Jon_Hunnalvatn_Ton-09384-2

Voss. The ski capital of Norway and the fjords.

Welcome to Voss. A skier paradise in the heart of the Fjords.

Voss is known as the extreme sports capital of Norway. Probably because ut is one of the best places in Europe for river sports, skydiving and paragliding. It also happens to be the “fjord capital” of Norway, giving very good access to both Hardanger and Sognefjord as well as the Nærøyfjorden, a Unesco world heritage site. These are the longest, deepest and most dramatic fjord of Norway. A truly land of contrast with big mountains, glaciers, huge waterfalls, and cultural landscape with apple tree farms and free grazing animals on the mountain farms. However there is also skiing in Voss. Voss has the two biggest ski resorts in Norway, and a great variety of terrain for ski touring of really good quality.

We do not like to think of what we do as “extreme”; at the same time, it does not take long to realize that the landscapes where we take our customers, produce a quick and deep impact on them. Perhaps in that way, we can go with the “extreme” term. Voss is a natural crossroads in Norway, it is equidistant to Hardanger and Sogn and in the valley system that links both Bergen and Oslo by train. This makes Voss, logistically the easiest place to visit in Norway to ski, and have powerful experience high above the fjords. In this article we are intending to give you a general perspective of what to expect when planning your ski holiday in Voss as a whole, all the way from the logistics, over nighting, terrain, general snow conditions,  what kind of ski experiences you can do, and even what else to do when not skiing. 

For making this article lighter, we have written three other articles that go in depth in some key paragraphs. Here are the links if you want to quick jump to them:

We have a full ski touring mini guide for the Voss region downloadable for free. It is in Norwegian, but has photos, full descriptions, maps with routes and possible dangers. With a bit of help from google translate this should be a useful resource!

The ski resorts: Voss ressort and Myrkdalen.

This video is now 10 years old, a lot have changed, but it captures the spirit pretty well. Voss ressort has now a very modern Gondola that takes you to the slopes right from the train station, so just 1h ride from Bergen. Myrkdalen is slightly further from Bergen but has a special vibe been on that small and remote valley. In both ski resorts you can find high end apartments and chalets with ski in / ski out services. Modern cafeterias, activities for kids, ski rentals, included ski touring gear and even some after ski. Both resorts have interesting pistes and great terrain for freeride from the resort. Both ressorts sell “powder”. It is true that there are many days of powder on a season, and that both ressorts are often calm, especially in weekdays, giving really good chances for powder bonanza days. At the same time, before the spring, it is not necessarily easy to ski on stormy days as the light is low and the contrast with the terrain may be difficult. In those days, it may be worth it to contact a freeride guide, just like us, to take you on the forests that are more open, and great terrain with no avalanche danger. Both ski resorts are really good for that freeride feeling in the late spring, as the mountains are covered on a thick layer of snow but glazed with a thin layer of spring snow.

Ski touring

Now we are coming to the most interesting part of skiing in Voss, at least according to us.

Terrain

The mountains of Voss have a broad palette of terrain suitable to all levels and avalanche conditions. This is something we like to emphasise, because it is not always the case in every mountain range. There are famous mountain areas, especially in the alps and in some places in the north of Norway, where the mountains are just so steep, that it is difficult to find atractive tour alternatives if you happen to have avalanche danger 3 and a persistant weak layer. In Voss we have a lot of “rock n roll” terrain, but it is also possible to get 1400m above the fjors through avalanche free terrain, interesting for cruising in controlled big turns.

In this region of Norway, most mountains are broad and rounded towards the top. They tend to make “vidde”, a word we use in Norwegian for describing high mountain plateaux. This landscape can be not so intuitive to imagine at first. Some fjord mountains start very steep, some with over 1000m cliffs, but then tend to round up slowly on vast domes. The mountains that we mostly like to ski, even though they may have exceptional freeride terrain, even steep spines, they tend to be easy to reach through some other aspect of the mountains. In general you hardly need steep kick/turns, ski crampons, crampons, ice axe or rope unless you really seek for that plan. In our guiding high season, during the spring, days are so long, and the snow is so good, that we tend to do several mountains in a day. Every season we have big days, where we ski close to 2000m of elevation with some groups that perhaps never thought they could do that, after their experience in other mountain ranges.

