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Wednesday, July 6, 2011
A sail and ski expedition to Norway

Zodiac-accessed ski touring in Norway.

Earlier this summer, Doug Stoup and his adventure company, Ice Axe Expeditions, led two seven-day ski cruises to Spitsbergen, Norway. A mix of seasoned pros and others skiers joined Stoup to sail and ski the fjords on the archipelago of Svalbard, a Norwegian outpost where snowy mountain ranges poke out of the Arctic Ocean 600 miles south of the North Pole.

"It was unreal my first visit there, because the snow quality was absolutely unbelievable -- AK blower pow," says Stoup, a seasoned ski mountaineer with 23 trips to Antarctica and eight expeditions to the North Pole under his belt. "All the couloirs are between 45 and 55 degrees, they're all 3,000 feet. There are so many in one view, I call it couloir-land."

Ski mountaineer Andrew McLean assisted with guiding duties, while Warren Miller cameraman Tom Day and two-time Freeride World Tour champ Ane Enderud were also on board.

Thanks to 24-hour daylight, Stoup says Spitsbergen offers unparalleled filming opportunities for ski and snowboard film companies: The location was featured in Warren Miller's "Wintervention" and will be in Jeremy Jones' upcoming "Further." "We were throwing away our watches and skiing from eight o'clock at night to eight in the morning," Stoup said. "Cinematically it turned out to be this incredible adventure."

The group used Zodiac boats to travel between the 65-foot sailboat and shore, skinning through abandoned mining towns to reach the top of 1,000-meter peaks. They descended to shore through the habitat of arctic fox, marine birds, walrus, seals, and reindeer. Polar bear also live in the region, and while Stoup didn't report any encounters on this trip, he did carry a World War II-era gun for the duration just in case.

"We were just in the boat with binoculars and pulling out maps," Stoup says. "[The captain] has been there in the summer, so he knows where we can moor the boat. That was sort of how we communicated -- drop us off here, go anchor here, and then we'll be on radios."

Welcome to Norway in June, where the sun shines nearly all day long.