I had an opportunity to ski in the Lofoten Islands of Norway last month and what a treat! The islands are above the arctic circle on the northwest coast of Norway and with help from the temperate waters of the Gulf stream, Lofoten has a milder climate than other places at similar latitude, such as Alaska. The peaks just jump right out of the exquisitely clear, turquiose blue water!
Bonus: For skiers coming from sea level, such as San Francisco, your ski days in Lofoten all start from sea level so there's no worry about acclimatizing to mountains. And, you still climb amazing peaks with stunning views and incredible skiing!
We enjoyed six days of guided ski touring throughout the islands. Half the days we were able to click in to our skies from the car, other days we had to do some hiking to get to the snow in the couloirs before skinning up to the higher and more open plateaus above.
Did I mention the views?? The top of each peak afforded a National Geographic cover-like view: ocean, fjords, white beaches, farms, rocky islands, and what looked like endless white peaks. What a delight. And the only way to enjoy all those snow-covered mountains is by human-power. Recreational snowmobiling and heli-skiing are prohibited in Norway and there are no ski resorts on the Lofoten Islands.
Spring skiing in Lofoten was pretty similar to spring skiing in Tahoe - we experienced all types of snow conditions. First day held corn snow on the south-facing aspect and chalky, north-facing snow on the way back to the car. No spring skiing is complete without breakable crust, right? We had that, too.
The last day of the trip was the most special! We took the boat to Trollfjord. The weather forecast was for clear skies. However, the peaks were creating their own weather system and we were dropped off at the back of the fjord in a localized snowstorm. Up we went into the whiteness. As luck would have it, by the time we reached our col, the clouds opened a bit, visibility improved greatly and we were all smiles as we descended the 3000' full of Norwegian, blowy POWDER! Can't wait to go back!
"Rorbu" cabins were seasonal housing for fishermen during the winter cod fishing season in the Lofoten Islands, Nordland. They are easy to spot as they are commonly painted red and are found along the rocky coastline, in clusters or on their own. They were basic 2-room cabins built on poles over the water and housed dozens of fishermen on bunks. Nowadays, these rorbu cabins have been refurbished into cozy and comfortable, and even luxury style, accommodations.
We stayed at the Svinoya Rorbuer in Svolvær, Nordland this past April and were very comfortable in one of their 2-story, 3-bedroom, 2-bathroom rorbusuites overlooking the Vestfjord. Pictures below.
There are many big hikes around Tahoe that offer amazing views of the lake, but what to do when you are mountain adventuring with young ones? It's important to get those little adventurers off on the right foot - loving being active in the mountains. I've got a couple of hikes that we started the kids on and they are both great for motivating little hikers!
Hike 1 - Stateline Lookout
This peak was once used as a fire lookout for the National Forest. As you can imagine, the view is spectacular with nearly a 360 degree view of Lake Tahoe and the basin.
Why this trail is great for younger hikers: The trail is an old Forest Service road which offers a smooth and wide path to the top. The pitch of the road is steep, but the trail is only 1/4 mile till you reach the top where you'll find a paved looped trail with interpretive signs about Tahoe plants, animals, and history. Along the trail there are benches to sit down and enjoy the view and to celebrate the accomplishment of a hike well-done by your little mountain adventurer.
For directions, follow this link to the US Forest Service website.
Hike 2 - Donner Camp Picnic Site and Interpretive Trail
North of Tahoe along Hwy 89 is a stop on the route of the infamous Donner Party of 1846-47. At the Donner Camp Picnic Site there is a 1/3 mile trail through Alder Creek Valley with interpretive signs displaying excerpts from Donner Party member's diaries and letters.
Why this trail is great for younger hikers: The trail is short and it's a loop which I think is great for kids as there is always new scenery and the mystery of what's "around the corner" to keep them going! The trail is well-worn and for a short trail, goes through a variety of habitats - creek and marshy area with boardwalks, open meadows, and pine forest. If kids get tired of walking through the meadow, it's not long before they've entered into the forest with new sights and sounds to engage their senses.
Tip: Make "binoculars" by taping together two cardboard rolls (toilet paper rolls) and adding a string neck strap. You might be surprised at what a kid's imagine will find when looking through their very own "binoculars" and it also helps keep them motivated to keep walking!
Directions can be found on the US Forest Service website.