“The Dark and the Light”

A Powder Productions short film on Narvik, Norway, a World War II battleground and skier's paradise

“The Dark and the Light” is a short film produced by Hennie Van Jaarsveld for Powder Productions.

The light shapes our days. Narvik, Norway, is a tale of contrast. December and January are a perpetual dawn. On an evening in April, the sun was unwilling to set, lingering above the mountains a few fjords away with the stubbornness and vigor of a child avoiding bedtime.

At 9 p.m. I stood in an area called Mørkholla—“The Dark Hole”—about a 30-minute skin from the chairlifts near the top of 4,000-foot Tredjetoppen at Narvikfjellet Ski Area, which, though it has just a few lifts, has the best lift-accessed skiing in Scandinavia. Kids from the small harbor town slapped slalom gates while others lapped the gondola or went for walks along the cat track with their dogs. We saw a few other backcountry skiers, but it didn’t require much effort to find untracked snow. It was a Tuesday night. The lifts run from 5 to 9 p.m. during the week—without the use of floodlights this time of year. In most places, people go to the gym or for a run after work. In Narvik, they start their ski day.

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The scene felt casual, but the skiing, not to mention the backdrop, was anything but. Our group of five, including local Micke Af Ekenstam, Mattias Fredriksson, Hennie van Jaarsveld, Johan Jonsson, and Chad Sayers, came to explore the captivating history and unheralded skiing of a town on the brink of an identity change. We were floored, overcome by what we saw. Beauty unlike anything I had ever seen before. Distance in Northern Norway is measured in fjords, which split the mountains like cracks in ice. Sunlight pierced the clouds, turning the scene into a staggering glow of pink, purple, and orange.

The sleepy town of Narvik and the Ofotfjorden—the nearest fjord—were still, with the exception of a slowly moving train far below that pulled 68 cars of iron ore to the harbor. Ekenstam, 45, a local energy consultant and mountaineer who knows these mountains as well as anyone, dropped into a steep, 2,000-foot slope after the train went by. The lean, bald Swede arced technical, powerful turns on tiny ski-mo sticks while flitting through creamy, cold, untouched gold.

Following Jonsson, I pointed my skis downhill and pushed forward to the fjord below us, from which the prow of a World War II battleship protruded from the water. As time has passed, it has sunk farther and farther into the sea. After easing through a narrow section of snow between rocks, I made big, dumbfounding turns through the amber-colored powder. It was after 10 p.m. when we got back to our cars, a perpetual dusk lingered in town. The sun would come up again in five hours.

Read the full story in the November 2016 (45.3) issue of POWDER. The Dark and the Light short film is produced, filmed, and edited by Hennie Van Jaarsveld, for Powder Productions.