Lofoten Islands

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Ski-touring in the Lofoten Islands Norway (photo Up Guides)
Ski-touring in the Lofoten Islands Norway (photo Up Guides)
Norway
Norway's Lofoten Islands are one of the most beautiful places on earth
Alpine bowls & skiable trees offer perfect backcountry terrain at Lofoten Islands
Alpine bowls & skiable trees offer perfect backcountry terrain at Lofoten Islands
Lofoten Islands in Norway are a
Lofoten Islands in Norway are a 'skin up to ski down' part of the world
Most of the ski terrain at Lofoten Islands is accessible from the local roads
Most of the ski terrain at Lofoten Islands is accessible from the local roads
Gogeous Lofoten Islands backcountry powder turns
Gogeous Lofoten Islands backcountry powder turns
Lofoten Islands has numerous steep couloirs to suit extreme freeriders
Lofoten Islands has numerous steep couloirs to suit extreme freeriders
A Lofoten Islands summit as a storm quickly approaches
A Lofoten Islands summit as a storm quickly approaches
Svolvaer is Lofoten Islands main town, providing all services plus a nearby ski area & airport
Svolvaer is Lofoten Islands main town, providing all services plus a nearby ski area & airport
Kongstind ski area & lifts in the Lofoten Islands near Svolvær
Kongstind ski area & lifts in the Lofoten Islands near Svolvær
Starting a climb through open glades in Møysalen National Park, Lofoten Islands
Starting a climb through open glades in Møysalen National Park, Lofoten Islands
Lofoten Islands hs several popular routes after a storm, including here on Store Kvittind
Lofoten Islands hs several popular routes after a storm, including here on Store Kvittind
Geitgallien & Trollsdalen are two of Lofoten Islands most popular big mountain descents
Geitgallien & Trollsdalen are two of Lofoten Islands most popular big mountain descents
Villages like Henningsvær are in spectacular locations in the Lofoten Islands
Villages like Henningsvær are in spectacular locations in the Lofoten Islands
Lofoten Islands have a few reindeer herds to visit (& eat!)
Lofoten Islands have a few reindeer herds to visit (& eat!)
Aurora Borealis (northern lights) are another big reason to come to Lofoten in winter
Aurora Borealis (northern lights) are another big reason to come to Lofoten in winter
Lofoten Islands has plenty of seaside (fjordside!) lodgings, often very close to the ski terrain
Lofoten Islands has plenty of seaside (fjordside!) lodgings, often very close to the ski terrain
Full car park in the popular Store Kvittind-Pilan-Sautind sector near Laupstad in Lofoten Islands
Full car park in the popular Store Kvittind-Pilan-Sautind sector near Laupstad in Lofoten Islands
Lofoten Islands are a rich fishing ground in late winter, & racks of fresh, drying Stockfish are at all ports
Lofoten Islands are a rich fishing ground in late winter, & racks of fresh, drying Stockfish are at all ports
Says it all really, ski the Lofoten Islands in Norway
Says it all really, ski the Lofoten Islands in Norway

Lofoten Islands

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Lofoten Islands

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Lofoten Islands Norway

The Lofoten Islands of Norway provide an arctic ski experience like no other. Connected to the Norwegian mainland by a series of bridges, the island chain provides amazing ski touring & freeride descents in spectacular coastal landscapes. Despite its location above the Arctic Circle, winter temperatures are relatively mild (due to ocean current influences) when compared to the usual extremes in other places during winter.

It is not hard to see why Lofoten is increasingly popular with ski-tourers & freeriders. It is unbelievably beautiful & photogenic. Exceptional peaks rising directly from the sea providing descents of up to 1,000m vertical are a serious drawcard. The gorgeous coastal villages situated incredibly on small islands dwarfed by mountains, fabulous accommodation & food, plus the chance to see the Northern Lights make a visit here a no-brainer. However if skiing in solitude in the backcountry is your thing, you might be better off heading further north to Finnmark.

Pros & Cons for Lofoten Islands

Pros

  • Reliable snowpack until late in the season (early June).
  • Seemingly endless backcountry powder skiing, split-boarding & ski-touring options.
  • Easy adventure above the Arctic Circle.
  • Stunning peaks, surroundings & views.
  • Terrain includes everything from easy bowls to challenging couloirs and trees.
  • Beautiful villages & accommodation options.
  • Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) viewing possible, even probable in some months.

Cons

  • Weather can be extreme (wind, snow, rain) & quickly changeable.
  • 'Warmer' and 'wetter' snow than in other parts of Norway (i.e. Lyngen Alps or Finnmark)
  • Several popular mountains get tracked out quickly during the peak season.

Pro or Con (depending on your perspective)

  • Limited to no public transport on the islands; private car, rental car or guide-provided transport required to get to the start of the ski terrain.
  • Isolated & dark in mid-winter (Dec to Feb), long days later in the season (late March to June).
  • Becoming increasingly popular. If looking for absolute solitude in Norway head to Finnmark.
  • Access to the ski terrain is all human-powered on skins or boot pack (with a couple of exceptions!).

