On The Road With Mikael Af Ekenstam
A story by Mikael af Ekenstam
I recently teamed up with fellow Arc’teryx athlete Tomas Bergemalm and friends Lars, Björn, Fia, Johanna and Per Åge to explore the mountains on and near the Lofoten islands in Northern Norway. The newly built highway Lofast, connecting Lofoten with the mainland, has opened up new possibilities in spectacular mountains. So we set out from the town of Narvik with open minds and a loosely-knit plan: skiing roadside mountains and sleeping in small traditional villages along the road.
First stop at Strandtinden: an almost 1.100-meter high eye-catcher rising directly out of the sea, with the highway clinging to its side. Locals normally ascend it from the west on skinny touring skis, but after skinning to the top we had a blast in one of the two obvious bowls on the steep east side, ending up by the car. The following night was spent at Sandtorgholmen, an old trading post dating back to the 16th century, trying its best to survive on tourism now that trade and transport has turned from sea to road.
More high-quality skiing filled the following days, with us eventually ending up on the actual Lofoten islands. The line of islands has been dubbed “a Chamonix on the sea”, with a dense cover of sharp peaks rising straight out of the water. In the coming years this unique beauty will be the battlefield for conflicting national interests: fishery and tourism versus the oil industry, which demands that this region’s oil and gas deposits be opened to exploitation.
We happened to visit Lofoten the same weekend as one of Norway’s increasingly popular backcountry skiing festivals. These festivals draw crowds by the hundreds, meaning that terrain that is untracked through most of the season looks like a popular off-piste run after one of these get-togethers. On this occasion we had no problem sharing the last run of the trip with other enthusiasts, down a steep couloir on the mountain Geitgaljartind.
Photos by Lars Thulin