Dream Trip: Skiing Powder from a Boat Within the Arctic Circle | Photo Tour

Zach Paley |

With stability, and a bit of luck, things in Norway began to fall together nicely.

I met Gottfried, a fiery ginger chef who is part Norwegian, part Russian, part world nomad, and part something else entirely while walking the docks of Tromso. I initially came aboard the Vulkana asking if he was interested in having a reporter on the boat. He politely denied media, but mentioned a deckhand would be helpful on the next trip. Like any proper ski bum, making beds, washing dishes, and doing the necessary dirty work of a functional high class establishment is something I’m all to familiar with. We shook on me showing up Monday morning over beers Saturday afternoon, and I was “hired”.

Life at sea

Not being sure what to expect, the pace was set on day one. Ten Norwegian men showed up at noon, started with beers in the hot tub, and jumping from the sauna to the sea right away.

I’m proven wrong. It’s ok to “wash the potatoes” in countries outside of Japan.

I got along well with our guide instantly. Constantly referring to me as “the stowaway”, David was excited to have a ski bum in the group. He talked enthusiastically about skiing and biking in Lyngen, and how I should visit his farm after the boat trip if I had time.

One of the many seaside farms in Lyngen. Well worth a visit.

Days on the Vulkana had a nice rhythm. Wake up at 6, put snow pants on immediately. Set the breakfast table, help cook the morning meal. Guests wake up and rally into the galley to enjoy freshly baked bread, hot eggs and oatmeal, and fruit salad. Meanwhile, I clean toilets. As everybody finishes eating, I wash dishes and clean up. They leave, I wolf down leftovers, hop into my ski boots, and head out the door to catch up.

Turns to the ocean

One day that stands out on the trip, I get held up and leave the boat late. I enjoy skinning at my own pace in peace. A nice looking tongue comes into view as I catch the group, taking a break. I skin up to David on the side, and ask if I can take a closer look at it.
“I was hoping you’d ask. Have fun.” With a sly grin and a flick of the pole, he ushers me onward. A minute later, I’m on my own again.

David leading the way.

I reach the base of the face. There’s a nice bootpack higher up, but the skintrack doesn’t look very good. I set my own traverse to the bootpack, transfer skis to my backpack, and begin to climb. About halfway up, the track strays to the left. I can’t resist. I take a glance over the side. It’s steep, and a long way down. I’m reminded I had prepared for a mellow day of hanging with the group. Helmet back at the boat, I quicken my pace not wanting to be exposed much longer.

Long way down

As I reach the top, a lonely cairn greets me. I take a minute for the view, lock my boots down, and click into my skis. I can make out the group, now small dots at the rendezvous point, and I push forward towards the face.

Not a bad view

My skis pick up speed and I lay into the first turn. The face rolls away as I pop into the next. Compress, absorb, flex, extend, repeat: the spring like motion of legs familiar to the process of making turns. The morning sun had kissed the snow just enough to give it a crunch. The crackle in the snow and wind in my ears takes over. I cut clean carves down the face into the runout. Thoughts on the hike are gone. Inner demons laid to rest, at least temporarily. I ski up to David and he has a hilarious, shit eating grin on his face.

“They certainly don’t pay you by the turn!” He exclaims.

I look back at my tracks. “I’m not getting paid at all on this trip.”
We both laugh and exchange high fives.

Ah, airplane turns.

We skin out to another col that will drop us down to the fjord. The run is great. Powder at the top, corn at the bottom. 1400 meters of nearly consistent pitch all the way to the ocean. The road goes under a tunnel so avalanches don’t affect traffic. I find my tips at the water’s edge. The sweet, salty smell of the ocean hits my nose. A gull swoops overhead. I take in the moment, and click out of my skis before walking back up to the road. Ahead of the group so I can start fires in the sauna and hot tub, I hitch a ride back to the boat.

Sauna time: Perfect for unwinding after a long day in the mountains.

The usual routine kicks in as I start fires and hand out beers to guests in my ski boots. After loading skis, pulling up the gangway, and making sure the boat is sorted as we get underway, I’m able to get out of my gear and enjoy some sauna time. I change, run dinner service, do dishes, and turn on the hamam for the guests to unwind from the day. I join Captain Carl and Gottfried for a few beers in the wheelhouse until the early hours of the morning, before retiring to my luxurious quarters in the back of the wheelhouse. Being so high up, the waves usually rock me out of my “bed” rather than gently to sleep. Such are the tough problems in life.

Luxurious living quarters

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