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Category: summer skiing

Norway Glacier Skiing at Fonna

A ski resort that’s only open in summer? In the northern hemisphere? Yes, that’s Fonna in Norway. And you can arrive by boat…  it’s just a half hour from a magnificent fjord. Fonna Glacier Ski Resorts is very cool, literally – located on the northernmost of four glaciers in Foglefonna National Park in western Norway along the Hardanger Fjord. Folgefonna is the most southerly Norway glacier- and the 3rd largest largest.

Summer skiing on a glacier is amazing, at this high alpine winter wonderland with brilliant sea views of Norway.

Fonna is not a big ski area, especially by Europe’s Alps standards, it’s just one T-Bar serving four wide trails and several terrain parks. Fonna’s ski slopes are not particularly steep either – its intermediate terrain.

The most black diamond aspect of Fonna is the road up to the glacier. Its a 16-km bus ride to Fonna Glacier ski resort, a one lane road with crazy hairpins turns, climbing swiftly from sea level up 3,900 vertical feet.

Take the ski bus from Jondal, which makes one trip a day from the ferry docks at 9:50am ( so you can boat and ski in the same day). Let the expert bus drivers steer while you enjoy the scenery of rivers and waterfalls, pastoral farms with grazing sheep, then massive boulders and cairns balancing on huge granite slabs. Fonna is closed in winter because of this precarious road and the 30+ feet of snow pack received during the cold dark winter in Norway.

Fonna Ski Resort opens mid-June through mid-August – that’s when the best glacier skiing occurs and it also allow the town of Jondal to share the same bus for skiing as for the school kids September to June (a quite luxurious bus for children, with panoramic windows).

Fonna’s spectacular mountain road ends in a small parking lot by the glacier, where you find Fonna’s humble facilities – two 1970’s vintage chalet buildings. The first hut sells lift tickets ($390 krone for the day) and rents skis, boards, boots, poles, helmets – everything you need to ski if you arrived by boat. Fonna’s modest lodge serves home cooked food cafeteria style and restrooms. Picnic tables outside are the best seat in the house on a clear day.

Visit Fonna on a blue sky day – it’s all about the view, and a picnic outside to truly savor the setting. We had a perfect blue-sky ski day at Fonna in late June, with a fresh dusting of sparkling snow on top of perfect groomed corduroy.

Fonna’s T-Bar is the only lift – intentional to withstand the ice movement on the glacier, it climbs efficiently up 800’ vertical. Fonna’s trails are very wide, moderately pitched, and well-groomed, even salted to harden the snow from melting on warm summer days.

Fonna skiing can get busy with alpine race teams training from Scandinavia and Eastern Europe. But the alpine racers are relegated to one big trail, training in several courses with gates side by side. The majority of other skiers and snowboarders hit Fonna’s terrain parks. That leaves the other ski routes on the wide open glacial plateau to us. Fonna also offers 5 km of Nordic groomed trails above the alpine skiing on the plateau.  We made a short climb from atop the T Bar to the cross-country terrain and scored a few beautiful off-piste turns and even better views of Hardanger Fjord and the North Sea.

Your panorama from Fonna is striking blue water below and lush green mountains in contrast to the white wintery glacier. You can see Rosendal’s towering Alps and the North Sea in the distance. For non-skiers, guided glacier tours depart from Fonna’s base lodge. Sunscreen is a must, beware the sun’s refraction from the snow at high elevation even though it feels cool on your face.

Dress in layers for glacier skiing, its winter-like and very exposed, but you can be blessed with intense sun and summer temperatures. We skied 14 laps on the glacier, with a few stops for water in the lodge and a picnic of Norwegian cheese, smoked fish and fruit. The only bus back to Jondal is 3:50pm, get a front seat as the descent is as stunning as the ride up. We were back to town, on our charter sailboat in Jondal harbor by 4:30, for drinks at Hardangerfjord Lodge overlooking the water. Don’t be surprised to see local kids jumping off the ferry dock into the “refreshing” Hardanger Fjord – after all it is summer – and you were just skiing.

