One hundred ten miles north of the Arctic Circle, dawn crowbars past the room’s blinds before 4 a.m. There is no sleeping. We rise and find a groaning board of Norwegian cold cuts, herring, and brown cheese the color and shape of industrial soap. Outside a van rumbles to life, coughing exhaust among the towering racks of drying cod that line a small harbor. We pile into the vehicle, skis stowed beneath the seats, and drive into the morning chill, tracing the hem of a long fjord until the road ends. Clipping into bindings, we push away on the slushy path of the local Nordic ski club. When it ends, we move farther into the untracked mountains.
According to the guidebooks, the Lofoten Islands are a postcard—a 70-mile-long archipelago built from some of the oldest rock on Earth. On a clear day, they resemble the jawbone of a shark and bear the aggrieved purple color of an approaching squall. Today we have to imagine them: That awful grandeur is swaddled in low clouds. Salt-shaker snow sifts down as we push slowly up the 3,560-foot Geitgaljartinden, the islands’ second highest peak and their best ski descent.