Aksel Lund Svindal, Terje Haakonsen, Kjetil Jansrud, James Woods, Katie Summerhayes, Oystein Braten, Tom Wallisch, Jesper Tjader, Henrik Kristoffersen - the list of famous Fonna visitors keeps increasing year on year...

So how does a small ski area, high above the Norwegian Fjords, that is only open from April-September, attract such a diverse and world class line up of snowsports athletes? It is fairly simple according to Andreas Skogseth the general manager of Fonna Glacier Ski Resort since 2013 – the quality of the snow for summer training is second to none. But as the Ski Club’s Content Editor Chris Madoc-Jones found out in June, there is a little bit more behind what makes Fonna so special.

What makes Fonna so perfect for race training?

Andreas is right when it comes to the snow, according to top British coach Matt Shepherd. He was at Fonna with over 50 young British skiers from the Kandahar Racing team, who have brought the likes of Dave Ryding and Ed Drake through to World Cup level. Kandahar visited Fonna during a recce last August to find “incredible” snow conditions, even that late in the summer. After this visit and a disappointing camp to Tignes in 2015 which was marred by “slush and black ice”, Matt and the Kandahar team “immediately started planning a camp for summer 2016” at Fonna.

A lot of what was behind their decision is down to the daily salting of the slopes, that as Matt suggests, helps “replicate Easter race conditions”. The salting firms up the snow’s surface and ensures slushy ruts do not appear until late in the day, enabling higher quality training to take place for far longer (click here to read more about the hard work that the piste crews at Fonna put in to make the conditions so good).

Time on the snow is also another important factor for race teams choosing to visit Fonna. The lift spins from 8am right through to 4pm for the racers, enabling teams to have almost twice as long on the snow as they can in the Alps, where the lifts routinely shut around lunchtime. “Skiing here for one day is like having two in the Alps” says Andreas, especially when you can factor in no lift queues or long gondola rides to the slopes.

And thirdly, unlike some glaciers elsewhere, race teams are not restricted to skiing GS or Slalom gates. Because the glacier is so wide and the team at Fonna so flexible to individual team needs (it is unlikely that there will be more than 10 teams training at any one time), it means that not only can Kandahar and others practice on technical GS and Slalom courses, but they can also “train skicross and speed as well” – a massive selling point for Matt and his coaching team.

It is therefore no wonder that the Norwegian National Team were at Fonna this summer, training for the two weeks immediately after Kandahar. Although a few days were lost to bad weather (Fonna is in western Norway after all), 29 of the country’s top athletes trained all together in great conditions on the glacier before heading down to the southern hemisphere for part two of their summer training.

And what about the freestyle?

The snow quality is certainly one of Fonna Snowpark’s big selling points, again partly thanks to the salting but also due to the calibre of the shaping team. All of the team are pro riders who have experienced some of the world’s best parks, bringing in detailed knowledge of what makes a great park. And the fact that all of the shapers were out lapping the park all day proved that the park must have been good enough...

So good is the park that it has recently beaten off competition from big hitting winter resorts such as Hemsedal, Geilo, Trysil and Voss to be voted the best park in the country. This is despite the need to reshape the park every day and completely recut it every few weeks due to the summer melt – making this a seriously impressive accolade.

During my time at Fonna the acclaimed What! Camps were being held in the park, run by Red Bull sponsored skier Henrik Windstedt and fellow Swedish athlete David Kantermo. The standard of the teenagers charging through the park under their expert supervision was exceptionally high as the video edit shows:

WHAT! SUMMER CAMP 2016

 
Our very own James Woods and Katie Summerhayes also took to the slopes of Fonna in June – filming an epic sunset shoot for Episode 33 of #ProjectPY2018 as the GB Park and Pipe Team build towards Pyeongchang 2018:

#ProjectPY2018 Mission 33: Ksum, Woodsy & Pat Invade Norway

 

But it is not just about the on-snow facilities

Part of the attraction for racers and freestylers visiting Fonna has nothing to do with the slopes however. The Folgefonna Gjestetun down in Jondal is the base for most of the visitors staying on summer camps and is home to trampolines, a summer rail set up and a gym – meaning the training doesn’t end on the slopes. The buzz created in Jondal as a result was clear, with kids skateboarding around town, jumping into the fjord for a swim or having BBQs in the early evening sunshine.

On bad weather days or during a break from on-snow training, the Hardangerfjord region has a huge amount to offer. Whether it is kayaking on the fjord itself, mountain biking along the rugged coastline or walking in the hills around Jondal, summer training is definitely not restricted to time on the glacier. Fonna certainly has the complete package…

There’s more from Norway

In the rest of our Norway Summer Series we have the full lowdown on the wider Hardangerfjord region, which is famed for its summer outdoor activities.

Thanks go to Andreas and the team at Fonna Glacier Ski Resort for hosting me and for providing lift passes. I travelled to Norway thanks to the support of the team at Fjord Norway, Visit Hardangerfjord and Visit Voss - check out their websites for more activities in the Norwegian Fjords. Flights to Bergen were provided on Norwegian by Innovation Norway.