollen, where a sea eagle gracefully set the backdrop for our celebratory summit photograph after a three-hour ascent. The descent, though challenged by the unusual warmth of March, couldn't diminish the exhilaration of the day and the newfound embrace of "friluftsliv.

Back on board, reuniting with the group who had ventured on a beginner-friendly climb near the village of Leira, our skipper guided us to the historic Hotel Union Øye. Each boat trip, lasting around an hour, provided a journey through history and nature. The grand hotel, rich in heritage, underwent careful refurbishment and extension in 2022. The evening unfolded with a thoughtfully prepared menu featuring cocktails and locally foraged herbs, mushrooms, and fish, culminating a dream day by the fjords.

The following morning, seeking respite for my weary legs, I embraced the Nordic tradition of sauna, followed by a refreshing plunge into the fjord. The sun bathed the clear waters, with snow-draped docks adding a touch of magic to the serene setting. The perfect conclusion to an extraordinary adventure, a testament to the allure of Norway's secluded slopes and the harmony found in embracing the simple joys of nature.

Reflecting on my ski touring adventure in Norway always leaves me yearning for more, and this time, it sparked a contemplation – is this the epitome of ski touring? A harmonious blend that caters to varying skill levels, offering the luxury of comfort amidst some of the planet's most awe-inspiring terrain. Having delved into skiing's trendiest pursuits – hut-to-hut adventures, day touring from a resort, and now a sail-ski escapade – the amalgamation of luxury and exploration unequivocally earns my favor.

This transformative experience was made possible through 62 Nord, and their "Ski the Fjords" package stands as a testament to the seamless integration of adventure and opulence. Priced from 112,000 NOK (£8,312) per person, the package encompasses accommodation, meals, all on-the-ground transfers (both road and water), ski touring equipment, and expert guiding. The intimate group size, capped at eight people, ensures a personalized and immersive experience. Alcoholic drinks are the only exclusion, allowing guests to relish every moment of this unique journey.

For those venturing from the UK, flights to Ålesund via Oslo commence at 1,400 NOK (£105), making this extraordinary ski touring experience in the Norwegian fjords not only captivating but also accessible. Abigail's exploration with 62 Nord showcased the perfect synergy between luxury and adventure, leaving an indelible mark on the allure of ski touring in Norway.

In conclusion, Norway's enchanting ski touring experience with 62 Nord emerges as the epitome of adventure and luxury harmoniously intertwined. As I reflect on the varied forms of ski touring – from hut-to-hut adventures to day touring from resorts – the sail-ski escapade in the Norwegian fjords stands out as the definitive choice. The captivating blend of awe-inspiring terrain, personalized guiding, and the embrace of "friluftsliv" philosophy makes this escapade an unparalleled journey for skiers of all levels.

Abigail's exploration with 62 Nord revealed the seamless fusion of opulence and exploration, leaving an indelible mark on the allure of ski touring in Norway. The "Ski the Fjords" package, priced at 112,000 NOK (£8,312) per person, encompasses every facet of the journey, from accommodation to on-the-ground transfers and expert guiding. With a maximum group size of eight people, the experience is not only immersive but also intimately tailored to each participant.

For those contemplating this extraordinary adventure from the UK, flights to Ålesund via Oslo start at 1,400 NOK (£105), making the captivating allure of Norway's secluded slopes and pristine fjords both accessible and unforgettable. Leaving Norway invariably stirs a desire for more, and this expedition with 62 Nord stands as an invitation to embark on an unparalleled ski touring adventure, where the beauty of nature meets the luxury of comfort, creating memories that linger long after the snow has settled.


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