Skiing, Snowboarding & Terrain

The Lofoten Island chain consists of 4 main islands, is around 75km long with a highest point of 1,161m on Higravstinden. The mountains rise precipitously from the sea, but the ski terrain has something for all abilities from gentle bowls to steep couloirs. Summits typically skied in the Lofoten Islands are less than 1,100m high, with descents going all the way down to sea level. Some tree-skiing is possible at lower elevations (less than 300m above sea level) and usually consists of birch woodland and the odd pine tree. The taller woods are fantastic fun to ski through during stormy weather. Feels a bit like Japan on a powder day. Most routes start and finish at the same place, allowing for simple logistics to a roadside car park. As with the other Norwegian ski-touring regions (Lyngen Alps, Sunnmøre & Finnmark), "skin-up, ski-down" is a reasonable motto for any visit to the area.

One thing we noted on our travels in the islands is that the very popular routes skied around the hamlet of Laupstad. The peaks of Scout Kvittland, Pilan & Sautind were heavily tracked at the end of the first post-storm day, as were the more difficult climbs & descents in and around Geitgallien. Car parks were full in several places, so heading out early to these areas is essential for the best ski experience. With all of the above said, there are plenty of peaks in the islands. Just go somewhere else, we did!

Whilst all the best skiing & snowboarding (splitboarding!) here is human-powered on skins to get up the hill, in case you were wondering, for skiing of the lift-assisted variety, there are two very small ski areas in the Lofoten Islands - Kongstind and Stamsund. Kongstind Alpine Centre (check out the trail map) is a few minutes’ drive north of Svolvaer. It has 235m of vertical served by a stick poma lift and operates during most afternoons, plus earlier on weekends. A delightful warming hut serves up affordable drinks and treats including the classic waffles & brown cheese. The terrain includes some groomed piste, plus off-piste that is great for super stormy, snowy days when the backcountry is out of the question. Stamsund, near the village of the same name, has nearly 300m skiable vertical off its ski lift but opening and closing times are harder to define. The village is further west along the island chain so being in proximity to it as a tourist would be unusual. Regardless, you are here to climb without lifts, so unless you need to practice for a slalom race or are desperate to ski a storm, stay away from them & leave it to the locals! The nearest 'real' ski resort is in Narvik.

Where are the Lofoten Islands Norway?

The Lofoten Islands are located above the Arctic Circle & start 90km west of the Norwegian city of Narvik. The archipelago's main town of Svolvær is 220km (over 3hr by road) west of Narvik & 940km north of the Norwegian capital, Oslo. Driving distance to Svolvaer from Oslo is over 1,400km & potentially 20hr on the road, making flying the only reasonable option to get there.

Flights to the area can be direct to the Harstad-Narvik airport at Evenes (EVE) (recommended if touring in a private group) or via Bodo (BOO) to Svolvær (SVJ). An alternative option on the islands is further west of Svolvaer at Leknes (LKN), with flights to the small airport also coming via Bodø. Regardless of where you land in the region, all flights are via Oslo (OSL) & flight times are around 2 to 3hr. We flew from Oslo direct to Evenes where our rental car was waiting for us. From Evenes we drove with ease to Narvik, Lofoten Islands, Swedish Lapland & up to Tromsø and the Lyngen Alps.

Public transport in the region is of little use in winter (unless travelling between Svolvaer & Narvik) and it is essential to get a rental car (if not part of an organised tour). Access to most portions of the Lofoten Islands ski terrain is possible via car when based in Svolvær or other central villages. If not travelling as part of a tour, superb, winterised cars can be rented at Evenes airport, Svolvaer or Narvik. All rental cars should come fully winterised. Most are 'all-wheel drive' and include studded winter tyres which are essential for safely travelling on the well-maintained, but often icy roads. Search & book car rentals from Evenes airport or Narvik.

Driving on the islands is made easier with several long tunnels & bridges cutting travel times. However, whilst distances may seem short, driving times can be longer than expected due to winter road conditions, particularly early in the ski season. Parking cars at some popular ski route starts can be difficult, however the early catches the worm, so be an early bird.

With several early flights to Oslo leaving Evenes airport, when departing the region, an overnight hotel stay nearby is often the best plan. We used the Sure Hotel, located near the entrance to the airport plus next to a restaurant and handy petrol station for refuelling the rental car. The hotel was more than adequate for the task.

Lofoten Islands Accommodation

The Lofoten archipelago juts out far into the Norwegian Sea. One road, the E10, links the four main islands & all the villages to the largest settlement of Svolvær - a thriving town of 2,000 people. Svolvaer is spread across numerous small islets and is an excellent base for exploring the region. A stunning array of hotels are dotted around its beautiful harbour. All the best hotels & apartments are on the harbourside and whilst most are thoroughly modern incarnations, several are beautifully refurbished historic buildings repurposed from the glory days of peak fishing. Ones worth looking at include the wonderfully located Scandic Svolvær, Thon Hotel Svolvær (a 5-star hotel without the 5-star prices!), the prime positioned Nordis-Apartments, Lofoten Suiteapartments, & Thon Hotel Lofoten. Across the harbour one’s eyes are drawn to the fabulous Anker Brygge, which offers harbourside, 5-star suite apartments. For those on a budget, the best options are the great value Lofoten Rorbuer (located on the marina) and the Marina Hotel Lofoten. We stayed at the Marina Hotel because we are tightarses AND everything else was booked out due to a big fishing competition being on at the time. Oh, and it is not located on the marina!