In my opinion, after having grown up skiing in the Pyrenees, as well as having lived one year in Chamonix, and skied all over Norway, i would say that Voss is particularly exceptional in:

  • Powder laps in the forest. From late january onwards, Voss is a place where it snows in abundance. If you know where to go, it has the most consistent freeride forests that I have encountered in Europe. Here you can get to feel like in one of those freeride videos from Canada, included the pillows.
  • Relatively accessible and dramatic fjord views.
  • Big open faces for freeride. In Europe we are often drawn to skiing couloirs when we want to ski something big in the mountains. That is the typical case in “pointy” mountains, like in Chamonix, then Pyrenees or the North of Norway. In Voss, we have a lot of big open faces that hold the steepness for close to 800m, sometimes with spines and different formations that are hard to find in Europe. Of course, there are word class open faces in northern Norway, as well as there are dream couloirs in Sogn, but as a trend, I would say freeride in big open faces is something that shines in Voss, and is very accesible.
  • How few people you get to meet out in the terrain. Often we are the only people skiing around us, and except the few popular and easily accessible places, mountains hardly get tracked. You got it all for yourself!

Quality of the snow 

 The west region of Norway is one of the snowiest regions in Europe. The season is long. It is not difficult to do a ski tour in Voss in the beginning of june without bootpacking the approach. Generally in the first part of the winter, the days are shorter, light is weaker, air is colder, and contrast on the mountains is low. Every season from November to the middle of january, the weather can be a bit bipolar. They are alternating periods of sun and extreme cold with periods where it can either rain or snow up to 400m. During this time, the mountains get filled slowly but gradually with snow. During this pre/season, we like to take it easy. Some in our company focus on ice climbing, some others profit for skiing the forests and mountains with moderate altitude. This is also a great time for a winter mini expedition to Hardangervidda. Sunny days happen as well early in the season and have a magical light worth experiencing from a mountain top, especially towards the sunset, when you get the “blue hour”.

February tends to be a powder bonanza, in the winter of 2022 it literally snowed every day of february, and most of the days it snowed hard.

As we transition into the spring, from march onwards, days are long. Pretty much it does not get dark in the mountains. THe sun heats, the mountains are loaded in snow, but the temperatures are not high enough to transform the snow. It is still possible to find cold snow throughout the whole day, and conditions generally do not get gradually more dangerous as the day advances, as it can happen in the Alps or the Pyrenees. That means that we have the whole day for skiing without stressing. We can aim for long link ups or ski several lines with cosy lunch pauses in between. That time of the year, Voss is the place to be!

Avalanche conditions, forecasting and planning your own tours

From what i have seen and experienced abroad, Norway has the most developed and accessible tools when it comes to terrain information and avalanche forecasting systems. We are a country that lives on the mountains, and pretty much all of our roads and infrastructure is exposed to avalanches, hence it makes sense that we put resources into mitigation.

Varsom, is the organism that provide avalanche forecasting in Norway.

You can find daily forecasts in English. It is very intuitive, as there are plenty of inner links that take you to pages with further information. This is part of what we call, the “avalanche school” in the Norwegian version of the site. Still content is more developed on the norwegian site, but the english one is catching up fast!

Varsom has an app that you must download if you are going to ski in Norway. Not only you can find the forecast, but as well a detailed terrain map with a filter for seeing the steepness in the terrain as well as the potential run out zones for avalanches. Through the app you can pin terrain observations and danger signs in the map, or find in real time what other skiers have been marking.

