Ski the fjords and glaciers of Northern Norway
Find fresh tracks in the lyngen alps
NOW BOOKING April 2023
Our Fjords of Northern Norway is a one-week “Ski and Sail” adventure on board a modern sailing yacht, exploring the rugged coastline of Northern Norway, among the fjords and glaciated peaks that makes this region so famous. We will ski in the coastal mountains of the Lyngen Alps, dropping anchor in the fjords that fringe this spectacular coastline. Join us for for a true Nordic trip of a lifetime!
Ski and Sail trips of course feature fantastic skiing accessible only by boat. But our Fjords of Northern Norway trip also offers an opportunity to experience Norwegian culture and traditions. Unlike Svalbard, which had no indigenous population or for that matter no history at all until the whaling expeditions a few hundred years ago, Northern Norway has been home to the Norse and indigenous Samí people for thousands of years. Archaeological records indicate that Tromsø has been inhabited for over 9,000 years! And whereas Svalbard is home to less than 3,000 inhabitants, Northern Norway has a population of close to 500,000. Most of the population lives in major towns such as Tromsø (capital of Troms County), Bodø (the capital of Nordland) and Vadsø (the capital of Finnmark), but there are many other small towns and villages especially along the coastline.
And of course there is the wildlife. There is no better way to experience the rich wildlife of Northern Norway than by sailboat. We’ll keep a sharp eye out for puffins, sea eagles, walrus, arctic foxes, and even muskoxen. And it’s not uncommon to share a ski run with a herd of galloping miniature reindeer!
The Lyngen Alps in northern Norway have become very popular in recent years. The traditional routes are very busy and sometimes the crowding and tracked-out snow make it seem like you’re skiing in the Alps!
Travelling by sailing boat, however, changes everything! Mooring close to the ideal departure points for excursions, ascents and descents on virgin terrain and free from crowding, a northern, arctic environment. To this we add the magic of travelling aboard the Qilak, and possibly Arctic Whisper (depending on group size): classic arctic sailing boats mastered by an experienced Norwegian captain and crew.
SKI TOURING DAYS
Our excursions all set off from the sea and reach the peaks of a spectacular landscape of fjords and islands with the taste of the North, often with excellent snow cover.
A typical ski mountaineering excursion sets off in the morning from Qilak, landing by Zodiac dinghy. We usually cover altitude differences of 800-1200m (3-5 hours in ascent) and normally descend along a different route, sometimes even crossing to a different return point.
The peaks we may climb have names that recall the Vikings: Trolltinden (the only famous and popular mountain), Arnoyhogda, Stoltindn, Øksfordjøkelen, Nordmannsfjellet and more.
The elevation gain corresponds exactly to the height of the summit, as we always set off from sea level!
THE YACHT: QILAK
A beautiful 20 m (66 ft) aluminum hulled sailing vessel with plenty of space for 8 guests plus 4 crew, including guiding staff, at a very high standard. Designed and built specifically for commercial charter, expeditions for scientists, as well as a ‘go anywhere’ explorer yacht for groups and private use especially in the high latitudes of the Arctic and Antarctic.On the outside she is all-business, designed for high arctic expedition sailing. Qilak’s interior provides a lot of comfort including a sauna, hot showers, and comfortable lounge area. We may add a second boat, the Arctic Whisper, depending on the group size which will hold up to 4 more guests plus guides.
This trip is being offered in partnership with Massimo Candolini / inMONT who has decades of experience with ski and sail trips in arctic environments in both Northern Norway and Svalbard. I have worked with Massimo and inMONT on numerous trips and he and his guiding partners are fantastic – classic Italian humour, grace and professionalism.
A TYPICAL DAY
The days on board slip by following a pleasant routine, starting with breakfast served in the dining room, with a wide choice of sweet and savoury food. We then get ready for the day’s activities with boots, backpack, skis in hand and, for landing in the Zodiac, a life jacket too.
