Tromsø is an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise. In summer you can bike, hike, climb and kayak. In winter it gets dark and cold up here, but that’s no reason to stay at home and dream of warmer months. In fact, it’s quite the contrary! During this season especially, a myriad of activities suddenly become available. I talked to Kasia Pacek from “Tromsø Outdoor” to get some tips.
Text: Elinor Tessin
Many outdoor sporting activities are available in Tromsø. As Kasia says, one of the unique advantages of living here is the proximity to nature. In addition to the wilder parts of the island, you can reach real mountains within twenty minutes by bus or car. Put on some snowshoes and you can hike in deep snow or you can go ice-skating, for example, on the outdoor rink in Charlottenlund. Then, of course, there is the skiing. The alpine variety, which non-Norwegians are probably more familiar with, is possible in Kroken. Another version is “topptur” skiing, where you walk up the mountainside and ski back down. For the latter, it’s necessary to be an experienced skier and have confidence in deep snow. Cross-country skiing, in contrast, is a popular everyday activity, possible for almost everyone no matter what skills you already possess (or don’t possess!). Just put on some skis and start practicing in a flat area. There are ski tracks all over the island; though they are flatter in the southern part, whilst steeper elevations can be found in the north. In addition to the ski tracks on Tromsøya, there are also regularly maintained tracks on Kvaløya and the mainland.
You can rent skis from Kraft for the whole season, for a week from Tromsø Kommune or otherwise for a specific time period from local outdoors shops. It is also possible to borrow winter clothes and it never hurts to ask for student prices. For example, Tromsø Outdoor offers discounts on certain days of the week. Used cross-country skis are also affordable, though topptur equipment is more expensive and not as easy to handle for beginners.
For those who have never skied before and feel insecure about setting off alone, a guided tour may not be the worst idea. You will be taught the basics of how to get moving, and more importantly, how to stop moving should you encounter a slope. If you are planning to take on a mountain, it is important to have at least some knowledge about weather and snow conditions, or better, take someone experienced with you to avoid setting off avalanches. To minimize the risk of encountering an avalanche, stay away from steep mountainsides, especially in lee of the wind. Rising temperatures, persistent wind and precipitation make avalanches more likely, so these conditions might be a reason to just avoid the mountainside altogether. Again, joining a tour with an experienced guide is probably a safer option than setting off on your own.
Another thing to be wary of is the cold, says Kasia. If you are not used to the Norwegian winter, you might not have the clothes necessary to stay outdoors for longer periods of time. It’s important to wear multiple layers, with the outer layer protecting you against wind. However, don’t get too warm in there: sweat will make you even more vulnerable to low temperatures. Jeans are insufficient for winter outdoor activities, at least not without water-proof snow pants on top.
For summer, Kasia recommends bike-tours around the surrounding islands. Take advantage of ferry and bus connections to more remote spots. Before multi-day tours, look up DNT cabins, or exercise your “allemannsrett” and just set up camp somewhere – making sure to stay at least 150 meters away from private properties and occupied cabins.
There are some activities that are possible all-year round. You can, for example, rent kayaks and set out to explore the fjords from another perspective. However, you need to get a Norwegian kayaking license first (våttkort) to prove you’re capable of saving yourself and others, should you end up in the water.
A secret tip from Kasia is to purchase a special winter sleeping bag, in which you can spend the night outside (even on snow), allowing you to spot every last second of the Northern lights…as long as you don’t doze off.
To read more about outdoor safety in the winter, a brochure with guidelines is available at tourist offices as well as online: (http://www2.turistforeningen.no/files/DNT/publikasjoner/Sikkerhetsbrosjye_A5_VINTER_ENG_TY.pdf)
http://skisporet.no has information about the state and location of ski-tracks for cross-country skiing
http://www.varsom.no will keep you updated on snow conditions and avalanche risk in the area you plan to visit
http://www.tromsooutdoor.no/explore-tromsoe-and-northern-norway-by-bike.5769863-139088.html has tips on single and multi-day biking trips around Tromsø