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Folgefonna

While all but a handful of resorts across the European Alps have shut their lift accessed skiing for the onset of another summer, our Northern cousins in Scandanavia are just about thawing their roads and lifts out for the opening of their famous summer glacier ski areas.

The glacier ski area in Folgefonna, you can see snow being pushed around for the beginings of a three kicker line on the right.

One of these is Folgefonna in Norway which, under new management this year, opened its doors earlier than usual on the 1st May. There are grand plans for their best snowpark ever, and head shaper Emile says that a three kicker line of 10, 15 and 20 meters respectively is but a week or two away from completion, and with a whoping 12 meter base…i reckon he ‘s got more than enough snow to do the job. As well as this, a whole host of rails and boxes will be installed throughout the season, and there are two well maintained pistes if that tickles your fancy….so expect a little less of this:


and a bit more of this:

Paddy Graham hit up the Fonna park back in summer 2007...now thats oldschool!

I headed there earlier this month with UK rider Paddy Graham, and his German partners in crime Tobi Reindl, Thomas Hlawitschka and Max Garhammer (Broken Radio Films), on a mission NOT to use the glacier lift accessed area (which is normally the only true skiable are in the height of summer) but to use the infamous mountain road, (which is pretty much carved out of the snow) in order to access the still ample lower mountain snow base, and the potential for creating our own spring time fun in the backcountry.

The road upto Folgefonna, check out the base of snow, oh yeah and the car..the German guys insisted on bringing their own Audi!

To get to the point though…spring had not yet sprung…well at least not on the mountain. In fact, during the first 6 days of our 10 day trip, over a metre of variable types of snow accumulated, rendering our two wheel drive and very much ready for summer hire car useless (the guy at the desk assured me the road would always be passable at this time of year and that we would not need chains…cheers mate!)

Most of the first five days were spent getting as far as we could up the road, slidding around a bit, performing a u-turn, and then trying not to slide off the side of the mountain on the way down...

Often, the weather would come in so quickly, that in the space of five minutes the road would become unnavigable, with the wind causing huge drifts in no time at all. Sadly, this meant no chance of getting underway with the most time consuming part of the mission…building jumps. Put simply, we couldn’t see to construct anything, and whatever we would have managed to build would have been snowed under anyway. In the meantime, we amused ourselves by…

...driving through huuuuge puddles!
A bit of swimming...or jump in and out as fast as you can before your lungs collapse...
and generally fooling around down by the fjord (Thomas Hlawitschka, Paddy Graham, Tobi Reindl)

There was also internet where we we staying, (which probably saved our lives) and we have all now graduated to the level of grand webmaster!

Finally though, on one great day, we spyed a window in the weather and decided to follow it up the valley as it brought colour to our lives for the first time we could remember in a while. Bingo! We made it to our most time consuming build area and started to put a dent in the amount of hours it would take to get the kicker completed.

All hands on the task...two days of building in the fog, and we reckoned we'd pretty much got this thing built...

With three days of bluebird forecast, we were pretty happy with our work, and as Tobi was booked to leave the next day we planned a very early start so that he could get some shred time in before leaving…(yes, he really did only get to ski for 3 hours out of 10 days!)

Guess what though….life is never simple!

Another 40 cm's of drifted snow overnight, fill in a lot of our work, meaning that there's going to be at least an hours digging in order to sort out the run in and transition...do they look dejected?

It was decided then, that Thomas and Paddy would get on with some digging, while Tobi came with myself and Max to try and get some shots. This just served to show that with a week of blue skies in Fonna we could have got so much done! When we could fully see the terrain, there was a serious amount of spots that would take only a small amount of building, and you could have just moved from one area to another.

Folgefonna backcountry

In only a small amount of time, we quickly found a cornice area with pretty good landing. Tobi stepped out a take off a couple of meters back, and hey presto! It wasn’t the biggest thing in the world, but it was skiing…and Tobi killed it!

Tobi stomps a 720 amongst other tricks...
and has a bit of fun with some jibbery. They don't call him Tobi 'handrag' Reindl for nothing...that left arm is insured you know!

So, back to the big kicker and we noticed a few other crews building in more sick spots…

...the pick of them being the huge step down (built by the pirates (Austrian snowboard crew)) on the right of the picture.

Our Kicker was good though, and seemed to be working just fine:

Tobi test proceedings with a quick 360
...giving Thomas the confidence to man up with a flat 7
Tobi in mid cork 7...trick of the day?

Tobi had got some shots and footage in the bag, so we packed him off to Bergen…i don’t know whether he was happy or sad to be leaving, but he seemd to be loving the kicker. Sadly Paddy managed to tweak his knee somewhere during proceedings, so we decided to call it for the day and try again tomorrow….he did though keep us well amused with an epic bit of sunburn!

ooouuuuccchhh

On the next day, Paddy’s knee was no better, leaving Thomas with the unenviable task of sessioning the kicker solo. It didn’t take long for him to pick up an injury of his own, landing another flat 7, but being taken down on the run out by a bit of heavy snow…this wasn’t the Norweigen hard packed spring stuff we’d come to hit!

Thomas's last hit...got the shot though!

With noone else left to shoot, i was then forced to ski for the cameras (joke). Apparently you’re not meant to hit a kicker like this:

now that's style!

…or for that matter land like this:

A good photographer always gets inside the mind of his subjects...yes Paddy and Thomas the snow was hard to land in...

All said and done, the trip hadn’t gone quite to plan, but this happens a lot in a sport which is reliant on weather. I’ve had many a pre-planned trip go wrong, and you just have to accept it and remember the good times or learn lessons from it. Chilling out in the perfect Norway landscape for a day in the brilliant sunshine wasn’t exactly bad, and i’d definately take the chance to go spring skiing there again if the opportunity arises…Eurovision song contest next year anyone?

The sun goes down from the top of Folgefonna.

Useful info:

Get there from the UK or Europe by flying to Bergen via Amsterdam. check out www.klm.com for good deals.

From Bergen it is 2 hours by road and small ferry to Jondal where you can stay for your daily drive up to the ski area.

websites:

www.visitjondal.no/uk/Accommodations.htm (accomodation info)

www.folgefonna.no/ (summer ski and snowboard camps)

www.folgefonn.no/ (official website of the summer ski area)

Article by:Pally Learmond

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