A topptur is a backcountry ski trip. Eessentially it is downhill skiing without the ski lift – using special bindings and skins to “hike” up before skiing down. I’ve been backcountry skiing for only a couple of years in Seattle but I love it and couldn’t wait to do some tours here in Norway. And one of the best parts about backcountry skiing is that the season lasts well into the spring and early summer, in fact – this is when you might say the season really starts – when the sun is out, the snow is soft, and the avalanche danger is low.
Without a car, local knowledge, or ski buddies, getting my topptur fix in Norway wasn’t easy. But with a bit of perseverance (and a little help from the internet) I’ve managed to spend several days with skis on my feet and the sun on my face.
My first topptur wasn’t actually in Norway. It was just over the border, in Sweden. One of my colleagues invited me to join her, her friends, and their 15 year old sons on a trip to Storulvån. We left on a Friday afternoon and spent the evening at this modest cabin (complete with sauna, dipping pool, and 3-course dinner) in the woods.
The next morning we awoke to blue skies and a clear view of our goal: the summit of Getryggen.
As you can see, it was a gorgeous day – one which required loads of sunscreen and the removal of several of layers of clothes. The others were on fjellskis – slightly wider than normal cross-country skis with metal edges (and leather boots). On the way up they had the advantage due to lighter gear (although it was easy to keep up), but given my one previous experience on skis similar to fjellskis, I didn’t mind if it meant I could have my wider skis and attached heels on the way back down!
At the summit it wasn’t quite tanktop weather anymore, but none the less the views were amazing. It looked like a painting. And the ski down in the spring snow wasn’t half bad either! First Norwegian Swedish topptur was a success!
Topptur number 2 took place a week later. I put out a plea for ski partners on facebook and that is where I met Nick (we are both part of an Americans in Trondheim group on fb). He invited me on a tour that weekend. We – me, him and his friend, Mildrid – headed down towards Storlidalen (near Oppdal) to tackle Okla. It was a nice mellow mountain on another beautiful day!
As we were skiing down, I wished I could have bottled up the experience – the sun on my face, the views all around, the feeling of floating on air as I carved down the mountain in the spring snow. If I could, I’d share it will all of you – even if that meant I’d then have to share the mountains with you too (since you’d all want to take up backcountry too…).
My latest tour was this weekend. Nick wanted to take his girlfriend, Line, out to get some more practice in on her skis, and Ruten was perfect for that – chill mountain, a not very long tour, and close to home. While there is still plenty of snow to be had in the mountains, we started out at only about 200m, meaning we had to hike through lots of muck for quite a while. Even once we put our skis on, it was a bit iffy for a bit. See evidence below.
But the mud and the brush soon gave way to snow, important in any good topptur… The sun was out (more evidence that I bring good weather to skiing adventures, it is the least I can do) but there was a strong wind the entire time. Once we made it to the top it was like we were on Everest! Ok, slight exaggeration – but I don’t think I’ve ever been subject to sustained winds that strong. The wind combined with the dark clouds moving in fast meant that we spent about 12 seconds on the summit – snapped a couple of pictures and then we were off!
All that wind brought the storm in fast. Good thing we didn’t make a bet on it, because I was certain that we’d beat it back to the car. I’m just optimistic I guess!
But it was blue sky to this in just a few minutes! Luckily it was only the last 20 minutes or so and it was snow as opposed to rain. And the sun started to peek out again as we began to drive away. I’ve decided not to let this incident tarnish my sunny ski tour record!
I’m hopeful that my spring skiing isn’t over yet – I’d like to get a kickturn or two in (steeper skiing) and maybe even a fjord view! But what I’ve done this far has been great – much thanks to all those who have taken me out skiing with them!