Photo: Difficult winter road visibility in flat light and fresh snow, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. March 5, 2021. 15:59.
With Norway remaining essentially closed for last winter’s tourism season on Lofoten, the snowy roads in 2022 will likely be somewhat busier as photographers begin to travel again. Photographers and tourists that often are not experienced with winter driving conditions. So this weeks post is a bit of a safety post, which I do from time to time, for all the people chasing snowy beaches and northern lights over the next months.
Even in somewhat decent visibility as in this photo: no fog, sideways snow, its daylight, etc. You can see it is quite difficult to distinguish the right side of the road, even with the aid of snow poles. And what looks like plenty of room to pull over slightly will actually immediately see your car into a 1 meter deep ditch which begins just outside of the snow poles.
The flat light and lack of roadside objects of contrast make driving in these conditions quite demanding of attention, even more so in busy traffic or when the numerous large trucks heavy with fish are speeding towards you in the opposite direction down a road that is already uncomfortably narrow in summer.
For a more detailed article, see: Winter Driving
But for now, a few brief tips to keep you and others safe on the roads:
- Never attempt to pull off the side of the road unless you are 100% sure of what is below the snow. Nearly all sections of road on Lofoten have drainage ditches immediately outside of the snow pole line. The road plows do an okay-ish job of cleaning out the roadside parking areas, but not always after a fresh snow storm. However, unless you have seen the roads in summer, I do not suggest pulling out into unknown depths of snow. This is a good way to get stuck.
- Let other vehicles pass. With the above said about pulling off the road. If you are traveling especially slow, be polite and pull over at the next safe and visible pull out area. Signal clearly before doing so.
- Do not park on the road! Especially so in regards to the E10. There are some nice roadside views, but unless there is a proper pullout, you cannot park on the road.
- Be very careful of driveway and parking lot entrances. Driveway entrances are not always well marked, if at all, from the surrounding roadside ditches. The Parking at Haukland beach is a particularly treacherous one that always catches cars after a fresh snow.
- Double any travel time Google maps give you for driving to a location in good weather. Triple the driving time in bad weather or darkness.
- Stay home when its the best choice. There are several days each winter where it is simply unsafe and irresponsible to be out on the roads.
- Be careful of side roads in periods of heavy snowfall. Especially so in early mornings or late evenings. When the snow is falling, all roads plows are out just to keep the main roads of Lofoten open. Smaller roads to rural villages or scenic areas might get temporary overlooked, and deep snow can build up quickly, especially in high winds. Uttakleiv beach is a good example of a location that is not always accessible during heavy snowfall.
- Plan ahead in anticipation of any long drives. Weather conditions might dictate that if you are driving from Lofoten to Harstad/Evenes airport for example, you might need to adjust your schedule by a day or two. Beyond difficult and dangerous driving conditions, there are also several closure points, such as the Gimsøy bridge, which can block travel between west and east Lofoten, even for periods over 24 hours.
- Most importantly: Enjoy your trip! Lofoten is not going anywhere anytime soon. You cannot control the weather, so there is no point in trying to fight it. The weather does what it does, so just go with the flow. You’re on Island Time up here…
Head over to my Instagram account for (almost) daily postings of the local conditions here on Lofoten: @distant.north
Nikon 24-70 f/2.8