Photo: Maurice Strubel

Skiing has never come naturally to me. Despite going on my first ski holiday when I was nine or so, I’ve remained a very average downhill skier ever since and have never managed to acquire the effortless, swooshing grace that so many seem to display on the slopes.

So having been lucky enough to experience the rolling fjälls and breathtaking wilderness of northern Sweden by dogsled on a number of occasions, I thought it was time to try my hand at ski touring and to see if this suited me better than careering clumsily down the pistes.

And so I joined our Discover Mountain Ski Touring in Lapland, an introduction to ski touring for those with some previous downhill and/or cross country experience wishing to make the transition to hut-to-hut touring.

We started from the historic Saltoluokta Mountain Station on the shores of LakeLangas with a snowmobile transfer for our luggage the 19km to Sitojaure mountain cabin, which would be our base for the coming week. While our luggage got a ride all the way, we hopped off once we reached the plateau for our first taste of proper touring, skiing the remaining 12km or so to the cabins. It was simply amazing to be up on the plateau, with a biting wind making the -15 degrees seem even colder despite the mid-March sun shining down on us.

Photo: Valerie Reynard

Fortunately, I’ve managed to acquire quite a bit of outdoor clothing from Nordic manufacturers over the years, and so I was well-protected from the elements with a range of high-quality gear.

Under the watchful leadership of our absolutely lovely guide, Conny, who managed to exude easy-going calm combined with rock-solid trustworthiness in just the right proportions, over the next few days we would be exploring the surrounding mountains on a series of day tours from our base at Sitojaure.

This would give us the chance to ski with light packs and the flexibility to adjust the daily distances and level of challenge according to the weather conditions and abilities of the group, honing our technique and fitness and preparing for our last day’s challenge, which would be to ski all the way back to Saltoluokta with full packs.

 Apparently, though I’m pretty sure he didn’t mean me, Conny reckoned our group was a bit above average ability (or maybe he just wanted to see us sweat), so our day tours turned out to be quite demanding – scaling a nearby summit one day, plunging into the mighty wilderness of Sarek National Park the next.

It’s hard to say what the highlight of the week was – the vastness of the landscape was breathtaking, my heart leapt one day when we caught sight of a rare wolverine traversing a hillside, we were even treated to a bit of Northern Lights, and we all laughed a lot together around the dinner table each evening as we got to know each other and reflected on the day’s adventures.

Photo: Bob Carter

And then all too soon it was time for the culminating challenge of the week: the ski home - our first time skiing with full packs for a 19km day of “up and over” back to the inviting comfort of Saltoluokta.

Would I notice a difference in my abilities compared to my first faltering slithers at the start of the week?

Well, actually, yes. It was a hard day, and I couldn’t quite match Conny’s seemingly frictionless gliding out in front, but we made it and were all justifiably proud of ourselves as we crested the last hill and the scent of waffles drifted up to us from the Mountain Station below. Maurice from our group had kindly promised to stand for a round of waffles on our return, and we didn’t need to be asked twice. Twenty minutes later, we had arrived and de-skied and were consuming an indecent number of waffles each while reclining in front of the fire and waiting for the sauna!

Was I now a Mountain Pro?

No, but I’d come a long way from the shaky-skied loper of a week earlier. I’d learnt a lot, had a fantastic time, and for my next project now had my sights set on our Ski Touring on the King’s Trail from Abisko to Kebnekaise tour, which would mean skiing with full pack every day for a week.

Phew…maybe I should have another waffle just to keep my energy levels up.

Bob from the Nature Travels team

Find out more about their trips to the the Nordic countries at www.naturetravels.co.uk