email a friend iconprinter friendly iconAdventure Travel in Norway
Page [ 4 ] of 8

The entire 1,250-nautical-mile ferry journey from Bergen to Kirkenes, near the Russian border, long ago became a tourist attraction. Today the Hurtigruten line’s 11 coastal ships, of which the Trollfjord is one, constantly ply Norway’s jigsawed coastline, providing traditional whistle-stop service to 34 cities and hamlets. "The most beautiful voyage in the world," it’s been called—which helps explain the vacationing Swedish pensioners who are on board with us. (I’m surprised, and relieved, they haven’t yet sought out the sauna.)

In the off-season, however, the ferries are just as much Greyhound as cruise ship. The next morning before breakfast we’ll stop at an island where a dozen red crackerbox houses lie strewn across bright green hills like tossed dice. A few people waiting on the wharf will wave a "Velkommen!" to relatives stepping off. Then the Trollfjord will sound its bass note, and the man who’s been forking supplies out of the hold will climb from his lift to cast off the mooring ropes and set the big ship free, leaving the island alone again until the next ferry arrives.

After 20 minutes, the sauna gets too sultry for us, and we dash to the hot tubs on the deck outside. They’re smoking in the cool evening, and we sink to our noses in warm water, watching the stars wink into being. White mountains are starting to show in the north, and a dinner-plate moon chases the ship’s wake as if not wanting to be left out.

Stranda, the first place we can get off and ski, waits an hour’s drive outside Ålesund, counting wrong turns. The ski area has been described to me over the years as "the La Grave of the North Countries."

This seems ambitious. We kill the van’s engine at a gravel parking lot atop a mellow pass in the Sunnmøre Alps. The road bisects a meager-looking ski area—bald hills on either side with ancient surface lifts trailing up their faces. There’s a snack shack pouring bad Norwegian coffee. A few traditional turf-roofed hytter, or vacation cottages, are scattered about with pines sprouting from their eaves, like hobbit dens. Speakers at a lift house blare a Norwegian hair-metal song. None of this seems particularly auspicious. We pay a parking fee to a guy who’s sitting in a folding chair and collecting donations for a local sports club, clamber over a snowbank, and ride the T-bar into the warming day.

Then we begin to spin laps. "La Grave," the most spectacular off-piste terrain in the Alps, may be overstating it, but Stranda is a gem. Trail markers are little more than suggestions, and the untracked snow is as smooth as clotted cream in the shivering stands of arctic birch, even a few weeks into spring. In the lift lines (if you can call three people a line), there are none of the pretensions that can haunt big-business resorts in the Alps or Rockies. Stranda’s unassuming, let’s-just-ski vibe speaks legions about Norway’s long and complex relationship with the sport.

Page [ 4 ] of 8
Join the discussion

National Geographic Adventure is pleased to provide this opportunity for you to share your comments about this article. Thanks for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Recent Comments
  • No comments have been posted