Upon return from the excursion, we are welcomed aboard with hot soup, after which we can shower and rest. But there is also plenty of time to chat with our new friends from all over the world, to stand on the deck and perhaps to help the crew with the sails and, of course, to take photographs. The yacht will move on to the next destination in the afternoon, sometimes sailing without the engine, to reach a bay or a sheltered and calm place and where she can stop to offer guests a quiet dinner and an enjoyable evening.
The season of the aurora borealis at the latitude of Tromsø draws to an end precisely in mid-April. There’s nothing to say that we won’t get the chance to see this amazing sight, though it does take a bit of luck…
Online Topo Map
A great resource made available by the Norwegian Government is this topo map of Norway that lets you explore Norway’s extensive attractions and amenities online.
Tom Wolfe (Mountain Guide ACMG/IFMGA) – Based in Canmore, Alberta in the Canadian Rockies since 1994 Tom guides year around, with winters being a mix of ski guiding at lodges, heli-ski operations, and remote backcountry destinations throughout western Canada. He speaks English, German, and enough French and Spanish to get by.
Massimo Candolini (Mountain Guide / UIAGM) – I’ve been mountaineering since I was a child and I have scaled many peaks in the Alps, with a preference for winter, especially for skiing. I’ve been a Mountain Guide since 2003 and, from the beginning, I have devoted myself to traditional guide work, teaching and sharing, seeking to transmit my passion for mountaineering to others. My love of snow and ice now takes me to the polar regions, in the never-ending search for the perfect excursion!
Itinerary subject to change. 2023 Dates shown.
Pre-sailing touring option (April 5-8)
Exact details TBD. Town-based ski touring based out of a hotel in the Lyngen Alps. This optional add-on includes guiding, hotel accommodation (breakfast and lunch included), and transportation. Contact us for details.
Day 01 (April 8)
Meeting at the pier at 4 pm, on board the Qilak (and possiblye Arctic Whisper) in the Tromsø harbour.
Welcome aperitif with the Captain and the crew. Safety briefing, logistic briefing, then sailing! Dinner and night on board
Day 02-07 (April 9-14)
Every day ski touring and sailing.
We will navigate the maze of islands and fjords north and east of Tromsø following the best route depending on the sea and the mountain conditions. The course will be decided by the Captain with the suggestions and the requests of the Mountain Guides in order to have the best ski days possible.
Day 08 (April 15)
Disembark in the morning (according to the clients flights) in Tromsø and travel to the airport.
BOOKING YOUR FLIGHTS & OSLO HOTEL
First of all, please bring your boots as carry-on. Do not put them in your checked baggage. Many things can be purchased or rented in the case of lost baggage but not boots. We also suggest you bring your sk touring pack with a set of clothing and transceiver (check your shovel and probe as these are things that can be loaned to you easily).
There are several flights daily from Oslo to Tromsø.
For your flight to Oslo, look for flights with shorter durations and the fewest connections. Direct flights to Oslo from North America are only available from New York City.
I recommend you use one of the big airlines like KLM, Lufthansa, United or Air Canada all the way to Oslo, aiming to arrive in Oslo in the early afternoon. Remember to account for baggage costs. Iceland Air offers a slightly different schedule and is worth checking out — not to mention they allow a free “stopover” option for those thinking of checking out Iceland as part of this trip!
From Oslo you may need to overnight and catch the next morning’s flight to Tromsø (with SAS or Norwegian airlines).
In Oslo, the Radisson Blu Airport Hotel Hotel is a quick walk from the airport, very comfortable, and my recommendation for efficiency. If you want something a bit cheaper there’s the Sandic Gardermoen. But it’s a 7-min cab ride away — which closes the price gap significantly.
