If only we could rewind the Winter 2020 tape to before life as we know it changed drastically. In early March, my life/adventure partner and I found ourselves in the Arctic Circle, at the northern tip of Norway. We had a great adventure planned with 1 month of camper-living and skiing around the fjords in search of steep couloirs. I jokingly called it our “Norway Ski-Quarantine”.
With every ski trip, whether close or far from home, there’s always a bit of unknown. There’s always a time when you second guess decisions. There’s also a time when things flow nicely and you feel invincible. As we were well into that “honeymoon” phase of the trip, going on day 8 of couloir skiing, all was indicating we were going to be granted one more sunny day before a major wind/snow system moved in. Unlike BC, when the Norway “Weather Network” calls for a storm, it’s not going to be just a powder day, but multiple days hunkered down!
Seeing the little window of weather we were given, we decided to drive to the remote and scenic fjords of Senja Island. As the wind was severely picking up while we passed the beautiful fishing town of Finnsaeter, we were second-guessing our decision to move ocean side for one last day of glory. What if the window would be smaller then the forecast was calling for?
As we made our way up a crazy windy pass and down a steep, twisty and icy road, the doubts were only increasing. Moving at a turtle pace, on a path defined by a steep embankment going straight to the open ocean on one side, and a steep cliff on the other, running out of daylight only made the driving conditions deteriorate more. Needless to say, we stopped at the first flat pullout we could found. Rocked all night by the Arctic gusts, I thought at some point our shelter would tip over! I slept with my fingers crossed that we would be able to make it back up the pass and not be stranded in the middle of nowhere for multiple days.
As the day lifted up, so did the sun. Miraculously, Mother Nature turned the wind switch off! We found ourselves exactly where we wanted to be with exceptional weather; an hour of driving around the folds of the endless peninsulas was enough to find a steep face and summit to explore for the day. Being very close to the ocean but still sheltered from the wind, the snow was perfect from the roadside all the way to the summit. I remember feeling so light (even with my 6-month pregnant belly). I took in all the precious moments of the day, from breaking trail in the moraine, to picking a safe line below the summit ridge, to gaining the ridge itself and discovering the endless views of mountains poking out of the sea. The summit came easy distracted by such wild surroundings. The descent was just as glorious. Somehow the preserved snowpack was light and deep… so much so that neither Bob or myself wanted to stop during the descent to take photos.
When our legs were finally screaming for a break near the bottom, we went back for another full lap without even talking about the plan. This time we picked a more technical line involving a bit of down-climbing just to add some excitement.
The second lap was just as satisfactory as the first, but as we gained the top with smiles and giggles, dark and menacing clouds reminded us of the pending weather warning! Enjoying every single turn as if it were the last one of the season, the descent seemed to last forever.
As we stepped off our skis to go back to the camper, I remember thinking to myself with a slight grain of salt, “If the trip were to end now, I would still feel very satisfied.” Little did I know that this is exactly what was going to happen.
A few hours later we found out not only the roads were closing due to severe wind and snowstorms, but that all foreign travelers were asked to leave the country. All borders would be closed within 48 hours.
Driving through long storms lining up one after the other, we finally sat down at the Helsinki Airport in Finland, exactly 48 hours after the most magical ski day of our Scandinavian journey. It went so fast that I wondered if I had a dream or if things really happened.
Back in Canada, after traveling through military zones, closures, empty airports, and overbooked flights, the forced quarantine was a bit of a blessing, even if it felt bitter-sweet to end the season this way. I am sure many people feel the same way, but rest assure, winter and all the great adventures will resume soon!