Sailing and Skiing in the Lyngen Alps of Norway

In the spring of 2022, 4 close friends and I finally got to go on our dream trip to Norway, following 2 years of postponement due to travel restrictions. We booked our trip through Pukka Travels for a 6 night, 5 day sail to ski experience on the White Hawk, a catamaran sailboat operated out of the Tromsø harbor. We sailed from Tromsø into the Lyngen Alps, sleeping on the boat at night and ski touring each day. I wrote down some field notes at the end of each day and share them below. It’s likely more detail than you’ll need about our experience, but hopefully it paints of clear picture of what you can expect on a sail to ski adventure in Norway. If you’d like to book the same trip, you can find more information on the Pukka Travels page on Heli, or contact our team for more information.

Arrival

Aside from the 4 flights from Salt Lake City to Tromsø, getting to Tromsø was pretty simple and straightforward. No visas, not much hassle since we checked our ski bags, just a lot of flight time. Once we arrive, it’s a quick 5 minute taxi ride from the airport to town, through an elaborate system of hand carved tunnels (which look like something out of a James Bond film) that pop up into the heart of Tromsø. We’ve booked a hotel for our first night (Friday) so we can catch up on sleep before meeting up with the Pukka Team.

 

This trip had been a long time coming for my friend group. We originally booked it in 2020, but had to delay for two years because of the pandemic. We are all excited that the day has arrived, and that we are finally in Norway, the furthest north that any of us have ever been.

 

Bardus Bistro is our first stop for dinner Friday night. We order a sampling reindeer sausage, lamb shoulder and cod dishes, along with a decent selection of wine. The small bistro sits directly across from the public library, and the second story and bathrooms are adorned with books. We then stroll over to a tiki bar called Misfit Tiki Bar, directly above the popular Bastard bar. Bastard bar has live music downstairs most nights, but unfortunately none tonight. 

On Saturday we kill some time walking around Tromsø. We stumble upon the Polaria Museum, which is definitely worth checking out. The aquarium has a unique layout where you can watch bearded and harbor seals as the cruise overhead in the observation tunnel under their pool. Check out a king crab up close while you’re there. You’ll get an appreciation for the arctic wildlife and landscape before heading out into it. 

 

At 3 pm we meet up at the beautiful Pukka Travels offices near the harbor. Leather couches with reindeer pelts, fresh coffee; the team uses a smart-board to review the weather and maps, and we talk about the plan for the week. Weather can change quickly so the plan is more tentative but the team wants to get an understanding of what type of skiing we want to do and any info about our group.

 

We meet our guide Carlo, who works in the Dolomites most of the year, but comes to Norway to guide at the end of his season in Italy. He’s got energy to spare and a super positive vibe. Daniel, our boat captain, is a bit younger, Danish, and absolutely loves sailing and this region. He turns out to have a wealth of knowledge about the area. We all get to know each other a bit at the base camp.

 

From there, we head to the boat. It’s right outside the offices in the main Tromsø harbor. Time for a quick safety briefing and loading gear onto the boat. All food is covered for the week, but we dash to the liquor store to get some nice scotch. Warning, get there well ahead of time, or you’ll be running like we did to make it by 4pm. We expect to sleep on the boat in the harbor that night, but because there is a chance for some mixed precipitation in the afternoon on Sunday, we decide to get a jump start, sailing that evening to the first zone, and anchor for the night. Excitement starts to build and the mountains seem to grow the closer we travel toward the Lyngen Peninsula. In the morning we’ll head out immediately after breakfast.

Day 1 – Stetinden

On the first day we wake up early and have a quick breakfast before heading to shore in a small inflatable. It takes two trips to get there with the 6 of us. We land on a rocky coastline, a bit cold and foggy to start. There’s something strange about the combination of tide pools and ski boots. They seem out of place. You can see the mountains above. We say goodbye to our captain who heads back to the boat. After a beacon check and getting geared up, we start the ascent.

 

The plan is to go up Stetinden, about 900 meters, as a first day. We’ll go up the left side, hooking around to the right up a ridge line, then up a face and over the other right side of the peak back down.

 

The first part of the day is a flat hike in through mossy flats and wind blown trees, low, small and gnarled. We pass by weathered houses built along the cost and over a dip in an old sheep fence. As we get closer the mountains tower even higher and the landscape opens into large, wide gullies and snowfields. We move at a fair pace, with peaks on either side of us. Looking back you can see the boat and the ocean in the distances. In front of us, the clouds and the overcast skies seem to blend together, the clouds covering the tops of peaks so the whole world looks white, only speckled with the occasional rocky point of reference emerging from the snow.

As we near the top, the snow turns from spring corn snow to a hard, windswept, packed down ice. We all have to push our edges into each stride to prevent sliding. The visibility drops as we move higher into the cloud cover. Our guide helps us perfect our kick turns in these hard pack conditions and we move forward slowly. Eventually, the pitch and conditions become too difficult for us to continue our intended path up and over the side of the ridge, so we adjust our plans.

We take off our climbing skins, change over and get ready to work our way down. The upper part of the mountain is hard ice with low visibility so we ski cautiously down the steepest section. Once we get back to the hip, we ski down the softer snow and enjoy some pretty good turns. As we get towards the bottom, there’s fun to be had weaving between the scraggly trees, riding over moss patches, hoping small streams, and making our way back down to the coast. It’s not incredible skiing by any means, but the joy of doing something unique with close friends starts to hit. 

Once back at the shore, we radio our captain to come pick us up. We head back to the boat, hang gear out to dry in the rear heated cabin and changing area, and cook some lunch. We spend most of the afternoon sailing to our new location, playing cards, napping, sharing music and relaxing. Once at our new destination we drop anchor and settle in for the evening.