Oslo is a great world class city to visit. There are also great hotels in downtown Oslo if you want to spend a night or a few days there before or after the trip. I recommend storing your bulky gear at the Gardermoen airport (See Avinor Baggage Check for details & pricing) and taking the train into town with a light overnight bag. Here are a few to consider:
Hotel Continental Oslo – Owned by the same family for four generations, Continental is the only Norwegian member of “Leading Hotels of the World”. The hotel is home to the renowned restaurants Eik Annen Etage and Theatercafeen, and BAR BOMAN, a lobby bar with Munch’s art on the walls. $$$
Scandic Victoria – Central hotel in Oslo, only a short walk from Karl Johans gate, Stortinget parliament and Spikersuppa ice skating rink. Vibrant Aker Brygge and Tjuvholmen are only a 5 minute walk from the hotel, with many trendy bars and restaurants right on the waterfront of Oslo. Akershus Fortress is also within walking distance. $$
Comfort Hotel Grand Central – The Comfort Hotel Grand Central is one of Oslo’s most centrally-located hotels and is found in the main train station, just a 30-minute transfer from Oslo airport.
Hotel Rosencrantz – Design hotel in the centre of Oslo, just around the corner from Karl Johans gate, public transport and many of the city’s biggest attractions.
What to do in Oslo
If you spend a few days in Oslo there’s lots to do. Take the train (there are two companies; vy.no is the one to use) to the main station and walk around the town. Be sure to check out the habourfront which has lots of nice restaurants and things to see. Here’s a small handful of ideas:
Oslo Opera House – a great place to walk and a nice view from the rooftop.
Pust Sauna – Norwegians love saunas. This one is located at Oslo’s oceanfront. Check it out, and don’t forget towles and bathing suit. Book online with this link.
Kon-ti-ki Museum – Thor Heyerdahl is one of history’s most famous explorers. In 1947 he crossed the Pacific Ocean on the balsawood raft Kon-Tiki. This was his first expedition to be captured on film, and was later awarded Academy Award for best documentary in 1951. He later completed similar achievements with the reed boats Ra, Ra II and Tigris, through which he championed his deep involvement for both the environment and world peace. He was also responsible for important archeological excavations on the Galapagos Islands, Easter Island and in Túcume. The Kon-Tiki Museum exhibits objects from Heyerdahl’s world famous expeditions, the original Kon-Tiki raft, and the papyrus boat Ra II.
Fram Museum – Polar Expedition Museum. Being the most famous wooden polar vessel in the world, Fram is a symbol of Norway’s significant participation in the heroic age of exploration.
OSL – cheap eats
If you need a fast bite to eat before heading to your hotel, “cheap” pizza is the way to go, located at airport arrivals level. Peppes Pizza, grab it before you leave! Large pizza about 300 NOK ($42 CAD)
On the way back, if you want to return as soon as possible book a flight on the afternoon of April 17 to Oslo. If you are heading to a European city as your final destination you should be able to continue on same day. If you are heading across the Atlantic, you may need to stay in Oslo again that night and catch an early flight back home, again with one of the big airlines.
Boots: if you carry anything onto the airplane on your way to Norway make it your boots. Many other items can be replaced at the last minute, but not boots.
Ski crampons are a must for spring ski touring in Norway. They are specific to your binding type. Order well in advance as this is something that’s often not available at the last minute. If you can’t find a crampon to fit your binding, G3 crampons have an attachment system that works for many bindings. Again, do this well in advance of the trip.
There may be appropriate ski rentals out of Tromso, and there are a few shops that sell high quality gear including boots, but there are no bootfitting services available. Please be aware of the risks of counting on rental gear being available in this remote Arctic location. Sawback does rent ski gear with advanced notice. If you need to rent from us the fee is $550 CAD for this trip, and you must sign a rental waiver. In any event it is highly recommended you bring your own equipment and that you make sure it is in top condition. The Norwegian sea is not a great place to go shopping for new gear after breaking your ski in half!
You need to bring all of the following personal equipment. Please don’t bring extra equipment as storage space on the boat, and especially in the cabins, is very limited. If you have any questions at all about gear please do not hesitate to contact us.
