Our Senja Island ski touring holiday explores this amazing Arctic Island in northern Norway. Senja lies southwest of the Arctic capital Tromso, with amazing fjord scenery and the ski touring is excellent – summit to sea descents and plenty of variety are on offer, ranging from classic peaks, to ski mountaineering and steeper couloirs.
Please visit our Covid-19 Ski Information page for Covid FAQs, details of our new participation requirements, travel advice and what to expect on your trip.
Skiing on Senja
Senja Island lies at 69 degrees north, ie some 300km north of the arctic circle, on the north west coast of Norway. It is the second largest island in Norway and variously known as ‘the magic island’ or ‘Norway in miniature’, due to the wide variety of scenery present on the island. Here you’ll find deep fjords, alpine peaks and rolling upland terrain dotted with lakes and summits.
The highest peaks reach 1000m, so make good day touring objectives and many drop straight into the sea, giving excellent summit to sea descents amidst breath taking scenery. For fitter and stronger skiers, there are numerous options for link ups, traverses and steep descents to make bigger days. The island has a good road network too, allowing access to even the most remote spots in about an hour from where we stay.
March is an ideal time to visit, offering plenty of daylight at this time of year, low enough temperatures for powder and a chance of seeing the northern lights.
This trip travels on Friday out/Friday return, to make use of the best flight options.
This is an intermediate level trip. To take part you should be at Fitness Level 2-3 and Tech Level 3 (see our Fitness/Experience guidelines). You need previous ski touring experience to join this tour – if you are a strong/fit skier, just a few previous days will be enough. The week includes 5-6 hour days with generally steady climbs, but also some steeper terrain involving kick turns and the odd short boot track to reach summits. Typically we’ll be doing 800-1000m of ascent a day (but this is at at sea level, with day packs on) – so you can expect to be skinning for 3-4 hours a day. Type of ascent: we use 100% skinning on this tour – approx 5000m of skinning up, 5000m of skiing down, all at sea level.
One IFMGA guide skiing with 6 clients.
Included in price
- 6 days of guiding
- All guides expenses
- 2 nights accommodation in Tromso, including breakfast.
- 5 nights accommodation at Senja Lodge (self catering, food included)
- Travel during the trip in shared hire vehicle
Excluded from price (see factsheet for cost estimates)
- Evening meals in Tromso
- Drinks and hill snacks
- Equipment hire
Our hotel in Tromso is the excellent 3 star Scandic Grand Hotel situated in the centre of town, and just 10 mins from the airport. The Scandic is an excellent stop-over providing a legendary breakfast, and is is close to restaurants in the bustling centre of Tromso.
Our accommodation on Senja is the Senja Lodge located in a tiny fishing village on the far north side of the island, surrounded by stunning mountains and just a stones throw from the Arctic ocean. It is owned and run by local mountain guide Bent Vidar Eilertsen as a self catering skiers and climbers lodge – formerly a fishermans cottage, it now makes a stunning base from which to explore the island and is a very comfortable place to hang out.
At the Lodge you will find shared bedrooms (2-4 bunks in each room), a toilet and bathroom with shower, drying room, equipment and work room for servicing gear, a fully equipped kitchen and two living rooms – one with a wide screen TV and a large collection of ski/climb/expedition films, and one with a huge library of mountaineering books. The bunks have duvets and pillows, but not linen/covers so you need to take your own linen/covers or a light sleeping bag or liner. We will self cater and buy food supplies locally. Please let us know if you have any special dietary requirements. Lodge details can be found on our Accommodation page.
Fly from UK to Tromso in Northern Norway, overnight at Hotel in Tromso. Evening Briefing – your guide will run through kit checks and safety routines, before going on to discuss the current weather and mountain conditions and how these affect our plans. We’ll have maps and information on the area to show you, so if you’ve any further questions or last minute requests, then this is the ideal time to bring them up.
AM Drive to Senja Island, taking in a day tour on the island en route.
Skiing from the Door
You don’t have to go far to find good touring on Senja, as there is great skiing all over the Island.
A good option on the first day, is to go for a tour right behind the Lodge – where there are a number of possible cols and summits to explore in the cirque behind the village.
Non of these are overly long, so there’s time to do a transceiver training session en route and sort any kit issues – but the descents are all north facing and quite sheltered, so often hold good snow.
Sunday to Thursday
Ski touring on Senja – a wide variety of day tours are on offer from summit to sea descents, scenic classics, longer link ups and steeper lines as appropriate. Outings are selected to cater for group interest, ski ability and the current snow and weather conditions. Some summits involve boot tracking to reach the highest point. The scenery on the island is outstanding.
Summit to Sea Descents
One of the unique things about skiing on coastal islands in the Arctic, is the ability to ski right down to the sea.
