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Bjornebo-Svalbard, a ski expedition to the far north

Arctic frozen landscapes, icy fjords, pollar bears… That’s what I had pictured in my mind about Svalbard, a place that I dreamt about visiting for several years but never really considered because too complicated to reach and ski. But last season in the course of a discussion with a good friend, when I told him again, that I dreamt about going there he went like: “remember Seb Varlet, he was in high school with us, he knows someone there and he’s going in May. I think he’s looking for other skiers…”

A few messages and phonecalls later, I got my plane tickets and was ready to join Seb and 2 other professional skiers, a filmmaker and a few locals and discover the legendary Svalbard.

Seb Varlet, Tao Kreibich and David Deliv, 3 talented skiers who competed in the Freeride world Tour. Corentin Croisonnier, filmmaker and photographer. Arthur Garreau our local contact and guide, currently living and working there as a researcher. Nil, Philipp and Erlend, completed the team as local guides.

As soon as we approached landing in Longyearbeen we were all already amazed by the beauty of the place, the calm, the untouched nature, everything already surpassed what I imagined. We gathered with the whole team for dinner, to meet eachothers and discuss our plan for the next days.

Our Plan A was quickly abandoned, too far and too risky especially considering weather uncertainty. We went for our plan B: 5 days traveling the south of Svalbard in full-autonomy, between glacier and ocean, skiing lines that were never touched before. Truly exciting project, but coming with many challenges!

Temperatures between -20 and -30°C, it’s not unusual to ski in those conditions but when you spend several days and nights outside, sleep in a tent, ski tour for hours, everything becomes a challenge. Everything freezes: toothpaste, water, food, sunscreen, drone/phone batteries.

Nights were bright, and short. In addition to freezing temperatures, the sun never sets in Svalbard at this time of year, and polar bear watch at night is necessary to avoid accidents. Every hour one of us had to wake up and watch the camp in case a curious polar bear comes to close. When it happens, we were equipped with a flare gun and a riffle in order to scare them and make them run away from the camp. Several incidents happen every year in Svalbard with polar bears, very few are serious, hopefully for us we didn’t spot any bears near the camp.

The snow conditions were extremely difficult, the island is blown by strong and cold winds all the time, and considering the cold it’s not snowing quite often in Svalbard. In fact the white untouched peaks we admired were actually covered in plain ice. We could only rarely find good snow, giving us no other chances than being extra carefull. The nature in Svalbard reminds you anytime to stay humble, any injury can quickly turn into a nightmare. The closet hosptital is in Tromso (Norway), a good 4 hours snowmobile drive + 1h30 plane flight. Of course you can only count on yourself as no phone call is possible, and you’d rather be quick as you don’t want to stay immobilized by -25°C while injured.

I took my swissarmy knife pair of ski: the Havoc 110, mounted with light bindings, as I had no idea how the conditions were and we planned long ascensions. We definitely didn’t find powder but the ski is so trustworthy and versatile I was feeling safe. In such missions it’s really great to have top material that you can trust, I was confident enough to even try a small trick in a face.

All those challenges made the few lines we could ski even more rewarding, with this amazing nature around us, a crew that became a group of friends, the life on the camp, the long days waiting under the storm, it was a true adventure. An adventure that I’ll never forget.

We went back to Longyearbyen after these 5 days in no-mans land, exhausted, hungry and happy to finally take a shower. We skied a few lines around town and it was already time to leave this magical place and end the season on a high note.

MAJESTY products used during the trip