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The towns and cities along the coast of Fjord Norway have a relatively mild and wet climate. However, the precipitation doesn’t fall as rain further up the fjords – to the delight of those who love skiing! Because every day that rain falls on the towns and cities, wonderful feathery powder snow falls on the mountains inland.

When snow does eventually fall on Mount Fløyen in Bergen, the children rush to find their sledges, and they all have skis too! They have many days of snow activities behind them already by January. And families in the Stavanger area head for the slopes in Sirdal early in the season.

Poorly hidden secret

The people of Fjord Norway are fed up with the skiing centres in Eastern Norway getting all the attention in the national media. Maybe this secrecy is deliberate or down to the modesty of those who live there, but now it’s time the secret was revealed. Western Norway has better snow, more snow and more accessible ski centres than many other places in Norway.

No friends on powder day?

Take the people of Bergen for example. When the forecast is good, they pack in the evening so that they’re ready on the platform to catch the 06.30 a.m. train.

An hour and a half later, there they are, with other friends who have taken a sickie or skipped their lecture that day, in the cable car, which is just a few tens of metres from the railway station, on their way up to Hangurstoppen above the skiing town Voss. They’re raring to go and can’t hide their smiles. It’s generally a case of every man for himself when there’s powder snow around, but not here.

Here, we’re confident that the snow will last. That there’s more than enough for everybody. And that it will snow again very soon! On days like this, even the most dedicated snow enthusiasts almost become religious, it’s like going to church, to a cathedral dedicated to Western Norway’s powder snow.

Weekend at Vikafjell

There is a tradition of chasing big experiences in the extreme sport town Voss. The ‘whole’ town heads for the snow on fine days at the weekends and Easter, either to the ski lifts or to do ski tours in the surrounding mountains, in Voss itself or the fresh snow paradise Myrkdalen nearby.

Both of these skiing destinations have a well-deserved reputation as freeride ski centres and offer experiences at all levels. Whether you simply want to cruise down large flanks, weave between secret forest trails or do cliff drops.

The common denominator is the Western Norwegian snow. It’s not as cold here as at ski centres further east of the country, but there’s a lot more snow.

The most precipitous snow location in the west – Røldal – gets so much snow that they’ve been used to being snowed in for centuries. It was completely cut off during the winter months right up until the 1960s. When the 300 inhabitants in Røldal eventually got an all-year-open road in 1968, it meant building what was then Norway’s longest tunnels.

The terrain in Røldal, home to the highest mountains in the Hardanger area, is unique and goes hand in hand with the weather. Some of the trails around the ski centre are so steep that they’re impossible to ski unless there’s lots and lots of snow. And luckily there usually is!

Small ski lifts and big mountains

The very essence of a day’s skiing in Western Norway is characterised by the modest café selling ‘svele’ pancakes, the unpretentious T-bar tow lifts and the fantastic mountainsides they take you to. The small ski centres are particularly outstanding. There are more ski centres out there than you may think, and they all have their own attractions.

Take the little Jølster ski centre in Sunnfjord for example, an approx. 3.5-hour drive from Bergen. Two T-bar tow lifts give you an ascent of 550 metres, making it a gem among Norwegian ski centres. From the top of the lift in Jølster, you have a view of a first-rate ski tour area in the mountains around Jølstravatnet lake.

Or you can head into the forests and rugged mountains and ski in between the locals doing the same! There is a strong local skiing community in Jølster, with an active skiing club and many active young people, and parents and other locals help to run the ski centre on a voluntary basis.

There is also a similar charming ski centre in Nordfjordeid. Harpefossen ski centre is a good bit bigger but similar in essence – it has a homey charm, and the T-bar tow lifts take you up into unique terrain. This ski centre also has an entrepreneurial spirit, being the first in Norway to go in for catskiing.

Full access with an Alpepass

Together with Stryn, Ørsta, Stranda, Hornindal and five other ski centres, Harpefossen has also developed the lift pass collaboration Alpepass. This lift pass gives you access to the huge area covered by these charming ski centres. Within a relatively compact area, you can head for where the conditions are best!

The best scenery in Norway is found in the area between Volda and Stranda in the Hjørundfjord, Geiranger and the Sunnmøre Alps. This is also where you’ll find the highest concentration of ski centres per inhabitant, where there are ski centres with a very high freeride factor.

Strandafjellet ski centre has actually been voted the best freeride ski centre in Norway, known far and wide for its first-rate powder snow in all directions. From the T-bar tow lift towards the top of Roaldshorn, you’ll find ‘Alperittet’, a long freeride trail that takes you all the way back down to the town, or you can ski down the other side of the mountain into Blådalen valley.

Ørsta ski centre west of the Hjørundfjord is included in the Alpepass lift pass with its huge freeride areas under Mount Veirahaldet, which is easy to get to from the top lift using climbing skins. The best freeride skiers compete every year to win the trophy in the X2 freeride competition.

The Alpepass ski lift pass is available as a season ticket that pays off after around 15 days on the slopes. You can also buy a season ticket that you can use on up to ten optional days at the ski centres in North-Western Norway – all of which have more than enough freeride cred to give you some of the best days’ skiing of your life.

The ferries are an experience in themselves

If you’re used to driving on slippery winter roads, driving between the different ski centres makes for an experience in itself. Driving in Fjord Norway generally includes a ferry trip or two, giving you a nice break where you can enjoy the fjord and the view before you get back behind the wheel.

At Hodlekve ski centre, you can ski on fresh, newly fallen snow in Norway’s most outstanding forest terrain. The large, north-facing flank remains untouched for days at a time after falls of snow, giving you the opportunity to ski in steep and dramatic, or smoother and more playful, terrain?

Sogn ski centre Heggemyrane is the other ski centre in Sogndal, a town known for its fruit cordials, which attracts visitors because of its magnificent scenery and the sporting experiences on offer. You’ll find everything from Norway’s longest poma lift, at Heggis as the ski centre is known, and everything from pillow lines to green runs and long flanks you can follow all the way down to Hafslo, the village below!

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