Sail to Ski: Lyngen Alps
Words & Photography by Pete Elliott
The Lyngen Alps in Norway are a skier’s paradise, renowned for their majestic peaks, pristine slopes, and awe-inspiring fjords. Tucked away within the Arctic Circle, this beautiful region offers the chance for something unusual: a blend of sailing and ski touring. In April 2023, I had the privilege of embarking on a remarkable six-day sail-to-skiing trip with Mabey Ski, led by the expert ski guide Espen and the skilled boat captain Hoken.
Our start point was Tromsø. We awoke to a perfect azure day to kick the trip off, and the journey began with a sail to Vannøya, where the mountain Vanntinden awaited our ascent. The route took us through deep fjords surrounded by snow-capped peaks – a fitting welcome to the Lyngen Alps. Packing up my kit on the back of the boat and pulling on my ski boots as we moored up to shore, it hit me that I never thought I would be found on a beach in full ski gear. But there we were, a long ascent ahead of us for our first line.
Vanntinden sits right at the top of Lyngen, giving uninterrupted views across the ocean and back across the peaks. After a safety briefing we began the long ascent. Our aim: to be on the summit for sunset. The views got better and better as we climbed, frosty white peaks laid out for miles in front of us, and we found ourselves approaching the summit after around three hours of climbing. Now the midday sun’s harsh rays slowly transitioned into the soft golden hues of sunset. In my time photographing various mountain ranges around the world, very few moments have come close to this. To witness a sunset amidst some of the world’s most immaculate mountains was truly a sight to behold – but the pinnacle of our journey was still to come.
As the sun continued to set, we all quickly transitioned into ski mode, excited to get the first turns of the trip under our belts. Golden light shimmered on the ocean below and I could just make out our boat in the distance, waiting to welcome us with a hot meal. We began our descent, hollering and shouting as we carved down the mountain side. The feeling of skiing down to the ocean was an incredible experience and one I’ll never forget. My legs were soon burning – thankfully we made a couple of stops to rest.
After the thrill of skiing down to the boat, the team made a collective decision to take an Arctic plunge. Being no stranger to cold water I opted to dive in head first from the top of the boat – a bit of a shock with the water temperature sitting at 6°C! Later, as we gathered for dinner and drinks, courtesy of Captain Hakon, there was a cry for us all to get on the top deck. As I emerged from the lower deck, I saw green rays of light dancing through the sky above me. The unexpected appearance of the Northern Lights added a touch of magic to the perfect day. It simply couldn’t have been a better start to the trip.
Day two took us to Akkarvik, Arnøya, where the plan was to tackle a smaller tour to allow for recovery. This was the theme for the trip: one big day followed by a smaller day to recover. Despite the reduced scale, the tour provided astonishing ocean views. Following another Arctic plunge, we indulged in a local spa equipped with a hot tub and sauna.
Day three led us to Hamnes, Uløya, where Uløytinden awaited our arrival. This tour treated us to one of the finest vistas of the trip. A narrow valley intersected by a fjord created a truly surprising backdrop. Despite tired legs, a bag full of cinnamon buns propelled us forward. It was another clear day giving extensive vistas across the bay and across the Lyngen Alps. The exhilarating descent, on slightly slushy afternoon snow, concluded with a long track through the trees, twisting and turning and giving our legs a good burn before we reached our home on the water.
On the fifth day, our journey took us to the charming town of Lyngseidet in Lyngen, where the majestic Kjosbreen glacier, soaring over 1,000m from the ocean, awaited our exploration. This tour was long but relatively mellow, allowing us to really take in the views. Jagged mountains dipping their toes into the ocean surrounded us on all sides. The afternoon’s ideal corn snow provided the perfect surface for a thrilling descent. Once again, we navigated a delightful route through the trees to finish, skiing right back down to the sea.
On our final day we woke to an Arctic storm. Not wanting to let our last opportunity pass us by, we assembled with our guide and began the long walk, wrapped in all our layers, prepared for anything Lyngen could throw at us. And we encountered winds stronger than I’d ever experienced – plus full whiteout conditions. At times, gusts so strong came in that we were knocked off our feet. Around 100m from the summit we decided to call it quits. Transitioning on an exposed ridge was tough with the wind whipping around us, but we managed to get into our skis and head down. As we dropped into the valley that we had just climbed up from, the wind dropped, and we enjoyed 800m of uninterrupted descent – the last of our trip.
Norway truly exceeded all expectations. The unparalleled hospitality coupled with breathtaking views, impeccable ski conditions, and waking up somewhere new every day crafted an unforgettable journey. Far removed from the usual winter destinations, the beauty and warmth of this experience has solidified Norway as my quintessential off-piste winter wonderland.