A short drive southwest of Svolvaer, nearby Kabelvåg provides a ready alternative with numerous houses & apartments for rent. A short drive from Kabelvåg, for a range of hotel rooms, chalets and cabins all in one place in a quiet, absolute waterfront location, try the Skårungen Hotel, Cabins & Camping.

Search & book here for all Lofoten Islands accommodation at Svolvaer & Kabelvåg.

Away from Svolvær, aside from numerous seaside (fjordside!) homes for rent, a useful option back toward Narvik is in the village of Lødingen. The quiet and affordable Lødingen Brygge has variously configured rooms & apartments, plus an excellent cafe/bar/restaurant with incredible fresh baked scrolls and delectable local fish on the dinner menu. The only downside is that breakfasts are not possible here, so you will need to stock-up with provisions from the nearby supermarkets.

In the other direction, beyond Svolvaer & Kabelvåg there are numerous lodging options all through the archipelago ready to provide an authentic Norwegian ski touring & freeride experience. Many of the lodgings are guesthouses, holiday homes, cabins, or apartments, often converted from historic fishing industry buildings, so locations are more often than not absolute waterfront. To get a sense of what is on offer, check out the Lofoten Apartments near Hopen .

Another village worth visiting and spending a few nights in is Henningsvær, 20km southwest of Svolvaer. Set on a series of islands around a protected harbour and surrounded by racks of drying stockfish with a backdrop of steep rocky peaks, the village is one of the Lofoten Island’s tourist honeypots. For accommodations, just before the last bridge into the village, try the budget, but always available Fast Hotel Henningsvær. In the village proper, try the classical Henningsvær Bryggehotell, the refurbished traditional Norwegian fishing cottages at Henningsvær Rorbuer or the super friendly Henningsvær Guesthouse.

Search & book here for all Lofoten Islands accommodation at Henningsvær.

Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) at Lofoten

Another of Lofoten’s geographical benefits are shared with much of the Arctic - its proximity to the stunning phenomenon of the Aurora Borealis (otherwise known as the Northern Lights).

The Northern Lights can be viewed from September to April. You need a clear night with no light (artificial or moon!) & the right solar activity. We were lucky enough to view a stunning aurora display during our visit to Lofoten. Waves of green & purple danced across the night sky from dusk to dawn. An incredible experience.

The forecast for the northern lights (yep, there’s a forecast!) can be viewed here.

Nearby Ski Resorts

Away from Lofoten, Narvikfjellet is the closest 'real' ski resort option. Its piste trails seemingly ending right in the Narvik city centre; however it is over 220km (3 to 4hr drive) from Svolvaer. From Narvik, the railway into Sweden links the city with the interesting Swedish Lapland trio of Riksgransen, Bjorkliden & Abisko.

Review

The Powderhounds are visiting the Lofoten Islands now (late March 2023). It was a phenomenal trip with amazing snow, landscapes & skiing, but also noted were an overabundance of humans in some popular ski routes. Click on the review link in the left column (or top of the page if on a mobile) to read all the reviews.

See how the rest of the European ski resorts compare on the Europe ski resort ratings page.

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Tours in or near Lofoten Islands

Backcountry Skiing Tours

Lofoten Islands Norway Ski Touring
GUIDED BACKCOUNTRY SKI TOURING
7 Days | 6 Nights | 5 Ski Days
Ability: Strong Intermediate to Expert
Fully hosted & guided small group backcountry ski touring exploring one of the world's most stunning locations, Lofoten Islands on the Arctic coast of northern Norway. Stay in a fisherman's cabin & ski powder from a different summit every day down to the sea. Private groups of 4 - 6 people apply for your best dates.
Price p/p From price based on 6 nights in shared cabin lodgings in a private group of 4 to 6 people.
Base/invoice currency is in EURO inc taxes.
*Displayed price may vary due to currency fluctuations.
USD 2,408
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Ski Touring in Lofoten
PRIVATE GUIDED BACKCOUNTRY SKI TOURING
8 Days | 7 Nights | 6 Ski Days
Ability: Intermediate to Expert
Discover Norway's most iconic ski-touring mountains; the Lofoten Islands. A week filled with great skiing, amazing lodging & new experiences! Beautiful mountains rise straight out of the sea & are full of possibilities for scenic touring & epic powder descents. Custom private tours only. Inquire for your best dates ...
Price p/p From price based on 7 nights twin-share lodging in a group of 6 people on a private tour.
Base/invoice currency is in EURO inc taxes.
*Displayed price may vary due to currency fluctuations.
USD 2,128
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See all Backcountry Skiing tours that visit Lofoten Islands here
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