The summit to sea descents on Senja Island are some of the best in Northern Norway – with a number of excellent tours that finish right at the beach.
The first time you ski down to the sea on one of these arctic islands, it just does not compute – being able to smell seaweed whilst standing on a pair of skis feels very odd at first, but you soon get used to it!
At the end of a long day, standing on a beach with skis shouldered whilst watching the sun set over the arctic ocean, is one of those sublime moments in life that you never forget.
Perfect Powder Slopes
One of our favourite tours lies at the far end of the island, where a 900m north facing slope rises at a perfect ski angle straight from the sea.
It’s a great drive down across the island to get there, passing through numerous fjords and tunnels down the west coast, before heading inland and eventually back out to the sea again on the south side of Senja.
The tour starts right at the sea – naturally – with a bit of route finding up through the woods to reach open ground. Above, the climb is long, but never extreme and we usually break it at a good, half way lunch spot. Above, the slope continues to an excellent summit ridge with superb views in all directions.
Then finally comes the descent, which is a series of long open pitches leading down the entire mountain right to the beach. In good conditions, it really doesn’t get much better…
Senja is often called ‘Norway in Miniature’ due to the wide variety of scenery on the Island – so it comes as no surprise that there are steeper, more technical peaks that require climbing on foot to reach the summit.
These vary in difficulty and commitment, but there are several tours with sections of climbing on foot on the way up and top notch skiing on the way down – ie a winning combination!
Some of these require short boot tracks to overcome tricky sections that can be descended via a different route on skis, whereas others require a ski depot and ice axe and crampons to reach the summit.
We choose tours of this style to fit the current snow conditions and ability level of the group.
Arctic Tree Skiing
Birch trees grow on the island to an altitude of about 400m and sometimes a little higher in sheltered locations.
Near the sea, these are often very dense and you need to know which areas are ok visit, but higher up they are generally more open and well spread apart.
The forests often hold great snow and are an excellent place to ski – on Senja in particular, it’s possible to access good tree skiing in almost all weather conditions, which isn’t the case on many islands in Northern Norway.
Many of the best locations are either inland at slightly higher altitudes, or tucked away in deep fjords or cwms which offer shelter from the wind, so that the snow stays in better condition.
The north end of the Island is home to 3 long peninsulas, sticking out into the sea like a giant hand.
These are all covered in jagged peaks and separated by deep fjords – making the scenery very dramatic.
As a result, the summit views in this area are some of the best in Norway and the opportunities for photography are brilliant.
Many of our guests are keen photographers as well as skiers, so we often visit great locations for both ski and landscape shots – you only have to look at the photos taken around the island on our various trip reports to see how good the scenery is!
The Aurora Borealis – or Northern Lights – are one of the elusive, magical sights of the Arctic.
There are plenty of good, dark locations to view and photograph the Northern Lights just a couple of hundred yards from our accommodation. Don’t forget to bring a warm down jacket, as it gets very chilly on a clear, cold night!
Caused by high energy particles from the Sun interacting with Earth’s magnetic field, they are most likely to occur in the first part of the night in the northern half of the sky.
Nowadays there are Aurora forecasts available on the internet, in order to increase your chances of witnessing this unearthly natural phenomenon.
Thursday PM – Drive back to mainland, overnight at Hotel in Tromso.
Short taxi ride to Tromso airport, flights home.
Your meeting point for this trip is Tromso (TOS), the ‘Paris of the North’ situated on the NW coast of Arctic Norway in the Troms region. Tromso is a lively city and forms for gateway to many superb ski regions including Senja, Arnoya and the Lyngen Alps.
The most convenient way to reach Senja is fly to Oslo, with connecting flights on to Tromso airport (same airline). For transfer to Senja and travel during the trip, your guide will transport the team in a 9 seater minibus.
Senja Week 1
Your guide will collect you from Tromso airport at 20.30 on Friday 26th Feb 2021, or if you wish to arrive on an early flight, our hotel is only 15 mins from the airport by taxi. Return to airport by taxi the following Friday morning 5th March to suit your preferred return flight time.
Senja Week 2
Your guide will collect you from Tromso airport at 20.30 on Friday 5th March 2021, or if you wish to arrive on an early flight, our hotel is only 15 mins from the airport by taxi. Return to airport in guide minibus the following Friday morning 12th March, or via taxi to suit your preferred return flight time.
Norwegian offer flights from the Uk from London Gatwick and Manchester via Oslo, arriving in Tromso at 19.45 and 20.10 respectively. SAS also offer flights from Heathrow, but the transfer and arrival times are not ideal. Check Sky Scanner for your best option.
Further information and travel links can be found on our Travel Planning page.
