A couple of decades ago, a group of Swedes came to Vesterålen to try their luck at alpine skiing – combined with winter cod fishing on the open ocean. They chose Øksnes Vestbygd as their home base. The local young people had been skiing in alpine terrain for as long as they could remember – on the more or less steep mountainsides. But with the arrival of the Swedes, we learned a new skiing term; the Swedes had come to ski off piste.

The various summits facing the open ocean on the outer side of the islands are certainly suitable for off piste skiing – when the snow is deep and covers all the underlying stones. But the Swedes had come so late in the winter that the sun had begun to melt the southern slopes. There were many skiing injuries, and the rescue boat ran a regular shuttle service to the doctor’s and the hospital. 

After several years of meagre catches at sea and frequent broken bones and visits to seek medical assistance, the Swedes were required to put up a financial guarantee before they were allowed go skiing in the mountains. In other words, they mustn’t take it for granted that they would be allowed on the alpine slopes … 

The Swedish skiers who come today are normally much better prepared, equipped and trained. Few mountainsides, therefore, are on the average too challenging for today’s skiing freaks – whether they be novices or extreme skiers. But the basic rule still applies:  talk with local people who know, ask for tips and advice – before you step up the slope and begin your descent.

If you are a dedicated telemark-, rando- or snowboard-enthusiast, you will see opportunities for rapid descents everywhere you turn in the mountains. But here as well: Contact a local expert; the local tourist information will gladly help you by providing the telephone numbers of local, experienced skiers. Even though most of the mountains in our area are safe and easy to negotiate, there may occasionally be potential snow slides in certain exposed areas, particularly after periods of heavy wind and poor weather. 

For snowboarders there are ample opportunities, as there are both mountain slopes and a local alpine skiing facility. And the Ånstadblåheia skiing facility, located a few kilometres outside of downtown Sortland, is the site of the annual Blue Hype contest, featuring souring jumps and sporty skiing manoeuvring. Ski equipment is also for hire at the skiing facility.

In Vesterålen there are a number of prepared skiing trails for trekking and cross country outings. The longest trails, which are also lit, are at Hadseløya, Åse on Andøy and in Sortlandmarka. 

The best time to ski in Vesterålen is February – April. During this period the days have once again become long enough that light is not a factor. The temperature at this time normally also stays below freezing, so that the snow is perfect for skiing on powder slopes.

And just so we have mentioned it: There are plenty of places to park your car practically anywhere, just in case you should be tempted to try skiing a tempting mountain slope …