Fonna Glacier Ski Resort Stats
Elevation: 1,450 meters, 4757ft
Vertical: 250 meters, 820’
Lifts: 1 T-Bar
4 Trails, 3 Terrain parks and 5 km Nordic groomed trails
Open 9 – 4pm mid June to Mid-August

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Where to ski this summer?

1aspen-highlands-bowlWhile most of us skiers have launched boats, turned to paddleboarding, kayaks and bikes, even golf clubs, there are those bold ski souls who #neversummer and want to ski all the time, every season. Here are the latest ski conditions aroudn teh glove from our friends at SAM, Ski Area management:

Two resorts are open in North America : Timberline, Ore., and Whistler Blackcomb, B.C., Canada. The open terrain on Whistler’s glacier is primarily for training, but it does have a small open-to-the-public park. Timberline is currently spinning three lifts to access a park and a pipe. Mammoth Mountain in California wrapped up its season on July 4.

off-piste-tracksFor summer skiing in Europe,  several glacier-skiing resorts are operating with respectable snowpack. Austria has three resorts open, including year-round Hintertux, which has the deepest snow in the alps with a base of just over 92 inches and is reporting “old snow” as the surface. U.S. national team members have been training there recently. Dachstein and Kitzteinhorn glaciers are also open with similar conditions.

France’s three glacier ski areas are reporting the best July snow conditions in years, with base depths measuring about six feet—roughly four times what they were last year at this time. Les 2 Alpes and Tignes plan to be open through most of August. Val d’Isere was the first area to open, but will likely be the first to close with reports calling for July 10 to be the final day.

2marmolada-glacier-ski-offPasso Stelvio in Italy is reporting “gripping” snow accessed by all six of its lifts. Cervinia in Italy re-opened at the end of June after a steady dose of fresh snow. It’s reporting a base depth of more than six feet on 12 miles of trails. It’s possible to enjoy cross-boarder skiing from Cervinia to Zermatt in Switzerland, Zermatt as only ski area open in Switzerland isis reporting excellent July conditions.

Norway’s three glacier ski areas have no shortage of snow, with base depths measuring as much as 23 feet. Despite having plenty of white stuff to enjoy, Stryn plans to close July 19, but Folgefonn and Galdhoppigen should stay open into August.

tracksFresh snow in Australia after a slow start to the season fell on the Ausie mountains end of June, allowing every resort to open for the season, with more snow at Thredbo in July. The forecast is calling for cool temps and at least a chance of snow at higher elevations every day through the weekend, so look for more terrain to open as snowmaking continues.

3skiers-powder-sun2It’s the opposite story in New Zealand, however. After a great start,  warm fronts have melted snow cover and hindered snowmaking efforts, only a few resorts are open. The Remarkables, Cardrona, and Mt. Hutt are the only three resorts open for skiing  on a fraction of their terrain. Coronet Peak is spinning a lift for scenic rides.

The story is similar in Argentina where early snowfall allowed some resorts to open earlier than expected, followed by a drought, according to reports, and only Las Lenas and Catedral are open. Las Lenas has a max base depth of 47 inches on 10 trails, and Catedral is reporting a max depth of 3 inches on six trails served by just six of the resort’s 36 lifts.

1ski-wildcatResorts in Chile got  about 10 feet of snow in early,t more than half of the nation’s ski resorts are open including Valle Nevado and La Parva, each sporting base depths of nearly 60 inches. South Africa’s Tiffendell’s slopes and all but Afriski’s slopes are open for skiing and riding.

It’s still early winter south of the equator, and forecasts are calling for things to cool down over an extended period of time across many of the mountainous areas throughout the Southern Hemisphere.

HB_waterski09To quote John Snow, #winteriscoming so enjoy the summer, or go find snow at these ski resorts! Me, I am enjoying SUP Paddleboarding, water skiing and boating till November. See you out on the h20.

By Heather Burke, photos by Greg Burke

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Heather Burke, 2016 Copyright & Photography property of Family Ski Trips & Luxury Ski Trips

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