In Fjord Norway, the draw is action sports. The moment I stepped off the small commuter flight from Oslo I understood why: the land. There are mountains to hike, ski, and bike. There are sheer rock faces to climb up or—Thor help you—jump off (southeast of Molde the 3,608-foot Troll Wall is a longtime, though now illegal, hot spot for BASE jumpers). And there are deep fjords to kayak, waterfalls to play in, and crystal clear waters to dive; Norwegian scuba diving is surprisingly good, if unsurprisingly chilly.
Before I arrived, I’d arranged to meet up with Didrick Ose in Molde. Ose, I was told, is the resident action sports impresario of Fjord Norway. Not only does he lead hiking, biking, paddling, and skiing trips all over the region, Ose knows most everyone in the area. He is also a true believer, a man who hardly lets a day go by without getting outside at least once. In the 30 miles between the airport, where Ose met me, and my bed for the night, we stopped to mountain bike once and kayak twice.
Our destination was Yelling Hill, a sprawling private house that occasionally takes guests. Built into a hillside, the grass-roofed structure is a case study in the Scandinavian aesthetic—an almost obsessively thought-out blend of cutting-edge design and traditional decor. The United Nations put Norway at the top of its Human Development Index for six years straight, calling its standard of living the highest in the world. That night, as we dined on a six-course meal crowned by fresh halibut and a fruit sorbet blended with wine, I thought that sounded about right.
Over the next few days Ose ran me through Fjord Norway. We paddled rolling North Atlantic swells to a private island off the coast. We biked the peaks above Molde, hiked fjords, noodled along rivers below the Troll Wall, and drove tiny ribbons of blacktop so precarious you had to wonder how they kept from slipping into the valley below. When Ose wasn’t in motion, he was bent over a map, pointing out all that we had to do on my next visit.
Within an hour of Molde, there are some 300 mountains ripe for skiing or climbing. Drive an hour more, depending on the ferries, and you’re in Ålesund and the Sunnmøre Alps, which contain some of Norway’s best backcountry, the BC-style mountain bike scene, and a couple of great adventure gear shops (indeed, my rental bike was as good as any you can buy). Even in Geirangerfjord, a UNESCO World Heritage site and perennial favorite of the cruising set, it’s not uncommon for ships to offer climbing walls.
Then, of course, there’s Hoddevika, where Ose’s friend Torkild Strandvik runs Stad Surfing. Yes, surfing. In Norway. At the end of a narrow valley filled with nothing but small farms, his slate-roofed house stands out: There’s a blue surfboard-shaped sign above the door and wetsuits on the fish-drying racks outside.