Sail to Ski in Norway
Swooping massifs, soaring fjords, Viking-era villages — it should come as no surprise that Norway's Lofoten Islands, above the Arctic Circle, is the land that, legend has it, inspired Mordor. There's a highway that traverses the 120-mile archipelago, making summer road trips a popular pastime. But there's a better way to experience the Lofotens: by sea. Last spring, I met Emil Engebrigtsen, owner of SailNorway, for a five-day ski-and-sail trip in the islands beginning in Svolvaer, an Arctic town of 4,500. Emil, who traded a job in Beijing for rubber boots in Norway, is a hardcore believer in do-it-yourself adventures. "Comfort doesn't make you happy," he told me. "It makes you fat and lazy."
To that end, eight of us shared his stripped-down, 38-foot yacht, the Palandar. All of his clients cook, clean, and crew. Never mind that Umberto, an Italian "tough guy" on our trip, had never cooked. Never mind that I'd never sailed. By afternoon, Emil had me tacking the Palandar against Arctic winds to a harbor that, the next morning, we'd ski — yes, ski.
Lofoten owes its world-class, almost year-round snow to the Gulf Stream — and the storms that follow it. I found out just how good it can be on our third day. After sailing in squalls that dropped 18 inches of snow, we moored in a crack in the mountains called Trollfjord. Morning brought blue skies and slushy seas. Within hours, we were standing atop a 2,500-foot peak with views of the mountain summits folding over the horizon. "It's like the Tetons had offspring," I said to Umberto. "Or another Aiguille du Midi," he said, referring to Chamonix's iconic feature. Then we ripped off our climbing skins and giggled our way through blower powder back to the sailboat — and heaping plates of whatever Umberto was calling dinner.