Day 2 – Trolltinden

We sail a bit in the morning to our next location. Our original plan is a wash due to high winds early in the day, which would make the harbor difficult for the boats to stay anchored. So we decide on a peak with a little less vertical and a safe harbor nearby.

 

We pull up to a dock in a small village called Arnnoya. There are a few other groups there. A boat from France, one from Germany, all with sail to ski programs or a personal ski guide. It’s amazing how many people are here for ski touring. We put on skins in the dock area and head up.

There’s some light wind but as we get higher, the clouds open up for a nice sunny day. There are still some low clouds on nearby peaks, but visibility is great all the way from the summit down to the ocean. We pass marked signs on our way up to a large tower. It’s a sea of open, white snow, with a good top layer of 1-2 inches. We reach the summit, change to downhill and cruise all the way down toward the ocean. This was what was advertised. Large wide open runs with views down to the ocean. It was the otherworldly experience we were all looking for and we get it on day 2. We take a lot of pictures. 

 

We get back to the boat and sail through a snowstorm to our next destination. Sailing in a snowstorm is surreal, with heavy flakes and 9 knots, so we’re cooking. We reach a small harbor town called Hamnnes and dock for the night. 

Day 3 – Havnnes and Kjelvagtinden

We wake up to 2-3 inches of snow covering the boat, with snow flurries flying. As we start going uphill, it continues to dump snow. We start in dense trees up a designated ski trail up to above tree line. We do a fair amount of bushwhacking to get up, as we have to go off trail to get across a few rivers. This area looks more like Japan than it does Norway. And the amount of snow we are getting is uncommon. 

 

Above tree line it opens up. It’s easy going at first, until the wind starts to pick up and the visibility drops. We make it to 800m with the summit at 1000m, and have to turn back. With about 10m of visibility and almost whiteout conditions, it’s pretty challenging to keep going. We decide to ski down from there and then do some laps in the trees. We find some fun little shots in the trees, and it continues to snow heavily. 

In the afternoon, we book the sauna in town. You pay ahead at the local shop, which is the only business in town it seems. The people who run it are friendly but salty. You can also buy dried cod, supplies and postcards here. For such a small harbor village, the sauna is great. They have a dry sauna, lounge area, showers and a hot tub. After getting heated up in the sauna, its tradition to run to the ocean and plunge in the ice cold water. Our hostess who owns the sauna talks about it having health benefits and how it produces glowing skin.

Day 4 – Storhaugen

It dumped snow overnight. Likely a foot or so, adding to the total from the day prior. We plan to hike a shoulder on an area with good trees below so that if visibility is low we can lap the lower part of the mountain. We hitch the boats to a dock at a working harbor. We skin down a coastal road and past the Lyngen Lodge to find the skin track.

 

Once we get toward the top, it looks pretty clear, so we decide to push to the summit at 1100 meters. Just as we get about halfway up the upper alpine section, the weather rolls in. Visibility drops to zero. You can follow our guides orange jacket, but there is no way to tell the difference between the snow on the hill and the snow in the sky. We carefully push to the top, being aware of the cornice and sheer drop off on the other side of the ridge.

Once at the top, we change over quickly. The first 10 turns are incredibly hard to see anything, but below it opens up into wide open powder field with good visibility and we have a great party wave, everyone skiing down together hooting and hollering.

 

We sail back toward Tromso in the evening to the other side of the Lyngen Peninsula and hit some rough seas, but make it to the next anchor area to sleep. Really glad we brought dramamine. It’s the only rough water we hit the entire trip, but we definitely all feel it a little. 

Day 5 – Sofiatinden

It’s been snowing for 4 straight days, and it’s now knee deep near the shore and waist deep up on the peaks. For the final day, we decide to lap an eastern face at a lower elevation given winds and visibility. There’s a distinct ridge line on this route which leads up to a true summit, but we’ll ski off the shoulder. We bring the dingy to the shore again and start from there. A clearly marked trail sign shows us the way and someone else has already laid the skin track, score. 

On the way up through the trees, the weather changes rapidly between pounding snow and sunny skies. Once at the ridge, we hit some serious wind, but duck down along the side of the ridge and traverse a little ways to the top of our line. It’s just perfect, nice angle powder turns. We ski it one at a time, with the new snow and the steeper pitch it pays to be safe. It’s so good, we lap it again. 

 

After skiing, we sail back to the Tromsø Harbor and will sleep on the boat for the night. We go out to dinner with our guide Carlo and our captain Daniel, and again try to order as many local things from the menu as possible. We grab some more drinks down the street, catch some live music at the Bastard Bar, then grab a cocktail or two at the tiki bar to celebrate. What an awesome way to end our journey. 

Take Aways

This is a once in a lifetime trip. It’s unlike anything you will do that involves skiing, and I’ve already recommended it to several people. It is a lot of travel to get that far north, but it’s totally worth it. 

 

I also recommend booking a private boat with 6 friends. It made it all that much better sharing it with close buddies. You’re gonna be spending a lot of time together, so make sure it’s people you really enjoy.

 

Things I wish I brought/was glad I had:

  • Slippers that can go indoors and outdoor for walking to the sauna
  • An extra base layer, so you can rotate, giving more time to dry and less smelly
  • Waterproof/warm case for the phone. On cold days my battery would drain and I wanted to bring my phone for pictures and videos
  • Multiple pairs of gloves, beanies and goggles and extra jacket shell, again because of rotating
  • A power converter for the nights in the hotels before and after being on the boat
  • Sea sickness meds, the strong kind.

Things I didn’t need:

  • Battery pack, because you can charge things on the boat
  • Extra clothing, I wore one set of comfy pants and sweatshirt every day on the boat