Norwegians know how to make the most of a mountain. From snow sports (skiing, snow boarding etc) to summer sports (glacier hikes, para-flying etc), leisure activities (sightseeing, sunbathing) to modern commodities (restaurants, tunnels). Not a mountain is wasted. In fact, nearly every city in Norway is surrounded by high places that give wonderful extended views of the landscape – there is always one place that draws the attention. In Bergen it is the Seven Mountains where you can ride a cable car to the highest one with Ulriken643 Panoramic Tours (site in Norwegian). In Trondheim you can see the city and fjord from the Kristiansten fortress. In Tromsø the most famous high place is on the mainland on top of Mount Storsteinen with an inspiring panoramic view of Tromsø city island and the surrounding mountains.
Tromsø Cable Car
Mount Storsteinen (the Big Rock Mountain in English) is a Tromsø icon. The only way to climb the 421m high mountain over Tromsø (for average folk) is via cable car. At the base of the mountain the cars are loaded with skiers during the snow months – from on top of the mountain there are a series of cross-country ski tracks that are very popular. Thrill-seekers also use the mountain for para-gliding and hang-gliding during both the snow and summer months. They also hike up the back of the mountain for extra thrill-points.
As there is a cafe-restaurant on the mountain, the locals often use this great location for functions and parties. Last year we had a Salsa dance event on the lookout platform during the Midnight Sun – fantastic!
At the Tromsø International Film Festival (TIFF) 2009 the film You’ll Never Walk Alone was shot in the cable cars. It is about a failed football coach planning to go up the mountain via cable car with no intention of coming back down. Drama strikes when the cable car stalls and he suddenly the coach has to relate to the other passengers who are trying to convince him that life is worth living.
On the last day of the year, the tables are turned and it’s the ‘big snowy rock’ that is the centre of attention. On New Years Eve a fanfare of crackers and lights flare around the city – up and down the fjord on both sides (it’s as if the mainland and the island are competeing to see which side can give the most spectacular light show). At 12 midnight all eyes are on the snowy mountain as it ushers in the New Year with a dramatic light display and the new year written in fire.
We went up to the mountain this year during the Easter Holidays. The snow was still white and fluffy on the mountain. It was so refreshing and crisp, and the kids couldn’t resist another snowball fight. The view was amazing and we could see our house clearly on the island. Even though it was below temps outside, it didn’t stop the kids from having the complementary ice creams offered by the cafe. We took the short trek to the other lookouts along the mountain. A wooden seat was planted at the lookout so you could sit and watch the world go by – but I didn’t dare – if I had of sat down the kids would have had no chance in dragging me away to make a snowman.
To visit the mountain during the Midnight Sun is a real treat. The sun is facing you over the mountain to the north which dresses the island in a golden contrast. During Spring and Autumn the sun will set right in front of you over the mountain in the background. The twilight sky becomes a feast for the eyes and you are just one step away from Heaven.
Attraction for Tourists
Of course, Mount Storsteinen and the cable cars are a popular tourist attraction. It has almost become a pilgrimage for tourists to make the trek across the Tromsø bridge to the mainland (stopping at the Arctic Cathedral along the way ) and then ride the cable cars to the top of the mountain.
The lookout platform provides excellent photo ops – and if you walk along the mountain ridge to the south (it has a fence so you won’t fall off the mountain…lol) you can take pics of the whole island laying in the water. (Make sure you wear good snow boots during the ski season because sometimes you might have to trudge through knee high snow to get to the outer lookouts.)
In the centre of the cafe-restaurant is a log-fire place – great for getting toasty during the winter months – and around the walls you can read about the history of Mount Storsteinen and the surrounding area with some great professional pics. You can even watch the para-gliders circling the mountain and valley with their colourful chutes from the windows. I’d say hot chocolate and waffles with sour cream and home-made Tyttebær (cowberry jam) are a must to complete your trip.
Mount Storsteinen and the cable cars have particular opening times depending on the time of year and the weather. I recommend you visit the official site www.fjellheisen.no (even on the day of your trip) to check times and weather. The website also has a webcam and a weather forecast with temps and wind speed etc so you can know what to wear for your trip on that day.