When buying plane tickets, I always try and make the most out my dollars- especially when I’m somewhere crazy like Iceland. So, after completing our expedition Shifting Ice and Changing Tides, I decided to hop on a plane to Oslo and make the most of my scandinavian adventure.
The Shifting Ice team in Nuuk, after spending 3 weeks on a boat sailing and skiing from Iceland to the SW coast of Greenland. Photo: KT Miller
Once in Oslo, I did what any normal person would do after almost a month of travelling and sailing at around 65 degrees north. I went to my hostel, took a shower, got in my caterpillar-like sleeping bag and caught up on all the new episodes of Game of Thrones that I had missed while travelling….I also called my mum.
Afterwards, I got to business. I had two main reasons for being in Norway.
#1 Compete in the first FWQ event of the season- the infamous Roldal Freeride Challenge
#2 Make party in the mountains with friends- especially Anne May who celebrated her birthday during my stay.
Let’s just say it was a successful two weeks.
However, the beginning of my norwegian adventures were somewhat more flimsy than the ending. After arriving in Oslo, I was very graciously put up by a friend Kristin, who not only helped me get around and see town- but also introduced me to the idea of norwegian park barbecues. I finally understand why scandinavians sun-bake in the alps during spring slush sessions- when your summer is that short, it’s necessary to make the most of any sun you see.
While relaxing was fun, it finally dawned on me how unorganised the rest of my trip was. I had no transport and no plans for accommodation for the next week in Roldal. They were some nail-biting hours, where I tried to get creative with the concept of hitchhiking with a ski bag. However, the norwegian bus system saved me and there started my love affair with the norwegian bus ways.
Buses spend a lot of time on ferries in certain parts of Norway. Fjordlife was fun.
I had known about Roldal for many years before I finally managed to compete in it. It was what the Kirkwood FWT has been to the USA- one of the biggest on snow freeride parties of the year. The cool thing was that Roldal is a smaller resort, with big cliffs, drag lifts and a super laid back attitude.
Roldal Freeride Challenge- Day 1
The day 1 venue provided some fun but due to the lower snowpack, many of the take offs has been melted out. Luckily, we were able to hike up the face to the start, so it was possible to check at least a few transitions.
Hiking up the day 1 venue. Norway skiing = convex
We shouldn’t have worried, we ended up having over four hours standing on top to scope our lines. I did my fair share of dancing for most of the competitors.
Bird watching. I found this little couple while on an adventure away from the masses- I found out later that they were quite tasty but never had a chance to hunt them…….. We decided that an ice- axe would be the best weapon for the job- as a gun wouldn’t be appropriate in the ski resort.
The competition continued on as it had started- with blue skies, spring snow and a bunch of super rad people. Competitions are always a great place to make friends but sometimes when you’re travelling on your lonesome- it can be a little tough. I however was lucky enough to be adopted by a svensk familj and quickly their little cabin, also became mine.
Celebrating our hard work on the mountain at the Roldal camp grounds. Nothing beats 4% beer and potato chips. Best party crew that a ski bagger could dream of.
Photo: Sara Hultman
The prize giving wasn’t until later in the evening after day 2, which gave me ample amount of time to analyse my performance. I was frustrated, as after day 1 I had held a strong lead in first position. I had got too comfortable and skied a much too mellow line, much too mellowly. That’s how competition’s go sometimes and as angry as I was, it was nice to finish in a solid 2nd position, behind a lady who sent the crap out of the day 2 venue. Lesson learned- go bigger, faster and scare yourself a little. There Axel- I have written it down.
Jumping over things. You can watch the full line here:
And then it was over (not after a lot of dancing) and I was once again stranded somewhere in Norway. My lift up to Bergen had said that he wouldn’t be driving until 7pm as he needed time to sober up following the after party. It seems that he never sobered as I never heard from him again. Thankfully, the bus came to my rescue once more.
Two days later, after a brief visit to the lovely Alexander and Luis in Bergen and a 10 hour bus ride, I found myself in Aalesund for birthday week.
Aalesund is located on the west-coast of Norway, just where the fat bottom starts to taper into the skinny coastline. The town itself is on an island, which is surrounded by more islands, fjords and incredible mountains. I was lucky to have a local as a tour guide and she stopped at nothing (not even a heavy norwegian hangover) to make sure I saw the sights.
Anne May and Lucy the dog, shussing above Valldal
Lucy gets pretty excited about powder snow!
Warming up for skiing on the ferry
Exploring Sagafjord- if only the clouds would have lifted, the mountains behind are incredible
We had the best intentions to ski most days but unfortunately both the weather and birthday celebrations led more to driving around the fjords and rambles around the mountains other than any real skiing. I guess you can’t have everything.
Scoping lines at 4pm, dreamers will be dreamers
Sitting in a home-made fish-net hammock in the forest after an unsuccessful ski day- the hammock made up for it.
And then without even realising, my one and a half month sub-arctic adventure was coming to end. However, there was one thing left to do- celebrate Anne May’s 30th birthday in the place where she was nearly born.
On Friday morning, we woke up and pranced over for breakfast with Anne May’s family, which included demolishing a delicious norwegian baked thing, which is called a ‘kringler’ (I think)- or a birthday kringler in this case. Next we jumped in the car and raced up to Strandal, a ski cabin run by the Aalesund Ski Club who, on that day, were also celebrating something- 100 year since the completion of their residence on the mountain.
The Kringler..bum bum bummmmmm. I personally think it sounds more like a naughty monster that scares children rather than delicious cake…..
Birthday ski tour with the Slinning ladies in Strandal
Anne May dropping for birthday turns
Family bush whack back to the cabin
After our afternoon exploration we buckled down and got ready to celebrate skiing in the norwegian mountains. What followed was nothing and everything that I expected- champagne, delicious food, incredible speeches in norwegian (parts of which were translated for me) and talking the night away with a beautiful bunch of people.
Then we were ready for the main event- the annual Aalesund Ski Club Mountain Race (which is now is in it’s 72nd or 73rd year). The competition is a split of a traditional up and down randonee race, which is then followed by a crazy type of downhill, where gates are sporadically placed down the mountain, through the fresh snow.
Hiking up, cheering for the randonee races
Hunkering down at the start gate- it snowed almost 5 cms in 40 minutes
Anne May gearing up to win
Third place in the Aalesund Ski Club Cup, behind the two Slinning sistes- not bad for an ex-mogul skier
And then it was time to say goodbye. To awesome friends, an incredible journey and the ski bag life that I have come accustom to over the last six months. Thanks Norway, thanks friends, thanks awesome ski life. Now the trip home begins, via the USA to pick up my things and hopefully ski at least one line in the Teton National Park.
Looking down into the valley, just before one last ski down.