There are no laundry facilities available on the Qilak so please bring enough clothing to last the week.
- Wool or synthetic socks and liner socks
- Long underwear top – synthetic or wool
- Light fleece or wool sweater
- Wind shell – nylon or ‘Schoeller’ type jacket
- Waterproof breathable jacket
- Warm insulated jacket – down or synthetic
- Long underwear bottoms – synthetic or wool
- Multipurpose stretch nylon or ‘Schoeller’ type pants
- Waterproof breathable pants
- Warm hat – wool or synthetic
- Brimmed cap for sun protection
- Face warmer – scarf, neck tube or balaclava (optional)
- Light gloves – wool, synthetic or leather
- Insulated gloves or mitts with waterproof outer shell
- Spare gloves or mitts
- Handkerchief for blocking the sun (optional)
Snow Safety Equipment
- Avalanche beacon with good batteries (and spares)
- Probe (2.4m or longer preferred)
- Skis or split board
- Ski strap
- Ski or snowboard boots
- Climbing skins
- Skin wax (or a simple wax candle) — pre-treat your skins ahead of time and bring extra skin wax. Spray-on or liquid wax is a great idea too for field treatments.
- Ski crampons (mandatory)
- Boot crampons and lightweight ice axe (optional; don’t bring these if you don’t have them or don’t like steep skiing)
- Binding repair kit to fix your personal travel setup
- Ski helmet
- Ski scraper
- Ski pack (30-40 litres)
- Sunglasses (both orange and dark lenses help a lot for travel in all conditions)
- Goggles (orange lenses)
- Sunscreen and lip cream (SPF 30+)
- Head lamp with good batteries
- Insulated water bottle or thermos (1-2 L)
- Lunch bag or container
- Personal blister kit (i.e: Leukotape-P and Compeed, blister pads). Be sure to pre-tape problem spots on your feet with Leukotape, prevention is the best medicine!
- Tincture of Benzoin (see this how-to for an explanation) or a medical product by 3M called Cavilon — these products help the Leukotape stick for the whole week if necessary.
- Pocket knife (optional)
- Camera (optional)
- Binoculars (optional)
- Utility cord for hanging stuff to dry (helps if you want to hang personal items in your cabin)
- Harness – fitted for over your ski clothing
- Locking carabiners (x2)
- Non-locking carabiners (x2)
- Prussik cord – 5m x 6mm (optional)
- Sewn sling – 120cm (optional)
On the Sailing Boat & at the Hotel
- Small soft-sided duffle bag (30-50 L) to contain your clothes in your berth
- Winter boots for wearing around town
- Micro-spikes — especially the early season (late April / early May) trips as melt-freeze cycles can create very slippery conditions in the town
- Slippers or Crocs, etc.
- Comfortable clothing
- Personal medications and toiletries (including small-sized soap and shampoo)
- Ear plugs
- Reading material
- Chargers & adapters for electronic devices (normal AC power is available as 220V Euro plug)
- Norwegian cash in NOK or Euros to pay for your beer tab, souvenirs, and tips/gratuities (for both guiding staff and boat crew)
Note the following are provided:
- Beer and wine are available to purchase on the boat at a reasonable price. If you choose to bring your own you must declare it to the crew when you board. A corkage fee may apply (approx. 15 EUR per bottle of wine for reference). Please do not bring any hard alcohol and be modest with quantities — this is an expedition, not a party, with crew who work hard and keep long hours.
- Pillows, duvets, bed linen and towels supplied on the boat (& hotel)
Group Gear (supplied by the guides)
- Map and compass
- Snow study kit
- Snow and/or bush saw
- First aid kit
- Emergency tarp
- Emergency toboggan
- Group repair kit
- Radio & satellite phone
- Ropes for glacier travel
April is the month for Northern Norway Ski and Sail trips. The temperatures are mild and stable, with lows typically around -5°C and highs around +2°C. The snowpack is typically stable and skiing of the spring corn variety for the most part, although often Arctic Pow can be found on the steep norths.
