When the winter is fading away, and most skiing centers in Europe start packing up, a couple of destinations become the perfect refuge for backcountry skiers. In northeastern Norway, and a world away from the crowds, Finnmark is one of these places. Fred, IFMGA mountain guide, visits every year from mid-March to mid-May and receives week after week new groups of avid skiers, who, inevitably return home with plenty of stories, the biggest smile on their faces and a burning desire to return.
‘Without doubt, the best ski trip I’ve ever been on’, ‘by far the best guide that I have ever had’, ‘a dream for any backcountry skier’. We asked a couple of people who went this year on a 6-day ski tour in Finnmark with Fred, and praise like these started piling up. So why is this trip is so great? Just to name a few reasons: 1) the location, away from the crowds and in a breathtaking landscape; 2) the terrain, with endless possibilities for all levels of skiers; 3) the diversity of activities that can be combined with skiing; and 4) the passion with which Fred shares a place he loves.
In the northeastern extreme of Norway, Finnmark limits with Finland to the south, Russia to the east, and the Barents Sea to the north. Based in the town of Langfjordbotn, one and a half hour drive from Alta airport, Fred’s ski trip takes place in between fjords that allow you to ski right from the summit to the sea. Away from the more crowded Lyngen Alps, Finnmark is a region that is still very wild, where first descents are an everyday occurrence. As Maxime, skier from Belgium, said: ‘A journey at the end of the world’. And for Gaelle and Fabrizio, also from Belgium, the scenery was so moving that they even had to stop for a while in the middle of a ski run because they were overwhelmed by emotion: ‘It’s not only about the great couloirs and snow, but also the infinite blue sky, the breathtaking fjords, and the endless slopes’.
And there are plenty of possibilities to try different terrain every day, with options for all kinds of skiers. According to Fred, there is everything from low incline skiing to alpine summits. Charlotte, who went there last month with friends, highlighted: ‘The ski is of high quality. You have steep couloirs when going down some peaks, long powder slopes and skiing through the trees’. And Becky, from the UK, was also amazed: ‘Finnmark was a playground of uninterrupted backcountry skiing in truly unspoiled landscape, and Fred organized each day’s itinerary to best suit the snow and weather conditions, which ensured 6 full days of glorious sunshine and some of the best powder I have ever had the privilege to ski on!’
Fred is originally from France, but as many guides, he likes to move around looking for new adventures in remote places, to later share them with friends and clients. That’s how he discovered Finnmark, where he’s been organizing this ski trip since 2008. And during all these years he built a friendship with locals, which makes the trip very unique. He has their support for organizing the logistics, and everyone that visits enjoys the local feel that the experience provides, like staying in a comfortable Norwegian family house on the edge of the fjord. ‘Everything is new, nothing is touristic and commercial’, pointed out Maxime.
Gauthier, a skier and one of the co-founders of Explore-Share, persuaded some of his friends to join him to go there this year: ‘Skiing in Norway was an old dream of mine, but I wanted to experience and share this unique adventure (as I always do) with my friends, some of whom are very good skiers and some of whom have very little touring experience. I must say this ski trip exceeded by far my expectations’. And the whole group enjoyed very much Fred’s ‘explorer’ approach: ‘He is very generous, kind, relaxed, discreet, open minded, humble and super professional. He likes to explore new areas, where nobody skied before, and then share this region with others. You feel like an explorer when spending the day with him’. A similar opinion was shared by Quentin, also a Belgian skier, who not only liked the fact that Fred took him to mountains that had never been skied before, but also his positive attitude and friendliness: ‘After an intense day he is always open for a drink at home!’
Another aspect that everybody highlighted was the diversity of activities that they did. As Bénédicte, who was there a few weeks ago, pointed out, it was much more than a ski trip. The long days in northern latitudes allow to do some fishing, biking or dogsledding after skiing, without having to rush from one place to the other. Or even to paddle in the fjord to reach some of the skiing spots. According to Ashley, ‘the best of the best was to cross the fjord with our skis in the kayak. This was the thing I had dreamed about for a long time and I have been really amazed by the experience’. For the ones interested, Fred usually organizes a 6-day ski and kayak tour in Finnmark in early May.
So skiing all the way down from the summit to the sea, with a beautiful fjord landscape as backdrop in a remote corner of Norway, with almost no one around but a couple of your friends and a great guide like Fred seems like a pretty awesome trip, right? The experience and feedback from the people who went there this year prove it. For Bénédicte, it was a week during which she felt like if she was living at 150%. And Gaelle and Fabrizio, who even shouted of joy in the middle of the Finnmark Mountains, now admit: ‘The ski touring virus caught us. We realize that the world just got larger. Next year, we will go on a ski trip to Sweden or Japan, of course, after checking and discussing with the Explore-Share’s team’.
Discover more about Finnmark with these pictures: