The following morning, the hotel’s owner, Knut Slinning, pokes his head into our rooms at the Writer’s Lodge, a generous chalet with the sparse, finely curated feel of a contemporary Scandinavian home. He has wrinkled, smiling eyes and wears a Norrøna jacket. Like us, he’s going ski touring with friends and a packed lunch. “Nice day for it,” he says, stating the obvious.
Our happy routine while at Juvet consists of walking to the snow, sticking on skins, and heading wordlessly upward—tuning in to subtle varieties of silence, broken by ski whoosh, pine rustle, snow melt, or grouse blather. At Blæja (“the altar”), we ascend beside a great looming slab of mountain before a strip of the Hjørundfjord suddenly reveals itself from the summit, one of Slingsby’s favorite views. At Stranda, we shuffle up from the top of the cable car, passing the slopes where video production companies have built giant jumps so that the skiers or snowboarders seem to be leaping straight into the Storfjord. Each day, sun-dappled car journeys between mountains are broken by tunnels and hops on little green ferries surrounded by looming natural amphitheaters—our base layers soaked with sweat as we drink Oskar Sylte pineapple soda from orderly supermarkets, a quick pit stop to refuel before the next ascent.
Everywhere, there’s a constant nagging temptation to stop. One afternoon, we park by the roadside above one mirror-like end of the Storfjord, looking toward the corner that turns into the Geirangerfjord—the stretch of water that inspired a thousand cruise trips and the kingdom of Arendelle in Disney’s Frozen. Today, the bigger cruise ships are banned from coming this far in, and the switchback Trollstigen road down to the Geirangerfjord is closed due to snow. Below the viewpoint, the only interruption to the stillness is an older man in a T-shirt, slowly pushing a wheelbarrow full of branches from his farmhouse of chipped sky-blue clapboard. He probably remembers the days when the farm kids would row to school across the 850-foot-deep fjord, before the first tunnels were built in the 1970s, and would help on friends’ farms when they got stranded by bad weather. Before oil and aquaculture transformed an area that once relied on fishing and furniture-making. He would have seen his country transform into a quietly wealthy nation of rule-abiding taxpayers who reap the rewards and disappear to the hills or the beach every July, barely even bothering with out-of-office notifications.
There are good hotels in the area but not much excitement in the well-to-do villages to distract from the landscape. One evening, we leap deliriously from the little floating community sauna in Sæbø into the fjord in our underwear, before a night of sleep at the Sagafjord Hotel. Wood-hulled boats, some of which are used to ferry groups of skiers, bob gently in the marina outside. Another night, a log-fire-warm welcome ushers us into the turf-roofed cabins of the Storfjord Hotel. We eat reindeer with local blueberry sauce under antlers and gilt-framed old paintings of farm girls overlooking the Geirangerfjord, surrounded by knitwear and laughter. I retreat with tired legs and a face reddened by fresh air and wine to my cabin-like room and close the curtains on a darkening pine forest.
For our final afternoon’s skiing, we try to chase the sunset at Hundatinden, a mountain closer to the coast that Oscar has never taken guests to before. From the stony path we walk up, the route looks intimidating. Across on the mountain, there are rocks and narrow couloirs below a just-visible powder bowl, the edge of which is catching the last of the day’s sun. As on almost all of our ski routes, there isn’t another soul in sight.