Words and Images by Oscar Frick
Growing up, I wasn’t one of the relatively few lucky enough to be raised with a ski hill around the corner. Still I’ve been a skier for as long as I can remember, making due with family trips once per year when I was growing up.
Learning skiing at a young age, one family trip at a time.
As far as I know, what started me down the path of being an eternal skibum was the first year I didn’t ski at all. It was my first year of college, and I was uncertain if I was going to pass my courses if I went skiing for a week during the semester. So I opted out. The upcoming summer I felt horrible. I would almost describe it as having withdrawal symptoms – waiting for the next winter was unbearable.
From that point on my addi… interest just grew in intensity. I started spending more and more of the few free weeks I could spare with skis under my feet. I celebrated graduation by going for my first ever full ski season. When I eventually started a real job, most of my vacation was spent travelling, going somewhere else than home, to satisfy my urges.
Having ridden this carousel for a few years I started to question the sustainability of it. From the limited amount of vacation time I had each year to spend with mountains; how much did I spend just travelling? How much kerosene did I burn flying each year? How many boring hours did I spend in the gym, just to stay fit enough to do what I actually love for a small amount of time each year?
The only answer I could think of was “a lot” – a quite eye-opening realisation for me at the time. As a past ski bum I definitely felt a longing for the old times of doing full on ski seasons. Though with a more grown-up lifestyle and a slightly less malleable mind to take into account, going away for another season didn’t feel entirely feasible. Maybe not even desirable. But what about taking it to the extreme? Or, I guess, in a way, taking the golden middle way. What about just moving?
Trying to ski while living far away from mountains quickly becomes unsustainable.
I started spending slow afternoons searching the web for other places to live, places closer to mountains. The search soon turned into applying for jobs and not too long after I made the best decision of my life (so far). I accepted an offer for one of the jobs I’d applied for in northern Norway and started packing up my life.
When the word got out among my friends they were happy for me, but a lot of them also expressed envy. Turns out many of my friends had been thinking about doing the same thing on and off. For some of them it was somewhat of a dream and for a few of them even an outspoken life-goal. None of them had actually tried it. Everyone was excited that I got to try it, but they all wished they got the chance themselves as well.
The thing is – I’m just an ordinary person. I work full-time in an ordinary job, I live in an ordinary apartment, and I pay taxes. I’m living proof that you don’t need to be a professional in the outdoors industry, be super rich or even have superpowers to make this change in your life.
This is why it puzzles me why more skiers aren’t moving closer to the mountains. Sure, there are difficulties, and it is definitely not straightforward. But what in life worth doing is, really? I think back on the full ski seasons I did after college, especially the first one. I was (relatively) young, naive and inexperienced. To be honest – I had no clue what I was doing, it was really scary and I was constantly in doubt of whether it was a good idea or not.
If anything, I was way more prepared when permanently moving to the mountains. There was some kind of a plan, I had a job that wouldn’t disappear along with the tourists, and I even had a contract for the apartment I was going to rent! In addition to that, I had way more general life experience, and also all the experiences and all the things I learned when skibumming. Not least that things have a tendency to work out – that things can actually turn out well too. Definitely something worth remembering.
Of course, the same way I needed a good portion of determination when I went away for my first ski season, I needed it when moving away from the city. In some ways, maybe even more so – with a more rooted and generally comfortable lifestyle the initial hurdle is arguably more strenuous. Once past that hurdle though, in my opinion, things rolled easier compared to when going for the first ski season.
At least for me, having experienced both scenarios, making the permanent move felt more natural and less stressful than going off on my first ski season. On top of that, if you like it in your new home you get to stay – you won’t be forced to go back due to ski season being over and all the jobs with it. Instead you can enjoy a permanent change in your life that allows you to do more of what you love and less of what you don’t.
Moving to the mountains has definitely improved my day-to-day life, there’s no reason it couldn’t yours too.
If you don’t like it, where you came from will likely not have gone anywhere. There’s no shame in meeting a dream and figuring out that it wasn’t all you thought it would be. In either case you will have learned a good deal about yourself – a life experience that’ll make you richer in any circumstance.
If you have a life situation that allows you to ski, you have a life situation that allows you to move as well. I’m not writing this trying to brag (OK, maybe a little bit of it is to brag) but I think that many people put moving somewhere they would really want to live on a pedestal. Mostly I just want more people to realise that living somewhere with mountains in your backyard isn’t unachievable. If it’s something you’ve been dreaming of, or even just thought about how nice it would be, I implore you – go for it! Worst comes to it, it’s possible to move back.
Personally, I’ve noticed a considerable increase in my own life quality since moving – and not only I have noticed it. My partner, my parents and my siblings all say that I seem more happy and more well balanced now. It’s not that weird really – all the hours I used to spend commuting to work, doing squats in the gym or waiting for the next trip I now spend doing 1000 verts of ski touring between work and dinner, starting off my day doing a couple of hours of ridge scrambling, or just going out for a 2½ day overnight trek during a weekend.
The advantages of having a mountainous back yard doesn’t only apply to winter.
And that’s not mentioning the fact that I really get to know a mountain range. I’m starting to learn the ins and outs of where to find good skiing even when the weather has been bad, I can wait for the right conditions to do my dream runs, and I don’t have to feel stressed about going out skiing to make the most of my time even if the conditions are really bad. The mountains will be there the next day as well, there’s no return journey looming on the horizon.
Mountains are now part of my everyday life, and it could be part of yours too. Maybe it’s not all you think it is, but before you’ve tried it you won’t know for sure. Maybe it is all you’ve ever dreamt of and you’ll also get to look back on the day where you made the best decision of your life (so far).
Originally from Sweden, Oscar grew tired of living in flatland and headed westwards to Norway, ending up in Tromsø. There he spends his days enjoying the 6-7 months of snow season doing ski mountaineering and ice climbing. When summer eventually arrives he continues his high altitude lifestyle, switching ski boots for climbing or trail running shoes.