This is categorized as a Classic Pace trip.
- Day trips boat-based
- Peaks between 700m – 1200m asl
- Up to 1500 m climbs / descents / day
- Glaciated terrain
- Often variable snow conditions
Our Trip Ratings Page outlines more specifically how we rate our trips.
What is included with the trip fee?
Included: Full board on the yacht, a berth in a shared inside cabin, 8 days/7 nights. On excursion days, lunch will be replaced by sandwiches and snacks that can be collected at breakfast. Cabins are equipped with either bunks or a double berth. Two shower / toilet facilities are shared; Zodiac (tender) transfers from/to boat/shore; Mountain guide and crew services and cost; Free coffee and tea on board
Not included: Flights to Norway; alcoholic beverages; Lunch and/or dinner and/or night not on board of the vessel; Ski touring and mountaineering equipment; Personal insurance for accidents, medical, cancellation and baggage; and everything not written in “what’s included”
Will covid cause problems with travel?
We operated our spring 2022 trips with no significant issues and anticipate the same in 2023 and beyone. Currently there are no restrictions for traveling due to Covid. Sawback does, however, have a Sickness Policy. Please be sure to read it carefully.
Please bring a mask with you on the plane and consider using it for your air travel — especially if you are seated next to someone who’s hacking and coughing. You really don’t want to arrive sick for this trip.
What if my luggage gets lost en route to Norway?
These days lost baggage seems to be part of the airlines’ business model. While rare, it does happen to one or two guests each season. Here’s a couple of tips to reduce the chances your bags will be delayed:
- Skis are most likely to arrive on time if they are packed in smaller sized ski bags without additional items. Additional items with your skis increases the chances of the bag getting searched and delayed.
- Smaller, soft sided baggage (e.g. duffels) seems to be more likely to make it on time.
And here are a few tips to help minimize the consequences of lost baggage:
- Bring your boots as carry-on. Seriously, one day you will be very glad you did. Rental boots are no substitute for your own boots.
- Bring your daypack filled with your ski clothing and beacon. Your shovel and probe can go in your checked baggage as this is stuff that’s easy enough to rent in Norway.
- Make sure you have travel insurance that will cover the cost of additional rentals and clothing purchases in the event of delayed or lost baggage.
If you do end up in Tromsø without one or more of your bags, you’ll obviously need to come up with replacements. There are a few rental shops in /Tromsø with a decent selection of excellent rental touring skis. And there are many shops that sell high quality outdoor clothing.
“Will we get a chance to take photos of Polar Bears?” / or: “Will we be attacked by Polar Bears?”
The answer to both questions is “No”. Our itinerary is far from the polar bear’s classic habitat, which is on the pack ice far to the north, e.g. Svalbard.
Will we see the Aurora Borealis?
In mid-April Norway still has dark nights and yes, it is indeed likely we we see the Northern Lights during this trip!
What is the yacht like?
We have chartered a smaller expedition-style sailboat for our 2023 trip, the Qilak. It is very comfortable and spacious for a group of up to 8 guests, and built to a high standard. It’s virtually new, with construction completed just before the pandemic.
Is there Wi-Fi on the boat?
No there is no internet access available on the boat. However, Norwegians are big fans of cellular coverage and you might be surprised to get a strong enough cell signal to check your messages from time to time, especially in the first and last days of the sailing trip.
Can I buy a SIM card in Norway?
If you want to avoid roaming charges but still have cell data or make phone calls, it is very difficult to simply pick up a SIM card in Norway. We recommend getting an eSIM from Airalo with the Norway “Local eSIM” plan. This will let you check email and do messaging and internet calls with services like WhatsApp, Messenger, iMessenger, etc. Do this before you leave home (best done with Wi-Fi available) so that it’s ready to go when you arrive. Setup can be a bit tricky but Airalo has decent how-tos.