To enjoy this trip you should be comfortable operating at Fitness Level 2/3, and Ski Tech Level 3:
Fitness Level 2
You do 2-3 hours cv training/sport per week. At this level you should be happy doing either a 3-4 hr hillwalk, cycling 30-40 miles or mountain biking 2-3 hours without being exhausted. On foot: you should be able to walk from Ogwen Cottage in North Wales up Glyder Fach – Glyder Fawr – Y Garn – Ogwen in ~5hrs. Or in the Lake District Langdale – Bowfell – Esk Pike – Angle Tarn – Langdale in ~ 6hrs. On skis: you are capable of off piste skiing all day or doing a couple of hours skinning with out finishing up exhausted – ie you can do this for a number of days without taking a rest day.
Fitness Level 3
You do 3-4 hours cv training/sport per week. At this level you are happy doing a 5-6 hr hillwalk, 50ml cycle or 3-4hr mountain bike ride without being totally exhausted. If you are into challenges – then the thought of doing a road sportive, or training to do a 1/2 (or maybe even a full) marathon, wouldn’t seem too ridiculous. On foot: you should be able to do the full Langdale Horseshoe: Langdale – Pike of Stickle – Angle Tarn – Bow Fell – Crinkle Crags – Pike of Blisco – Langdale in a day without finishing up exhausted. On skis: you can skin uphill at 300m/hr for 3-4 hrs a day (ie 8-1200m of ascent each day)
Tech Level 3
Confirmed Off Piste Skier. You can put down a reasonable set of tracks in powder, but difficult snow types – eg heavy wet snow, crusts, poor visibility or 40dg slopes – can all cause problems (though you can cope with them safely, if not elegantly!) *Equivalent to Ski Club of GB Off Piste Level: Purple – Advanced*
Likely to say: ‘I’d like to handle difficult snow/steep slopes more confidently in better style’
Our Advice: Off piste coaching still useful. Intermediate off piste weeks are at your level too. If you want to get into ski touring, try a touring course or intro level ski tour. If you’re an established ski mountaineer, then intermediate level tours are generally suitable.
To view all of our Ski Fitness Levels and Off Piste Technical Levels, please visit our Ski Ability page.
If you need to top up your fitness for this trip, please see our Ski Touring Training Advice page.
Day Touring/BC Ski Course Equipment List
Just remember, every extra kilo on your back knocks 10% off your enjoyment on the descents – so try and keep the weight down!
- Waterproof Jacket – preferably lightweight and breathable
- Overtrousers/ski pants – preferably with side zips
- Fleece mid layer or equivalent
- Spare fleece or lightweight insulated duvet jacket
- Socks – specialist ski socks or a warm loop lined pair of mountain socks
- Wicking thermal top – not cotton please…
- Thermal leggings or ski pants
- Thin inner gloves
- Warm ski gloves or mittens, if you suffer from cold hands
- Warm hat
- Water container – at least 1 litre
- Personal medications and blister kit – regular meds, zinc oxide tape, compeed and painkillers etc
- Ski goggles
- Sun glasses – CE rated 3 or 4 with side protection
- Sun and lip cream – factor 30+
- Wallet, passport and insurance docs
- Rucsac 25/35l – try and avoid ones covered in too many features, just ski and ice axe attachments required
- Freeride boots or ski mountaineering boots – check detailed factsheet kit list for preferred boots
- Skis with touring bindings – check detailed factsheet kit list for preferred skis and bindings
- Velcro ski strap – to keep skis together on your rucksack if we need to carry them
- Ski poles – with good size 5cm+ baskets (telescopic poles are not needed)
- Climbing skins – they come with the skis if you hire your kit
- Harscheisen (ski crampons) – they come with the skis if you hire your kit
- Metal snow shovel – must be a full metal shovel (plastic blades don’t work in real avalanche debris!)
- Avalanche probe
- Avalanche transceiver – must be a modern digital model (older analogue models are now obsolete)
- Harness, with 120cm sling and locking karabiner
- Crampons – bring them if you have them
- Ice Axe – bring if you have one
Your guide will have all other safety kit, first aid and survival equipment.
Recommendations and Advice
Visit the Knowledge Base section of our website, where we publish an annual review of the years best new skis, boots and touring equipment, plus a range of other interesting tips and recommendations. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, please get in touch!
Backcountry UK in Ilkley offer an excellent ski boot fitting service, one of the best ranges of ski mountaineering equipment in the UK and top notch advice.
Please visit our Equipment Hire page for recommended hire shops in your resort, and Alpine Guides hire equipment price list.
For this trip you must have specialist travel insurance providing medical, emergency search/rescue and repatriation cover for off piste skiing and ski touring, as outlined in the trip itinerary. We also strongly recommend that you purchase cancellation cover, in case you’re unable to attend your trip due to personal circumstances or injury. Please arrange your insurance as soon as your trip is confirmed to run.
Further details can be found on our insurance info page.