“Ski-in, ski-out” reaches a new level when the base is on a sailboat

“Ski-in, ski-out” reaches a new level when the base is on a a sailboat.

Blog post by Ina O. Vikøren

Untouched nature

The sun was scorching, the sea shimmered, and we had just lifted the last ski equipment from the sailboats into the small dinghies that would take us to the starting point for today’s summit trip. It was too shallow for the sailboat to come all the way in, so today’s basecamp was 300 meters from the shore in the middle of a fjord arm somewhere between two of the beautiful peninsulas of Lofoten.

Here, nature was untouched, solitary, and hidden away 

There was something mysterious and very humble about starting the trip from a bay only accessible by sea. There were no beaten tracks, paths, or ski trails. No snowmobiles, ski lifts, cabin areas, or crowds of other skiers.

We put on our climbing skins where the fjord meets the mountain’s base—and from there, it was more or less straight up.

View that becomes insight

It didn’t take many meters of elevation before the view took your breath away. The higher it got, the more majestic the landscape became. We felt small and insignificant, with a combined sense of gratitude and awe for the massive array of mountains dancing around us.

Some of the peaks were too alpine even for the most experienced mountaineer in the group, but that was okay. 

Sometimes it’s nice to just acknowledge that something is greater than yourself. The view up here provides insight.


Frugality and intimacy

It wasn’t just the view from the stunning mountains that provided insight—sailing itself offered insight on many different levels.

Accommodating ourselves in a 44-foot sea cabin for 10 days forced an awareness of our consumption. We had to consider everything: purchases, shelf life, rationing, storage and waste management.

Water was also a scarce resource, resulting in frugality in most cleanliness aspects. Personal space and hygiene factor merged. “Boat-clean” became a new standard. Resource utilization was also maximized, with bread bags serving as lunch wrappers, plastic packaging turned into containers, and other “garbage” finding new functions as needs arose.

In this way, we established a sort of circular economic model with highly efficient resource management that would be beneficial to adopt beyond the boat.

Ski-right or starboard?

Being a cohesive crew on a sailboat set a great foundation for a functional group dynamic in the mountains. On the boat, one is compelled to cooperate and work together as a team. Everyone understood the hierarchical responsibility based on knowledge and experience, just like in the mountains. Just as one listens to experienced mountaineers on a trip, the crew listens to the captain and his cohorts at sea.

At the same time, everyone contributes in their own way, be it navigation, cooking, knot tying on the boat, avalanche knowledge, equipment handling, chocolate distribution, or skiing technique in the mountains.

This way, we brought out the best in each other, and I’ve seldom learned so much about so many different things on a 10-day skiing trip before. “Ski-right” and “Starboard” had a seamless transition.

The importance of local knowledge

The actual skiing itself was an adventure. We took turns with breakfast duty, and after an enormous intake of oatmeal at 6:30 a.m., all the captains, helmsmen, deckhands, jib hands, and cooks had transformed into neon-clad skiers and snowboarders with stars in their eyes for what awaited us that day.

But setting out on these trips commands great respect. If you don’t have local knowledge about the areas in the north, you could easily make a mistake. The mountains are exposed in a completely different way than we’re used to in the south, and with extreme weather changes (often from sun to storm in a matter of minutes) and lofty peaks, extra caution is necessary.

Going up in slush and skiing down on crust was not uncommon. Fortunately, we had some local champions on the team who guided us through map reading, route choices, and descents.

The playground was vast, and every morning we were faced with a sea of possibilities, quite literally. That was the beauty of the sailboat—we could maneuver ourselves into coves with mountains in different directions every single day, ensuring we always found beautiful skiing regardless of the surprises the weather forecast presented us with.

Earn your turns

“Ski-in, ski-out” also reaches a new level when the base is a sailboat at the foot of the mountain. Standing at the top and seeing your floating home as a speck down in the fjord is a majestic feeling. Standing at the top and inhaling the Arctic mountain air, carrying hints of cod and seaweed, is pure soul medicine. Standing at the top and simply observing the surrounding fjords, islands, and the sea eagle playing cat and mouse with the mountain peaks poking out of the foggy landscape is visually enthralling for any nature lover.

You’ve spent hours reaching the summit, and you know that in just a few minutes, you’ll be back down. And it’s so worth it. Goodness, it’s so worth it. Slogans like “skin it to win it” and “earn your turns” truly come to life up here.

Weather-bound adventures

Of course, there’s always a risk in embarking on a prolonged ski trip with a sailboat as the sole means of transportation. You’re reliant on the elements being a bit more cooperative than usual. You can’t just hop in a car and drive to the other side of the country for better conditions. You’re more confined to the areas the boat has immediate access to, which in turn places higher demands on evaluating snow cover, directions, and weather.

And the weather in Lofoten isn’t known for being stable. But that’s what makes it all an even bigger adventure. If you’re weather-bound on the boat and have to wait for a break in the weather—is it really that bad? A good cup of coffee, some tall tales, and an anchor dram on the sailboat while the weather takes its course outside the galley window are indispensable (pun not intended) parts of the trip’s charm.

I lay on the deck and wrote this last part of the travel log 

The music I had plugged into my ears was quickly drowned out by the offended bird symphony that had started around me. Squawks, whistles, chirping, and flapping wings comprised all the necessary instruments in this northern orchestra. The puffin, with its signal-orange beak and black-and-white plumage, had initiated an aerial acrobatic show with the local seagulls in front of the boat.

A couple of seals peeked cliché-like from the water’s surface. They knew exactly how to impress a southerner. And I knew very well that this place already had a piece of my heart—I knew very well that I would return. There are more mountains here deserving attention, more fjords to explore—and all in harmony with nature’s own terms.

So, what do you say; maybe we’ll see each other in the north this winter?

Winter greetings from Ina O. Vikøren 

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