A very nordic take on ski­ing

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city, Ber­gen, by train and shut­tle bus, but de­spite the easy com­mute, the pistes are supremely quiet.

They spread out be­low as we slide up­wards, a to­tal 30km of beau­ti­fully groomed runs and nine lifts be­ly­ing the ex­tent of the ski area, since there’s so much space be­tween pistes. The low num­bers also hide a wealth of am­bi­tion in this youth­ful re­sort. It was only founded in 2003, when lo­cal in­vestors got to­gether with a steadyas-you-go grand plan, in­spired by an am­ple av­er­age snow­fall of 18 to 24m, and prox­im­ity to Ber­gen and the bet­ter-known ski town of Voss. A four-star ho­tel opened in 2012; more lifts, pistes, shops and ac­com­mo­da­tion are all in the works.

Our up­hill jour­ney to the Finnbunuten peak at 1,358m is an un­in­tim­i­dat­ing tour for learn­ers, a gen­tly slop­ing climb, no edgy dropoffs. The low alti­tude makes it easy on the lungs, too, but when we ar­rive at the top it still feels like an achieve­ment. The views help – the ho­tel and a ter­rain park mark the foot of the slopes, and snowy-roofed cab­ins line the pistes, all dwarfed by the all-en­com­pass­ing white.

The de­scent is a sur­prise after the soft mounds of the as­cent. In­struc­tor- guide Si­mon leads us down un­ex­pected steep­ness off-piste, be­fore we cruise late-af­ter­noon piste empti­ness to the door of the ho­tel.

Our stay in Myrk­dalen marks the start of a two-cen­tre, four-night Freeride the Fjords pack­age or­gan­ised by the re­sort, com­bin­ing two thor­oughly ex­cit­ing words as far as I’m con­cerned, as well as trav­el­ling by boat and train to a ski ho­tel only ac­ces­si­ble by rail.

The jour­ney to our sec­ond port of call is along the Un­esco-rated Naeroyfjord. The boat is full of tourists of all na­tion­al­i­ties but we are the only ones haul­ing ski bags on board, us­ing the two-hour cruise to the small town of Flam as a trans­fer to freeride fun.

Nor­way and fjords. I’d seen the pho­tos (who hasn’t), read about their ge­og­ra­phy, but un­til we got on board Vi­sion of the Fjords at the port of Gud­van­gen, a short drive from Myrk­dalen, I couldn’t un­der­stand their majesty.

Dark 4,600ft cliffs topped with white drop into even darker wa­ters, still and mes­meris­ing. Every­one on board is click­ing cam­eras, tour­ing the decks to gaze and point, chat­ter and gasp. But for me, the power of the land­scape, the huge, some­times Myrk­dalen has two Freeride the Fjords trips in 2019, March 27-31 and April 3-7, in­clud­ing two catered nights in Myrk­dalen with lift pass and two in Vat­na­halsen. Prices start at NOK8,705 (around £800). Find out more at myrk­dalen.no/ en/freeride-the­fjords. Pack­ages with­out ski guid­ing from NOK5,560 (around £515). Find out more about the re­gion at vis­it­nor­way. com and fjord­nor­way.com. For more about ski­ing in Nor­way, see nor­way­home of­ski­ing.com. frozen, some­times thun­der­ing wa­ter­falls, pic­turesque vil­lages and smooth empty wa­ters shut out all hu­man noise. It’s cold, the wind is whip­ping, but I stand, half hyp­no­tised at the prow, watch­ing, all the way to Flam.

Here, along with other pas­sen­gers from the boat, we board the Flams­bana train, its car­riages il­lus­trated with sym­bols of at­trac­tions en route, from fish­ing and wa­ter­falls to ski­ing, at our des­ti­na­tion, Vat­na­halsen. It trans­ports us through rocky empti­ness, past lakes and cliffs, cling­ing to pre­cip­i­tous edges and click­ity-clack­ing un­der re­in­force­ments that look like some­thing used in a West­ern movie to shore up a mine.

Vat­na­halsen is the last stop be­fore the Flams­bana reaches Myrdal on the main Oslo to Ber­gen rail­way line. We’re so near to a ma­jor trans­port route, yet so far. As the train pulls out, the seven of us are the only ones left on the plat­form, greeted by a wall of snow and be­hind it just the ho­tel, with skiers sit­ting out in the late af­ter­noon sun.

Al­though it was built as a sana­to­rium in 1896 and be­came a ski des­ti­na­tion in the early 20th cen­tury, the ho­tel fell out of favour as re­sorts with lifts took over. But then Pet­ter An­dresen, a man with as much vi­sion as those in­vestors in Myrk­dalen, re­alised it was the per­fect venue for ski tour­ing. Three years ago, he teamed up with the Ak­snes fam­ily, who own the ho­tel, and made it his mis­sion to put Vat­na­halsen back on the ski map.

In­side, I fall in love with its quirk­ily dec­o­rated liv­ing rooms and re­laxed at­mos­phere, where ski prac­ti­cal­ity blends eas­ily with com­fort. The spa­cious bed­rooms have big en-suite bath­rooms, plen­ti­ful hot wa­ter and lux­u­ri­ous L:A Bruket toi­letries. There’s a sauna, and views over a frozen lake, sur­rounded by moun­tains just cry­ing out to be skied on.

The ho­tel does have one ski lift, ser­vic­ing a short run for train­ing, or chil­dren, and there’s also crosscoun­try ski­ing on the lake. But the main event is ski tour­ing over the moun­tains sur­round­ing it.

Myrk­dalen’s Freeride the Fjords pack­age in­cludes the ser­vices of a moun­tain guide and we set out early in the morn­ing with ours, Roald Lande, aim­ing for the 1,700m peak of Try­vann, which in­volves a ski­tour­ing climb of around 900m. The route up is not too steep, but that doesn’t make the two-hour as­cent easy, with Roald set­ting a crack­ing pace to make sure con­di­tions will still be good on the de­scent.

The ef­fort is so worth it, both for the joy of reach­ing the top, for the beau­ti­ful fresh-track de­scent on snow that’s soft­ened just enough to make turns swishily cruisy and easy. And then there are the views over that rolling land­scape, and the dis­tinc­tive land­mark of the red Vat­na­halsen ho­tel, where I know there are freshly made waf­fles, com­ing ever closer.

Myrk­dalen, main; the train jour­ney, be­low; Vat­na­halsen, be­low right

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