| UNTRACKED celebrates the places you may, or may not, be aware of. The places where snow falls in abundance and crowds are rare. Want to ride pow? Here’s where to go. |
The west coast of Norway is a powder paradise. Beautiful mountains, deep fjords and endless terrain all battered by big Atlantic storms for most of the winter. There aren’t any big resorts as such, at least not in the traditional sense, but there are many local ski hills with one or two lifts. These lifts often access incredible terrain and are a great starting point for tours.
The town of Stranda is located in Møre og Romsdal, close to the Art Nouveau city of Alesund. A few miles up the road is Strandafjellet Ski Centre. It consists of a handful of lifts stretching up into the mountains on either side of the road. There’s even a gondola – a relatively rare sight in this part of the world. Don’t be fooled by the spartan looking piste map though, Strandafjellet has some of the best terrain and snow conditions in Norway.
Alpine bowls with an incredible fjord backdrop lead down into fun terrain scattered with just enough trees to provide contrast and protection in a storm. And, although Stranda doesn’t average quite as much snow as spots further south like Sogndal and Myrkdalen, its position on the ‘shoulder’ of Norway gives it a little more protection from thaw conditions and rain. It also means that when big Atlantic depressions run off up the coast and pull in north or north west winds, Stranda is in the perfect position to get hammered. Cold, unstable air flows down from the Arctic and picks up huge amounts of moisture off the sea. When the air hits the coast and forced to rise over Stranda’s peaks; bingo – cold powder, and lots of it. Best of all – there’s often hardly anyone else there.
Sure, on weekends in February when the snow is good expect to find a few hundred people on the hill. On a dark midweek day in January however, it can be virtually empty. We spent a week in Stranda in mid January and most days it almost felt like we had the mountain to ourselves. The kind of days when you sit on a chairlift and realise there are only 2 or 3 other chairs occupied. Or when you can count the number of cars in the car park on one hand. And if the ski hill is a little on the busy side the ski touring and splitboarding in the areas adjacent to the hill is amazing, as it also is the greater Sunnmøre Alps area.
Aside from the terrain and snow Stranda is awesome in other ways too. This is Norway and it’s basically just beautiful. The people are cool and the surrounding fjords provide interesting places to explore on down days. When the day is over head back to one of the many gorgeous cabins scattered around the lower hillside at Stranda and sit in front of the fire. There are no apres bars or restaurants by the ski hill, though there might just be the odd place to head down in the town itself.
I came away from my week in Stranda thinking I’d found somewhere really special. It’s the definitive ‘little spot that rocks’ and is somewhere I’m desperate to return to one day. And it’s just one of ten or fifteen similar ski hills that litter the Norway’s west coast. The possibilities for deep snow adventure are pretty much endless.
More info on the Stranda website at Strandafjellet.no.
Ski Touring in the Sunnmore Alps guide book available here.