Location: Lapland – Sweden & Norway
Featured Riders: Callum Pettit, Reine Barkered, Riley Leboe, Sam Smoothy
& Izzy Lynch
“Why didn’t anyone tell me?” Those are the words I muttered to myself the first time I ventured deep into the Scandies in Swedish Lapland. The Mountains are huge, and stretch over a vast area. Over the years I’ve come to take for granted what I have in my backyard. I’ve always headed down to the Alps to ski the big lines, thinking the mountains at home are not big enough.
Far above the Arctic Circle lie the towns of Riksgränsen and Abisko which could barely qualify as towns. They are between the small cities of Kiruna, Sweden and Narvik, Norway. Iron ore is mined in Kiruna and gets transported to the harbor in Narvik via train. Along this purpose-built railroad, these towns have sprung up, and they are not much to look at but I have had some of the best days of my life there.
Riksgränsen literally means “the border of the realm” and consists of a hotel, some staff housing, a supermarket, and a campsite as well as an old lift system. Riksgränsen is the host of the world’s longest running big mountain competition, the Scandinavian Big Mountain Championships, or simply NM. This event has been going on for 25 years and is what brought me up here in the first place to start my freeriding career. It is also said by some to be the birthplace of freeskiing, and progressive freestyle snowboarding as we know it today. Thanks to legends like JP Auclair, Ingemar Backman, and Jesper Rönnbäck it has almost a mythical atmosphere that has to be experienced, not explained.
We spent a couple of days skiing here and I tried my best to show the crew around. I also attempted to introduce them to the mindset you need to have to ride here. You need to make the most of what you got! The terrain is a little funky, the snow usually bulletproof, and the weather as unpredictable as it gets. The weather report is not something to be relied on. The slogan for NM’s 20-year anniversary was “20 years of flat light”. Nevertheless, with a good crew it is easy to shred laps all day.
What I love most about this area is that due to its latitude it gets super long days, and even midnight sun. We were here in late April so the daylight is about 20 hours long which makes it possible to go out almost any time of day. We got some really great shots before heading out to the nearby town of Abisko.
Staying at the Abisko Mountain Lodge we were set up with two helicopters that would take us out into the vast wilderness. It is not very easy to get out there, you can use sleds in some areas, or ski tour for days. The weather looked pretty good when we arrived and the crew was stoked to get out. They had already had some good days in Narvik shooting some fjord skiing and I joined for the later part of the trip. We had good weather right off the bat and got everyone stoked for what was to come. The crew consisted of: Sam Smoothy, Riley Leboe, Callum Pettit, Izzy Lynch, and a local Norwegian skier named Ida Elisabeth Nilsen. Everyone bagged some good lines on day one.
Over the next few days we explored deeper into the massif and found some really good stuff. Some peaks we had to pass on since it is the calving season for reindeer. They are not wild animals but considered livestock that belong to the indigenous people who are called Sami or Samer. They have herded reindeer here for generations and have little huts and temporary villages set up during that time of year. I brought along some smoked reindeer heart for the crew to try, it is extremely nutritious as well as delicious, and beats any power bar. The trip ended with an evening/night shoot that yielded some of the best shots due to the never-ending sunset. I am super stoked I got to show some of my friends around in a part of the world that not many get to experience.