Antte Lauhamaa: Discovering Norway’s Hidden Ski ParadiseWednesday, December 28, 2016
Words : Antte Lauhamaa
Senja is the second biggest island in Norway and situated between Lyngen and Lofoten on the northern Norwegian coastline. But while Lyngen and Lofoten are often regarded as prime ski destinations of northern Norway, Senja has remained still somewhat unknown from a skier’s perspective.
I’ve been skiing in the Lyngen Alps since 1998, but had never been to Senja before. I had heard about it some time ago when people were talking about the great climbing you can find there. The mountains aren’t as high as in Lyngen or in Lofoten but when I saw a picture of Luttind (759 meters) and the couloir that cuts the southeast face in half, I thought that we should definitely go and see how it is.
It was dark when we pulled our van into the parking lot leading down to the village of Bergsbotn. Early in the morning, when the sun started to rise, we woke up and saw the objective that we had seen in the picture—Luttind was standing four kilometers north from our position. The couloir looked beautiful—wide, straight and splitting the mountain like it was created for skiing.
We checked the weather forecast, which promised some clouds coming in from the west and decided to postpone our main goal for a day or two, as the weather was about to clear up in the next few days. We drove into the village of Senjahopen and tried to find some maps for the area but didn’t find any. We learned quickly that the ski touring scene wasn’t as big here as it is in Lyngen or Lofoten.
After lunch we headed to Latraeva, a mountain right next to the road that we passed by while driving to Senjahopen. According to our research, there was supposed to be a couloir that would lead us to a col at 550 meters above sea level. It turned out to be an exiting narrow path that got pretty steep at the end of it. The snow had taken a beating from the previous storm and we had to take the last part up quite carefully. We cut a large piece of cornice from the top and as it tumbled down without releasing a slide, we were good to go. Standing on top of the couloir, you could literally see the Arctic Ocean below. The descent was enjoyable steep couloir skiing in the middle of huge granite walls.
We woke up with sunshine the next morning and after breakfast we drove to Bergsbotn from where we started our hike up to the Luttinden. The weather was still and perfect when we were hiking in the valley, but the wind got stronger when we got higher. The snow was somewhat hard, making the boot pack easy and when we got on top of the col the wind was blowing so hard that we had to hold on to our belongings. The couloir itself was exactly what we thought it would be—a highway for heavenly skiing.
The weather is unpredictable on the Norwegian coast and we saw from the forecast that the next storm pattern was on its way. We parked our car for the night in the village of Husöya and started to plan our next day’s objective at Keipen (983 meter). In the evening someone knocked on our car door and we immediately thought that it must be someone who wants us to drive away. As I opened the door there was a fisherman standing there asking if we were hungry and offered us a basket of fried cod tongues with aioli. Even knowing that the locals are friendly this was one of the friendliest surprises I’ve ever had on skiing trips.
The next morning turned out to be good weather and we rushed to get up to Keipen before the weather changed. Keipen is said to be Senja’s most popular peak for ski touring. The tour starts at 300 meters above sea level from the side of the road and after a 600-meter hike, you’ll end up on the top that stops right next to a 300-meter vertical rock face. The view from the top was amazing and we could see the Arctic Ocean disappearing into the horizon.
We skied down on rolling terrain with plenty of different features and ended in a sparse birch forest a few hundred meters before the road. The snow had stayed good on this aspect of the mountain and we enjoyed powder turns almost all the way down.
As we drove back home we knew we had found some more magic on the Norwegian coastline. Senja is destined to be another classic area for backcountry skiing in the near future.