Be sure to turn off you regular SIM before you enter the roaming space so you don’t pick up roaming charges. If you want to make and receive phone calls then we recommend the Hushed App, which gives you a virtual phone number (Canadian, UK and US numbers are available) at affordable rates.
What are snacks like?
We provide you with a variety of snacks, but bring your own if you’re fussy.
Is there hot water available for tea, etc.?
Should I bring a helmet?
Helmets are not mandatory but are recommended.
Can I charge my devices?
There are plenty of charging outlets. Just be aware it’s Euro-plug 220V which works with just a plug adapter for USB chargers, phones, heated socks but not your hair dryers or wax irons 😉
Can we pay with a credit card for tips/wine/souvenirs on the boat?
Yes you can use a credit card to pay for misc items on board. Cash is always preferred for tipping.
Speaking of tipping, do you have guidelines for that?
- Ship’s crew: Consider 10 EUR (100 NOK) per day for a job well done. Please bring cash for this.
- Guiding staff: Consider 5% of your trip fee for a job well done, and 10% if we significantly exceeded your expectations, provided you with repairs or rental gear at no cost, made a special effort to accommodate you, etc. Cash is preferred (CAD, USD, EUR or NOK) but you can also send money electronically via our payment portal, pay.sawback.com (it’s your choice, credit card or transfer. Howeve,r credit cards incur a 2.7% fee whereas bank transfers ensure all the cash arrives in our bank account with no fees!)
- Restaurants: there is no tipping culture in Norway, and tipping is not expected. However, 5+% is a nice gesture for excellent service.
Is there Laundry on the boat? Sink for Socks and underwear?
There is no laundry available on the boat so bring lots of extra socks and underwear. There are sinks and showers you could use in a pinch.
Should we bring an ice ax and boot crampons?
Ice ax and boot crampon use is not part of our regular program. If you are coming with a group that is motivated to do steeper lines then boot crampons and an ice axe is an idea. But I don’t want to tell you to bring them and have you disappointed if we don’t use them. I have never had the need (and don’t list them on the equipment list), but once or twice I’ve had to modify our route where boot crampons would have made a difference. You can discuss this with your group — we will have a great week of skiing without the spiky things, but they could potentially open up possibilities. Feel free to contact us if your group is in this category.
How much personal and storage space is there on the boat?
There is room for storing extra stuff in a hold on the boat. Cabins are double occupancy and are also quite small for storing extra gear. Bring small soft-sided duffels (40-50L) to make sure they fit under the bunks.
Boat Shower? Hot water? Polar dip? Towel?
Towels are provided. There’s plenty of hot water and shower facilities (four showers in total). There will also be an opportunity for a polar dip if you’re so inclined!
How do we dry our gear?
There is plenty of heating on the Qilak and there are numerous radiators and places where you can dry your gear. The engine room is also occasionally made available if we have an especially wet day. We also recommend you bring along a piece of thin (2-3 mm) cord to fashion a drying rack in your room.
Do I need rubber boots?
In fact we’ve never needed them. The guides might get their feet wet pulling/pushing the Zodiac onto/off shore but everyone else uses a little wooden step to keep dry.
Our standard booking conditions apply. Please read our Payment and Booking Conditions page carefully.
DATES AND PRICING:
Fjords of Northern Norway Ski and Sail program: Saturday, April 8 to Saturday, April 15, 2023 $7295 CAD p.p. (About $5,457 USD / €4,972 / £4,388)
PAYMENT SCHEDULE: 60% payment secures your booking; 100% due February 1, 2023
INCLUDED: 7 nights sailboat charter (Qilak or Arctic Whisper) with crew, harbour fees, permit fees, UIAGM / IFMGA mountain guides, multi-course dinners, breakfast on board as well as lunch supplies. See description for full details.
NOT INCLUDED: Air travel, alcoholic beverages, hotel in Oslo en route, gratuities.