The Norwegians understand how to take full advantage of a life lived within the splendor of the wild. We should take note.
For the past few years, I have been invloved in the Scandinavian Summits program. The brainchild of Matthias Aßmann, the co-founder, along with Martin Kössler, of the Scandinavian Outdoor Group. The program encourages hikers to stand atop the high points of Norway (Galdhøpiggen, 8,100 feet), Sweden (Kebnekaise, 6,882 feet), Denmark (Møllehøj, 561 feet), Finland (Halti, 4,344 feet), and Iceland (Hvannadalshnjúkur, 6,920 feet). Technically, only the first three are “Scandinavian,” so all five can also be referred to as the “Nordic High Five. Those who finish all the summits get a nifty diploma.
“The concept is aspirational,” says Aßmann, who currently runs Mandel Consulting and lives in Sweden. “Any individual can study and plan the trips with the guidance of the website scandinaviansummits.com and with the help of a growing social media community. It’s connected to initiatives such as the European Outdoor Group’s #itsgreatoutthere and helps to get people out in nature pursing goals. It will also create partnerships with travel destinations, tour operators, and retailers to educate and outfit lots of new hikers.”
It’s a concept those of us in North America should pay close attention to, not only to emulate, but also because Scandinavia has so much gravity right now. While many European brands come and go in the North American market, failing to gain traction with consumers here, Scandianvian companies have found a welcome spot with outdoor types—from Helly Hansen to Suunto to Ecco, they have become just as much everyday household names as American brands.That Scandinavian look fits right in with Millenial sensibilities.
Colleagues at W.L. Gore, Aßmann and Kössler founded the Scandinavian Outdoor Group in 2000 to strengthen relationships with Nordic brands between outdoor retailers and media in markets beyond the region. It now includes over 60 Nordic companies.
“It’s a huge plus to have Scandinavia itself as a brand. It’s a little like U.S. brands taking pride in claiming a Colorado or California heritage,” says Aßmann.
After knocking off Hvannadalshnjúkur and Halti along with Aßmann and a group of travelers and journalists from across the globe, we set our sights on Galdhøpiggen this past May. And we wre surprised to learn that Norway’s highpoint differs from what you might expect. The snow-covered peak that’s sheltered deep in the glacier-covered wilds of Jotunheimen National Park is more of a community gathering place than a challenge. Sure, it’s a stiff hike, but it’s one most Norwegians feel they have to take. And, it is Europe so there’s even a hut serving food on the summit. Norwegians, it seems, see their highest peaks as an essential part of their daily life.