Freeride the Fjords
Seen lots of seasons in the Alps? Wanting to do something ‘totally different’?
Family Ski News has the answer – try Freeride the Fjords.
Our roving reporter, Briony Key investigates…
The fun starts with snow-sure skiing at family-friendly Myrkdalen, followed by a stay at the remote and welcoming Vatnahalsen Mountain Lodge, for guided backcountry touring with a stunning backdrop.
How do you get from A to B? This is where it gets exciting; the journey takes in a boat cruise on the World Heritage protected Nærøyfjord, and then a trip on Norway’s famous Flåm Railway, which definitely feels
very Harry Potter.
So, as all good stories go, let’s start at the very beginning.
Myrkdalen is Western Norway’s largest ski resort, and the country’s seventh largest ski area, located in Voss, just two hours from Bergen.
One of the resort’s main selling points is its long season – from mid November to May – and the 18-24 meters of snow it gets each winter. Myrkdalen has designated children’s ski areas, 22 slopes for all abilities, terrain parks, ski cross slopes … and great off-piste terrain.
The kids’ area is at the base of the resort, with easy access to the Myrkdalen Hotel. There are two button lifts, a magic carpet and four varied green slopes. It’s a welcoming place to learn to ski, with plenty of space for those faltering first turns.
The resort also offers a range of activities for youngsters during the holidays, and each weekend, including sleeping in snow caves, sledging and horse riding.
Groomed cross-country slopes are also located close to the hotel, and there’s also fine terrain for backcountry skiing. This place might not be the scale of Alpine resorts, but it’s got great snow, wide, open pistes and an eyeful of beautiful scenery.
And there’s no waiting at lifts, no crowded slopes…
Our time here was based at the Myrkdalen Hotel, a modern, comfortable place, with ski-in-ski-out, two children’s play areas and three restaurants, each using locally sourced food. We tried all of them.
Restaurant Nuten is the main a-la-carte restaurant, with fine food and lovely mountain views, while family friendly Restaurant Nuten Fondue is a fun way to catch up with friends – while savouring lots of cheese. Restaurant Tunet brings tasty pizzas and pastas to the menu.
And do pop into the Pudder (Powder) Afterski Bar – where all the fun’s at, on Saturdays in the season.
We were sad to leave Myrkdalen, but excited by what was to come, with many of the group saying how nice to was to have ‘a mini holiday’ in between two ski trips. Cameras a poppin’, we boarded the cruise boat at Gudvangen. Gudvangr means ‘the field of the gods by the water’, and this small village certainly had an otherworldly feel about it. Or perhaps it was the Nærøyfjord.
This 17-kilometre long, narrow, stretch is one of the most dramatic fjord trips in Europe, and setting out on it felt like a big adventure – it’s famed for being the wildest and most beautiful branch of the Sognefjord (the world’s longest and deepest fjord), with its snow-capped mountains, waterfalls, swooping birds and picture-perfect farmsteads. Easy, therefore, to see why Disney folk used this place as an inspiration for the hit movie Frozen.
Our cruise ended at Flåm, but our adventure was still underway…next up, the Flåm Railway.
The Flåm Railway
Flåm is situated at the innermost part of the Sognefjord, and was a special place to end our cruise, and start our journey on another of Norway’s leading tourist attractions.
The railway journey from here up to the high mountain station at Myrdal was one of those trips I will always remember. The 20-kilometre trip climbs steeply, chuffing in and out of tunnels that spiral through the mountainside, glimpsing a frozen wonderland and rushing waterfalls. It’s nature at its finest, and a feast for the eyes of anyone who loves the great outdoors.
And it was into this setting that we stepped off the train for our time to really get back to nature.
The Vatnahalsen Høyfjellshotell is adjacent to the railway stop, overlooking Aurlandsfjord and the Flåmsdalen mountains, and just a short ski, or hike, to a frozen lake., which really caught my attention.
My group of advanced ski buddies were keen to ski tour up the Tavern Mountains (1700 meters above sea level), but I’d twisted my leg the day before so opted for – what I thought was – an easier choice.
A snowshoe tour around Lake Reinungavatnet seemed just what the doctor ordered, and I set off full of gusto. Four-hours later, and now the other side of the remote mountain, I realised that perhaps ski touring had been the way forward, but I wouldn’t have swapped my time alone with nature for anything, despite the aching limbs!
Back at base I took in more of my surroundings. The sauna was fired up and ready for when folks return from touring, and was a welcome way to warm up after my time in the ice.
The Høyfjellshotell is a simple, well-run hotel, and shines for it. Clean, uncluttered rooms encourage you to cast your eyes outside to the mountain and striking ice lake views. Fine, fresh food is served in a traditional restaurant, and there’s a bar and lounge for this post-touring catch-ups, with friends, and the friendly, welcoming host.
You can also try hiking, fishing and hunting, which have been enjoyed here since 1896, when Norwegians and Europeans first visited. Today’s guests are be accompanied by certified mountain guides, so there’s no chance anyone will get lost in the mountains … unless, of course, they want to.
For further details and to book, check out Myrkdalen’s Freeride the Fjords website HERE.
You can also stay at this converted farmhouse, bookable through the Myrkdalen Hotel
Check out the resort’s YouTube channel to find out more: