Once again i packed my bags and bid farewell to my home mountains in canada to reunite with my fellow bmt teammates, nadine wallner and stian hagen. I was thrilled to be returning to Stian’s home country of Norway which had become one of my favourite ski destinations in the world after our previous trip together to the coastal haven of the
Lofoten Islands. This time around we pursued a new type of adventure; we would board a train in the nation’s capital of Oslo and head west on the rails through the mountains and over the snowy plateau to finish our journey in the historic fishing town of Bergen. All aboard!
As we have learned in previous trips, having local knowledge is a huge benefit when venturing into new territory and we were very fortunate that Stian had made connections with an old friend who operated a beautifully aged hotel in Vatnahalsen, (the first stop after Myrdal on the legendary Flåm Railway). After several hours of riding the tracks from Oslo West through the stunning countryside and up in to the mountains we stopped to transfer trains. During our brief layover our gang met a lively group of international sci fi enthusiasts who were en route to the Hardangerjøkulen Glacier, also known as Hoth, as seen in The Empire Strikes Back instalment of the legendary Star Wars trilogy. By the time we arrived at our destination 820 metres above sea level, the views had changed from grassy countryside to blank white glaciers to the dramatic cliﬀside station we would call home for the next week. The Vatnahalsen Hotel is very unique in that it can only be accessed by foot, train or bicycle; there are no roads in or out. The character of the classic buildings in the area and its remoteness made me feel like I had travelled back in time.
Unfortunately we had missed the last storm by a couple of days and the temps had dropped below zero so what was left of the soft snow we were looking forward to sampling had frozen. On the bright side, day one presented us with beautiful sunshine and were able to get acquainted with with our surroundings while touring up the long valley right from our hotel. It’s always a bonus to get clean visuals on an area at the beginning of a ski touring trip so you can plan out your objectives for the rest of the stay. With a variety of ramps, chutes, faces and bowls there was a ton of fun terrain to explore, not to mention breathtaking vistas in every direction. Our après ski program consisted of a healthy dose of waﬄes and brown cheese which was only a warmup to the amazing spread of food that the kind staﬀ would refuel us on each evening.
Over the next few days the weather stayed cold so we played the hand we were dealt and spent our time kicking steps into downright firm slopes before topping out and changing over to downhill mode. Realizing the reality of our short weather window was less than ideal from a traditional powder hound’s perspective we adopted a fun times attitude and had no choice but to do our best to ski safely and cherish being in an interesting setting. Each of us nailed a handful of steep fall line runs that left the teeth chattering and hands trembling but that’s just the way it goes sometimes…
Despite never getting a reset in the snow department our crew was able to stay positive and make the most out of our time in such an amazing setting. Ski touring is more than a means to an end, it’s a way to enjoy nature, get exercise and spend quality time with the people you’re with who share the same passion for the outdoors and life in general. We hiked, we skinned and we laughed. We toured through some eclectic old houses and through a tunnel with the morning sun and later we watched it set from the summit over the hotel. It’s simple moments like these that I know I’ll recall in years to come.
Once again I was captivated by Norway’s beauty and the experience of travelling by train is a fantastic way to sit back, relax and take it all in. We ended our trip in Bergen where we took a tour of the old village, visited the massive fish market and watched crews working on their massive sail boats in the bay. Norway remains high on the list of favourite places I’ve visited and I look forward to returning for more adventures (and waﬄes with brown cheese) in the future!
Words and Photos: Austin Ross