The most northern parts of Norway were new to some of us - the crew that had landed at the Tromsø airport to embark on week of exploring, testing and shooting in Skibotn. These areas might not be overly famous for biking as of yet, but are world-renowned for skiing. Just across the fjord from Skibotn lies the Lyngen peninsula, one the most spectacular areas in Norway for ski touring. Still, regardless of reputation or season, it is always a safe bet that Norway delivers good times. After a quick rendezvous of Norwegians and Swedes, we were off to pick up the last man in the central part of Tromsø. Shortly thereafter: Skibotn bound.
The drive into Skibotn yields all the right vibes for adventurous bikers - a tiny village in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by high ridge lines that run parallel to the fjord, alternated with long descents that stretch all the way across the valley. This place really captures the essence of the far north: remote, vast, intriguing and stunning.
Our initial plan was to exploit the midnight sun and showcase the land where the sun never sets. In fact, the week prior had seen clear skies, bright sun and temperatures as if we were far closer to the equator. But there is one thing that you need to be aware of in this part of the world: never ever trust the weather. Skibotn might not be as unpredictable as Lofoten, but a quick weather check upon arrival made it evident that luck was not on our side. Patches of sun were expected for only a few more hours, then the forecast looked dark as night for an entire week. The choice was obvious – let’s start shooting right away.
The first night was spent on a plateau above Skibotn, with a fjord backdrop and on green, lush trails. Light drizzle of rain and dark clouds that slowly devoured the last rays of sun. We were out far into the wee hours and made it to bed at some point after 3am.
On this shoot, the core team consisted of six people: photographer Chris Holter; filmers Frode Sandbech and Nikolai Schirmer; intern and do-it-all Martin Hammer; and ambassadors Jon Bokrantz, Aslak Mørstad and Thomas Klingenberg. These shoots are always a team effort. Without collaboration, there would be no pictures, movies or stories. On most occasions, everyone seems to fall into his or her role pretty quickly. In Skibotn, most mornings looked something like this: Aslak and Thomas packed the bikes into the van, Jon made sandwiches and brought the necessary snacks while Martin made sure that everyone wore the right clothes and that we brought all spares. Frode ensured that batteries were charged and packed all the filming gear whilst Niko set up the gimbal stabilizer. Chris made a final weather check, laid out the action plan for the day, and finally gave the signal for departure.
Collaboration is particularly valuable in times of weather-induced adversity. On day two, we rose to brighter skies and set pace for one of the ridges above Skibotn. Parked the cars at the foot of the mountain, unloaded all the gear and started carrying. At the top, everyone got ready and went to work. A few minutes later we are running for shelter and rushing to cover the camera gear from the rain that somehow seemed to appear out of thin air. That’s how quickly things change around here. When the Skibotn weather changes its mind and refuses to co-operate, all you can do is to accept it, pack up and go home.
The day after and it is already time for déjà vu. Long hike up a mountain, everyone gets ready and cameras are rolling. Then, that classic feeling of “Hmm, I’ve been here before…” kicks in. The valley turns black in an instant and you know that it will hit us in a matter of minutes. But, today we decided not to care. We are not here to be defeated, and this is our chance to put the new Skibotn gear through its paces.
During the next few hours, we shot in pissing rain that immediately created the finest and deepest of Norweigan slop. Zero visibility, mud flying everywhere, drenched from tip to toe, and clay-like dirt that had ended up un-intended places. It was awesome!
After a long day of getting covered in mud, it was time for a swim in the fjord. I’m not sure how cold it was and I actually don’t want to know. An unpleasant cold chock as you break the water surface, but a sense of warm relief when you’re back at the shore. Then, we fired up the barbeque, downed a few beers and enjoyed a good feed. Rest up boys, tomorrow we’ll do it all over again.
The rest of the week went far smoother. Following the plan, effectively splitting up in teams to shot different segments and product details, and dodging the rain with a far greater success rate than before. But, what about the gear then - the all-new Skibotn collection? Well, for one, it marks a new era in the world of mountain bike clothing: wool. Departing from traditional materials, Skibotn offers a whole new level of comfort. Wool keeps you warm and dry for those long days in the saddle and there are no hinders for using them for hours and hours during consecutive days. Softer and closer to your skin; it is a remarkable difference in comfort. Of course, the clothes get heavy when you drown yourself in pouring rain and mud from tip to toe, but in all honesty, you’re better of wearing a jacket during those days! But Skibotn is not just the material, it is also the technicalities. In particular, the new shorts: slightly shorter than the Fjørå, robust build quality and just the right amount of stretch in the right places. Then there’s the colours: dark, misty and moody – just like our trip to Skibotn.
On the final day, we set off to seek redemption on the ridge that had turned us down once before. Climbing out on the rock pillars that had broken loose from the mountain side and watching the scenic views of Lyngen felt remarkably familiar to a classic scene in The Lion King. Then, we chased each other down the long, tortuous trail from the top of the ridge all the way down to the treeline. Logging the last crucial clips and finally feeling that all pieces of the puzzle was coming together. It was a good ending to an eventful week!
In sum, the week in Skibotn was varied to say the least. Maybe we didn’t get the weather we’d hoped for, but we fought through it, worked together and left with a feeling of accomplishment. In the end, we all learned another lesson on the trades of the north.