Skiing With the World's Best in Lapland, the Land of the Midnight Sun
A former Freeride World Tour champ writes on a trip into the Nordic mountains...
Photography by Adam Clark / Words by Reine Barkered - professional skier, Freeride World Tour champion 2012.
“Why didn’t anyone tell me?"
Those are the words I muttered the first time I went deep into the Scandies in Swedish Lapland. The Mountains are huge and stretch over a vast area.
I always headed down to the Alps to ski the big lines thinking that what we have at home was not big enough, but it really is.
Far above the Arctic Circle lie the ‘towns’ of Riksgränsen and Abisko placed between the actual cities of Kiruna, Sweden and Narvik, Norway. Narvik is the harbour from which the iron ore (from the mines in Kiruna) gets transported to via train.
Along this purpose-built railroad, these towns sprung up. It’s not much to look at but I have had some of the best days of my life there. Riksgränsen, literally “the border of the realm" consists of a hotel, some staff housing, a supermarket and a campsite as well as a pretty old lift system.
Riksgränsen is the host for the world’ s longest running big mountain competition, the Scandinavian Big Mountain Championships, or simply NM, going for 25 years.
This is what brought me up here in the first place, the start of my freeriding career. It’s also said by some to be the birthplace of freeskiing and progressive freestyle snowboarding like we know it today, thanks to legends like JP Auclair, Ingmar Backman and Jesper Rönnbäck amongst others.
It has almost a mythical atmosphere that has to be experienced, not explained. We spent a couple of day skiing here and I tried my best to show the crew around but also to introduce them to the mind-set you have to have to ride here, and that is to make the most of what you got!
The terrain is a little funky, the snow usually bulletproof and the weather as unpredictable as it gets. The slogan for NM’s 20-year anniversary was “20 years of flat light".
You can get it good though, and with a good crew it’s easy to shred laps all day. What I love most about this area is due to its latitude it gets super long days and even midnight sun.
We were here in May, so the days were about 20 hours long and it makes it possible to go out almost whenever. We got some really great shots before heading out to the nearby town of Abisko. We were setup with two helicopters that took us out into the vast wilderness.
It’s not easy to get out there, you can use sleds in some areas or tour for days. The weather looks pretty good and the crew was stoked to get out. They already had some good days in Narvik shooting some fjord skiing and I joined for the last part of the trip – fortunately when the helicopters were reserved!
We had good weather right of the bat and got everyone stoked for what’s to come – Sam Smoothy, Riley Leboe, Callum Petit, Izzy Lynch and a local Norwegian Skier named Ida Elisabeth Nilsen. We all got some good lines done on day one.
Over the days we explore deeper into the massif and found some really good stuff but some peaks we had to pass on since it’s the calving season for the Reindeer. They are not wild animals but considered livestock that belong to the indigenous people called Sami or Samer – they have herded their reindeer here for generations and have little huts and temporary villages set up here and there that time of year.
I brought along some smoked reindeer heart for the crew to try. It’s extremely nutritious as well as delicious and beats any power bar you could bring!
We rounded off with an evening and night shoot that got some of the best shots of the trip in an amazing light.
I’m so happy that I got to show my friends around in a part of the world that not many from the outside world go to for freeriding and I am happy that they all loved the region and experience.
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