As someone that has skied a lot in the Pyrenees and the Alps, i would say that managing conditions in Norway is a whole level more difficult. The problems, potentially are the same, but the intensity and power of the persistant weak layers in Norway is something hard to calibrate for skiiers and profesionals that do not spend a lot of time here during the winter. The terrain as well tends to start with really significant roll overs, that are not easy to manage. Because of this and other factors, statistically, foreign visiting skiers tend to be significantly more often taken by avalanches than norwegian resident skiers. The same phenomenon happens with foreign visiting mountain guides with groupes opposed to norwegian resident guides. This is something that puzzles us in Norway, and therefore we try to put good tools available for everyone.

Take note as well, that vast mountain areas in Norway do not have phone range, and being rescued can take time and not necessarily be a given.  This is definitely the case in several popular mountain areas around Voss. 

Our manager, Øystein Ormåsen works as well for Varsom as the main observer for the area of Voss. That definitely plays to our advantage, as it holds the guides of Wild Voss sharp and we have deep internal discussions regarding safety and where we are comfortable taking our customers.

Further interested in this topic? We have a large catalog of different avalanche courses, we are specialists on this topic, and this is probably our most sold product category towards the Norwegian market.

What else to do in Voss?

Well, this pretty much will depend on what time of the year you come to visit. We organise snowshoeing trips that are very popular for families and for those that came to Voss to visit primarly the ski ressorts, but want to enjoy a day out in the nature.

Climbing

During the spring, we have really good ski conditions up on the mountains, but it starts to be warm enough in the valley for sport climing. During the first part of the winter, the passionates of climbing could be impressed by the amount and quality of ice climbing routes that you can find, even walking distance from the city center of Voss. Some are very serious climbs, but other venues are suitable for cragging, and we even sell top rope ice climbing activities on demand.

Skydiving and Paragliding

As we mentioned in the intro, skydiving is big in Voss. We have the biggest sports airport, Skydive Voss has a big base with overnighting and several activities. Skydiving or paragliding above the fjords in spring, definitely is an experience.

Kayaking

Our friends in Kayak Voss offer the real deal experience when it comes to river kayaking. Voss active is on the other hand specialised in rafting. Get to know why Voss is the capital of Europe when it comes to river sports. It is also possible to do kayaking in the fjord of Gudvangen and Granvin. These can be great complement plans for an active rest day while on a ski touring trip, late in the spring.

Where to stay?

Voss is a small town for European standards, but quite a big town for the scale of Norway. We are around 16.000 inhabitants, although we are quite spread around different villages and valleys. The city center, or Vangen, has around 5.000 inhabitants. In a way, you can get the vibe of a cowboy town. There are two main roads with commerces and a cosy vibe, the train station, and then gradually it becomes more residential. You could choose to spend your holidays in the accommodations of the ski resorts, or be in the town center. In that case we can recommend you to check the Scandic hotel for being practical, and Store Ringheim for a special experience. When we organise several day trips for our customers, we can propose to set the base at a cabin in the mountains. We have access through agreements with several landowners to very special places.

How to get to Voss?

The easiest is to fly to Bergen. If you do not want to rent a car and drive on icy Norwegian roads, Bergen is extremely well communicated to Voss by train. Check the schedules here. You may want to check flights and trains through Oslo, but the travelling time is significantly longer. If you rather have a car, you can rent one easily in Bergen or Voss, but make sure that you get a 4×4 with spike tyres. You will need one to reach most of the parking spots where the skiing starts. If you want to drive your own car from Europe, you can take the ferry from Fjordline that communicates Denmark with Bergen through a comfortable overnight trip. It may make a lot of sense for the people from the Netherlands, Denmark and northern Germany. Along Voss goes the main road of Norway, the E16, so it is easy to reach from Bergen and Oslo. We also have the RV 7, for those coming from Stavanger.

We hope to meet you, and show you our mountains!

Related posts

Ski touring Oksen. Voss. Fjordview.

Best ski touring trips with a fjord view from Voss.

Ski og tog i Raundalen

Ski and Train in Raundalen. (with video)

Kiellandbu tur

Top 5 fjord hikes in Norway