Freeriding down Duolbagorni

The master’s

Photo: Emrik Jansson

Text: Håkan Stenlund

Kristoffer Turdell from Gällivare is a champion of Freeride World Tour, the World Championship of Extreme skiing. His scene may be all the mountains in the world, but there's still one particular run on his mind. Down Duolbagorni in Swedish Lapland.

At the end of November, the sun barely makes it above the horizon at Kebnekaise mountain station. You would have to get up on top of the mountain to enjoy the first and last rays of sunshine. But even then they won’t offer much warmth. That’s why it was such a nice surprise when filmmaker Alexander Rydén posted a great film with freeride skier Kristoffer Turdell on Duolbagorni by Kebnekaise. A ski-climbing video featuring bone-dry November powder.
– Yeah, when it is 30 degrees below, the powder is undeniably dry, says Kristoffer Turdell, laughing.

A winner

We’re sat in Alla tiders café in Gällivare, talking about skiing. The season is right around the corner, and the first snow is actually falling as we speak. Kristoffer – who was the overall winner in the Freeride World Tour (FWT) in 2018 – has some exciting skiing on his mind. Last time we met was in Riksgränsen, in the Kiruna mountain world, at the Nordic Freeride Championship. Kristoffer was on crutches then, the result of a fracture.
– Not everyone finds the time to win the FWT and break a bone during the same season?
– No, it was very lucky that I didn’t have to participate in the final race; it was all over by then. Otherwise, it would have felt a bit strange that my skiing holiday ruined the season.

The master’s playground

​Freeride world champion Kristoffer Turdell amazing ride down Mount Duolbagorni in Swedish Lapland.

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At the end of November, the sun barely makes it above the horizon in the mountains.

Skis or snowmobile

Kristoffer Turdell is from Gällivare. Just like so many other kids around these parts, he had the choice between a ski slope and a snowmobile when spending time outdoors. Kristoffer’s family was into skiing, so he ended up on the home slopes of the mountain Dundret. He and his two brothers were all skiers and trained alpine skiing with the club.
– I suppose Gällivare has never been a ski destination as such. But it’s really convenient having the mountain so close to town.
– When we were young we didn’t have cellphones, you know. So we’d head up to Dundret because we knew all our friends would be there.

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Kristoffer Turdell won the Freeride World Tour in 2018.

A natural

Going skiing together was something very natural. Kristoffer was accepted at a skiing college, but soon got tired of it and dropped out. After he graduated, he took a sabbatical from his skis, put them on the shelf and went travelling. When he came back, he started spending more time with snowboarders, which made him a completely different skier than he would have been between red and blue poles. He doesn’t mind flying. When I ask Tobias Liljeroth, editor-in-chief of the magazine Åka Skidor, what Kristoffer’s strengths are, he replies:
– His massive composure, even in really hairy situations. There is no top-level skier who can make such difficult runs look so incredibly easy.
– So even if Turdell makes it look easy, he must not be afraid of challenging himself, and the mountain.

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The run down Duolbagorni

The fracture: he just went straight into a rock he couldn’t see and fractured his tibial plateau. It meant he had to take an involuntary rest from skiing, and now that autumn – and with it, the first snow – has come crashing into his old hometown, he craves it. This time last year he and his friends started thinking about doing the run on Duolbagorni by Kebnekaise. The run is a classic in Swedish skiing, found on a mountain referred to by many as Sweden’s best looking, and is usually done in spring. But Kristoffer, his brother, the skier Peter Nilsson, photographer Emrik Jansson and filmmaker Alexander Rydén wanted to do it in the middle of freezing winter. Something that had never been done in the past, and with a lot of logistics to consider. Especially making it to the top while it was still light.
– The run was amazingly good, but we were in a bit of a hurry trying to film and shoot. You know what it’s like: the sun rises and sets in the same breath during that time of year.
– So it’s quite a feat that the photographer and the filmmaker got so much out of it in such a short time.

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Peter Nilsson, David Turdell and Kristoffer Turdell plan the route on Duolbagorni.

Just ski

Life as a professional skier isn’t always a bed of roses. At least not in the way you might think. It’s often all but an endless cruise in powder from one après-ski to the other. Breaking a bone is one thing, sleeping in the emergency shelter by Kebnekaise in minus 30 is another. The house didn’t warm up until the day they were due to go home. Life often literally hangs on the bite of a two-millimetre-thin steel edge. Still, Kristoffer Turdell doesn’t want to do anything else in life right now.
– No, of course, I want to keep doing it. I’m lucky to be able to do something only a few skiers in the world get a chance to do.
– I had good sponsors even before winning the FWT. After, the terms got a little bit better, even.
– I used to work with maintenance in the mine and that kind of things, nowadays I can just ski.

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Ski all year round

Because that’s what it’s like, of course. Red Bull, Peak Performance and others allow Kristoffer Turdell to ski all year round. But in return, he has to present a couple of ‘hairy’ runs and sometimes freeze his behind off. He’s glad to be able to do it though. When we speak about other runs he’d like to do in Swedish Lapland, the ideas are already there. There’s a lot of excellent ski-touring.
– The whole thing with Riksgränsen at the end of the season is really special. All those good skiers go north and just hang out. It’s definitely something. It’s something that’s part of it all.

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Kristoffer’s strengths

Speaking of Riksgränsen, I also called Robert Gustafsson, the very person who started the Scandinavian Big Mountain Championships about three decades ago and spoke to him about Kristoffer’s strengths. He’s on the same track as Tobias Liljeroth earlier. The calm. Then Robert says:
– One thing that makes Kristoffer different from the rest is that he’s strategic and tactical. He’s good at finding his own line, then he delivers. I think the judges appreciate that kind of thing.
– But above all: he ticks all the boxes. There are never any weak points in his skiing. He combines his alpine background with acrobatics from the park.
When I ask Kristoffer about it, he says that:
– Yes, perhaps that’s the case, but I suppose I don’t think about it really. I want a good run, my own line, or my own experience. Like at Doulbagorni in November. Something not everyone does.