So those of you that know or follow me anything more than in passing will realize that this article isn't current- but it didn't get run in any of the ski magazines that we submitted it to. It did get run in a snowboard mag but only with the snowboarding shots, and Vasco Coutinho the snowboard photographer with connections has just given me permission to use all the best photos in this post, which I will because I think he snapped some bangers! I've just been back to this area, and comp-wise I'm in the same position now, so it seemed an appropriate time to be sharing it with the inter-web. Enjoy!
An Italian snowboarder, a Kiwi skier and a Portuguese photographer/snowboarder aren’t who you might expect to find in the middle of nowhere in the middle of Norway. The people who stopped by to tell us that we couldn’t park and sleep in our van were certainly surprised about where we were from, and sometimes interested enough to let us park and sleep there after all. How did we end up there? Well the Italian-Norwegian, Kiwi-Swedish and Portuguese-Danish romances were the base ingredient, throw in a FWQ 4* competition in Røldal and top it off with Norway having about 10 times more snow than the alps that season and you’ve got Norwegian photo-roadtrip pie.
- Ålesund, by Vasco
A huge huge thanks goes out to the Slinning family for hosting us at their incredible new-age ‘Juvet Landscape Hotel’, in Valldal near Ålesund. This was the first stop of the trip and the base for amazing backcountry, ferry rides, spa jumps and lifestyle shots. Feast your eyes. And do anything you can to get to stay at the Juvet Hotel.
- Enjoying the view from one of the rooms of the 'Juvet Landscape Hotel' windows, photo by Vasco
- Massimo airing the hot water, but trying to avoid the cold water, photo by Vasco
- Jumping a local bach, 'self portrait' by my gopro
- Massimo slashing above the fjords, photo by Vasco
Next up was Røldal Freeride Challenge, the 4* FWQ competition. Our Italian team member Massimo got unlucky and crashed in the snowboard qualifiers after laying down a good top section in his run. I, Neil the kiwi, got lucky and took second in the finals, which gave me enough points from the competition season to qualify for the Freeride World Tour the next season, and won just enough money to continue the roadtrip. We hired a van that we could sleep in and set about making the most of the snow-laden springtime countryside by finding, building or touring/splitboarding to as many backcountry features as possible. We built jumps (well not me on the first day, I was too hungover from celebrating after Røldal, sorry guys), toured across frozen lakes, rode ferries, saw beautiful sunsets over beautiful scenery and incidentally went surfing too. It was cold. Feast your eyes again.
- The view from the ferry dock, on the way to exciting touring misisons. Photo by Vasco
- Grabbing off the spine, photo by Vasco
- The road down to Hoddevik, where we went for a cold surf in head to toe wesuits. Photo by Vasco
As if Norway hadn’t been amazing enough already, Vasco (the Portuguese photographer/snowboarder) found a way to take things to the next level. I don’t and never will know how he spotted this thing from so far away, but he had his eye on the prize as soon as he saw it. A natural halfpipe. Those words are thrown around a lot in the snow world, but this one was different. A superpipe of natural formation; a supernatural pipe. It was a two hour tour/splitboard from the road and it just kept looking better the closer we got. We got there, waited for the right weather, waited for the right light, rocked off (Massimo won) and got the shot. People always say that there is a story to a photo, and I hope you can feel this one. The vision of the photographer, the commitment of the team, waiting for hours for the right weather and light, and the nervousness (on Massimo’s part) of hoping not to fall, because the first ride in this thing was going to make the best shot. The satisfaction of it all coming together, and the resulting complete visual meal.
- Massimo split-boarding out to the well-spotted natural feature, photo by Vasco
It was a half day drive between surfing and this frozen moonscape, photo by Vasco
- Apparently this shot was run as a full pager in a snowboard mag, well timed Massimo and Vasco
Vasco in front of his find of the season, photo by me, Neil
But I was jealous. I felt like Massimo had got the best two shots so far by jumping the spa with a sweet grab (I’m sorry, I can’t name the grab, I’m a skier. But it was definitely sweet) and winning the rock off for the first run in the natural pipe (then killing it). I wanted mine. I wanted my dessert. On the last day of the trip we found it. I can’t even remember where it was now, I just tried to find it on a map but looking for a place that I think that starts with S and is near a tunnel and somewhere on the way to Bergen from somewhere near Røldal is surprisingly difficult. Maybe it’s better that way. But as soon as we drove under it I knew I wanted it. That road gap was mine. I’m not going to lie, I didn’t stomp it, but I wanted to put my prototype Fischer skis to the test. They held up. My body was a bit sore though, stackars pungen! But it was the end of the season. I got my just desserts for my dessert but the taste of success still tanged sweetly on my tastebuds.
Go big before you go home. Photo by Vasco.
We dispersed back to the country of origin of our various romantic interests, and, later, dispersed back to our countries of origin. But we’ll be back. We still hunger for the raw beauty that Scandinavia serves up in its various ways. Maybe we’ll share these delights with others next time. Maybe it will be you. Thanks for sharing, meals bring people together. Hejdå Skandinavien, vi ses snart.