Known as the birthplace of skiing, Norway has probably been the subject of most backcountry skiers’ dreams. It has always been on my radar after watching the Norwegians dominate the Olympic Cross Country Ski events over the years, not to mention the stories of endless daylight and sweet terrain.
There’s only one problem Norway creates for skiers…it just happens to be one of the most expensive places in the world to visit. Be warned my fellow skiers: Norway is the 5th richest country in world, as is visible in the sculpture-laden streets of all the towns we visited. Here are some examples of what things cost in Norway as opposed to Canada:
- Laguna Burger, no fries: $30 CAD. California patio with beach views not included.
- Corona beer: $25
- Gasoline, per/litre: $2.25
- Last minute car rental: $199 per day
Having a lifetime of practice in ski bohemia, I knew we could stretch a budget. But Norway’s prices and our lack of preparation before this trip made for quite an uphill battle. Luckily we don’t mind ‘earning’ our turns, and our Norwegian Ski-Bus-Skineering mission began.
We started in Oslo, but the classic fjord skiing was waaaaay up in the Lyngen Alps in the North. Following a quick Facebook check, I noticed that our friend Adam U. was in Norway and he diverted us to the much closer Jotunheimen zone and we hopped on the first bus out. This was all good in concept, but after we fell asleep the bus kept on driving right past our desired mountain pass in the night. Good thing camping is allowed anywhere in Norway, so we camped on the grass in Årdalstangen, a quaint little town that reminded me of Terrace, BC.
In Ski-Bus-Skineering if you don’t plan efficiently you can lose use huge amounts of time, forcing you to spend down time at bus stations (which tend harbour some sketchy characters). Eventually, we did reach snow.
Once on snow and skinning uphill it felt good to be in our natural environment. The variable weather felt like a familiar mellow BC coastal ski tour. Of course in any new area it’s always good to respect the weather — I was feeling confident we’d get up to the peak when BOOM — whiteout, and the classic “stay-or-go” debate began. Fortunately it did clear after 5 minutes and we tagged Turboka peak.
24 hours to left to burn meant GO: Oslo to Lom by bus, hitchhiking with a German plumber to Spiterstulen, set up camp. At 7:30pm, climb…then turn around 500 feet from the summit thanks to another whiteout.
“I like to push myself to the maximum in the mountains to see what I can do physically to my abilities. My parents got me into skiing and the mountains at a young age. I progressed to ski racing, to front country, then I started finding powder stashes I had to keep going further and further to see what was around the next corner.
In addition to having worked eight years as a ski patroller, I have been racing in the pro/elite category for several seasons as a mountain biker. Racing enables me to go further and faster in the mountains in pursuit of steep skiing and speed traverses. Other activities I like: free ride mountain biking, road riding, bouldering, rock climbing, mountaineering, ice hockey, tennis, trailrunning . I like to go see live bands in small venues. I’ve been following the Vancouver Canucks for many years in their quest for the Stanley Cup.”
Andy Traslin, bicycle, Bike, cross country skiing, Denmark, earn your turns, Mike Traslin, mountaineering, norway, Oslo, Osprey athlete, ski tour, skiing, skinning, Traslin Brothers
Fresh off the plane and on our way through customs, we stopped and stared at a poster of Mt Fuji. We were still wearing the Variant 37 ski mountaineering packs we’d crammed into the overhead compartments to avoid extra baggage fees. The stewardess first thought we were participants in “The Amazing Race,” but now with Mt Fuji in front of us, the method to our madness was being revealed. Nevertheless, her comments boosted my motivation for what lay ahead.
The bus system in the area is efficient when you know what to ask for. We hopped on the bus to Shinjinku en route to Fuji, where we hit a logistics roadblock when we were told ‘no bus to Fuji or climbing’. After scrambling around Shinjinku for alternatives, my brother asked the same people the same questions and sure enough – there was a bus to Fuji that evening. Oh, traveling and language barriers.When got where we needed to be, found a hostel, and lined up a 10am departure for Fuji… just to add to the challenge.
