Ski Touring in Norway with Christian Dramsdahl

We talked with Norwegian ski touring guide Christian Dramsdahl, who lent Jack Wolfskin advisory support during their winter campaign shoot.

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Ski touring is a winter sport typically practiced off-piste. It also involves climbing mountains on skis. The usually strenuous ascent is followed by a well-deserved reward – a breathtaking downhill ski run in the wilderness, far from the crowds and on untouched snow. However, the pursuit of boundless freedom entails risks, so the advice of an experienced ski touring guide with knowledge of the area is essential.

Norway is considered one of the world’s most popular destinations for this winter sport. Harstad, an enchanting town with around 25,000 inhabitants directly by the sea, is far north of the country beyond the Arctic Circle. Harstad is located on Norway’s largest island of Hinnøya, and is the gateway to the Vesterålen and Lofoten islands. The northern lights and the midnight sun provide visitors with unforgettable sights, while the locals are known for their hospitality.

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It’s no wonder that Jack Wolfskin chose Norway as the shooting location for its new Ski Touring campaign. Providing expert advice, ski touring guide Christian Dramsdahl joined the production team. The Norwegian, who was practically born on skis, talked with us about his experiences, adventures, and concerns regarding the growing tourist interest in ski touring.

How did you come into contact with Jack Wolfskin?

Jack Wolfskin wanted to do a photoshoot for their new ski touring campaign here in Harstad, Norway, and that is how I came to their attention. We eventually got together and discussed the precise goals and requirements of the campaign. This region is my home, and I’ve worked as a ski touring guide and ice climbing instructor for many years. I’m glad that Jack Wolfskin chose our region as their photo shoot location. As you can see from the pictures, it’s stunning here.

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How did you get involved in ski touring?

I come from the Harstad region, and, like practically all the kids here, I grew up on skis. It just comes naturally when you live in this natural environment. I’ve always been fascinated by the mountains. And if you want to discover something new, the best options are hiking and mountaineering in the summer and ski touring in the winter. I also have a passion for the sea. You can also reach touring destinations by sailboat, which makes for a really unique experience.

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What requirements are necessary for someone who wants to take up ski touring?

You should already be a confident skier or choose easier terrain in the beginning, as anyone can learn this sport. What’s eventually important is to have good endurance and strong leg muscles. And, of course, you must have the right equipment. Moreover, you have to possess a genuine desire for adventure!

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What are the most common mistakes that ski tourers make?

Knowing the current weather situation precisely is essential because everything here can change very quickly. Our weather reports also provide information on ideal snow conditions, such as where it is currently snowing and the direction the wind is blowing. When choosing your location, you should always look for the safest places.

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What kinds of unexpected dangers might arise when ski touring?

Avalanches pose a real danger and should not be underestimated. Therefore we provide forecasts concerning such dangers. You should also choose your ski touring partners carefully. What I mean is that you should be aware of the kind of adventure you are looking for and with whom you want to share this experience. Proper equipment also plays an important role. And there is also a good reason there are ski touring and mountain guides like me. We can point out the best places for powder snow and, at the same time, minimize those factors resulting in danger. After all, it is all about having fun!

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Can you tell us of any specific precarious situations you’ve experienced?

It is striking to observe how many tourists set off for the mountains without a guide or instead choose to bring along a mountain guide from their home country. I can’t stress enough that it is essential to know this region like the back of your hand and be able to recognize the weather signs. Dangerous situations are recurrent factors, and, as a result, we frequently have to intervene. Avalanches have tremendous power, and things usually occur very quickly. I’ve unfortunately had to rescue people several times.

Having served in the Norwegian military for 16 years and specialized in mountainous regions, I learned a great deal. I also worked on the security team of freeride competitions for ten years. That’s why I like to share my experiences and assessments with the tourists here. I’ve also noticed that most guests feel most comfortable in areas that aren’t quite as steep, even if they had previously imagined the slopes as very steep. As I’ve said, there is no point in blindly exposing yourself to danger. Just play it safe and enjoy your time here to the fullest.

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What highlights have you already experienced in ski touring?

There have been so many. Actually, every day is special here and different in its own way. It isn’t easy to describe the natural environment because it is so alive. I have met many fantastic people from all over the world, which I like very much. Whenever I have a free day, I enjoy sharing great skiing with my friends or even skiing down into the valley alone. And when the sun is shining and the snow is powdery, I feel a wonderful sense of freedom! 

Christian Dramsdahl has already published two books: Toppturer rundt Harstad, about ski touring in his native region, and Arctic Ice Climbing.