Mt Fuji is known as the most visited mountain in the world, with some 300,000 climbers and hikers each year. We met plenty along the way. The Germans were skeptical about our summit bid, and I wasn’t giving us very good odds either with a late start and clouds hovering on the mountain.
The backpackers blasted off the bus with their running shoes and cotton t-shirts, while we stood with our gear perfectly prepped for departure at the back door. The jammed back door. Waiting for each and every hiker to unload through the front. Not your usual start to a mountain wilderness experience.
We got on the move, and traversed to a sign that detailed a complete ’14 step how-to guide to the summit’. Good to see we were on the right side of the mountain and off to a good start.
Once we hit snowline it was go time and we could safely abandon the signed route and do things the old-fashioned way. Up, up and away, past the T-shirt and running shoe crews.
As I was cresting the crater, a couple of Japanese climbers looked at me from above. No crampons, eh! A couple sporty front point ice moves with no gloves did the trick.
But the true summit was the highest point of the crest, not where we were standing. After some debate with the Japanese about traveling by rock or snow, we of course chose snow. We’re from the Coast after all, and snow travel is always faster. So we wished luck to the rock walkers and sprint skinned to the summit to avoid the impending whiteout.
We’d bagged the summit, but the Amazing Race was far from over. We had a plane to catch. We dropped off the summit and skied epic corn on the 40 degree SE Face, one eye on the snow, one eye on the watch.
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Story: Andy Traslin
Osprey Athlete Jasmin Caton owns and operates Valhalla Mountain Touring along with her husband, fellow Osprey Athlete Evan Stevens. Jasmin grew up in Hills B.C. and has been hooked on skiing ever since. She devotes most of her time to her passion for outdoor recreation, primarily rock climbing, alpine climbing and backcountry skiing. Some of her most memorable outdoor adventures are guiding her parents up Bugaboo Spire, hiking the Valhalla Range in 3 days with her sister, and topping out on War and Poetry, a 30 pitch route in Greenland in a raging storm. Jasmin is an ACMG assistant rock guide and works for Squamish Rock Guides during the summer.
As a ski guide and ski touring lodge owner, winter always passes in a blur. A day of sitting on my butt in front of the computer is the exception not the rule, and time seems to slow during these days as I get caught up on my inside jobs. I revel in this time — I can almost hear my leg muscles say “ahhhhhhhh” as they sink into the couch and my normally ski-boot clad feet say “thank goodness” as my toes spread into the furry depths of my slippers. It’s nice to have a bit of time for hang-boarding, yoga, and feels great to achieve that feeling of caught-upness that comes when I tackle my to-do list.
But as I look outside, at the winter sun reflecting off the snow I know that I won’t make it a whole day. Afterall, my dog needs his walk so I’ll use him as an excuse and get out for a run or two. Hopefully I’ll finish this little post first! (more…)
Baron Bowl, Bhumi Mountain Camp, Jasmin Caton, Osprey Athletes, Porch beers, Retallack, Sentry Lodge, Shannon Lake, shred, ski clinic, ski touring, skinning, skis, snoqualmie, squamish, Valhalla Mountain Touring, Vertfest Alpental, VMT, winter, Winter 2014, Winter bliss, Zoya Lynch
Ben White grew up in Massachusetts and spent his free time adventuring in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, where he fell in love with backcountry skiing and mountain biking. After moving to Salt Lake City, he has taken up both rock and ice climbing in addition to attending the University of Utah to study geology.
The weather looked good, the avalanche conditions looked good, the snow looked good — all in all it was a recipe for a good day in the mountains, so we decided that skiing Superior was going to be a great call. There were a few sets of tracks down Mt. Superior from the previous days, which was inspiring because we hadn’t been sure if there was enough snow to cover up all the rocks. The turns made in the days prior to our trip looked fluid enough to suggest that there was plenty of the white stuff.