The longest and brightest
Around 21 March day and night are the same length, and up here on the top of the planet we are suddenly living in the brightest inhabited area in the world. In the north, the day eats up 5 minutes of the night every evening, and in just a week it gets dark over half an hour later. The midnight sun actually hits Longyearbyen on 20 April. The period of total darkness is then a thing of the past in the far north on the mainland too: The nights have become velvet blue and so short that only real night owls even notice them.
But not spring
Pussy willows? Crocuses and snowdrops? Well...in the far south, in Helgeland, flowers emerge in the mild south-east wind, and fine days of spring in the air often characterise the coast of Nordland and South Troms in April. However, on the coast of Finnmark the snow reaches down to the shoreline until May, and there is deep snow in the mountains all over Northern Norway. Tromsø's snow record of 240 cm (94.5 inches) was set on 29 April, so it can snow heavily and widely throughout the region in April. We therefore choose to call it bright winter and not spring. Yet signs of spring should not be dismissed entirely. Snow buntings can be observed in April across Northern Norway while they migrate towards Svalbard, and at the same time the nesting cliffs fill up with their noisy residents.
The best weather all year round
The sea off Northern Norway is well cooled, and evaporation is low. The winter storms have often finished raging, so the weather is stable. Late winter is the driest period of the year, so now is the best time to see Northern Norway in fair weather.
Skiing, snowmobiling and ice fishing
April and early May is the time for long ski trips, those from cabin to cabin right on the border or on the Finnmark Plateau. The more relaxed skiers take day trips with plenty of time to sit on a reindeer skin and sunbathe. Snowmobile enthusiasts ride farther and higher up the snowmobile trails. Ice fishermen head gladly to the metre-thick ice and fish night and day. The keywords for everyone are sunscreen and sunglasses — all that white causes a lot of reflection.
Off-piste — all day to play in the snow
The greatest interest internationally is still for off-piste skiing. The mountains are white from the peaks down to the shoreline and attract skiers now that the snow is melting everywhere else in the northern hemisphere. Then the freeriders come to Northern Norway. The descents in Øksfjordjøkelen, the Lyngen Alps, the coastal mountains at Senja, the peaks in Lofoten, the peaks surrounding Narvik and the hardcore slopes around Svartisen all have their fans. The season usually lasts until late May, so you can even ski into the midnight sun.
The big competitions
When the spirits rise in the northerners, it's time for the big trials of strength, namely the outdoor competitions. The last weekend in March sees the World Championship in cod fishing. Around 1 April is the long-distance Reistadløpet winter endurance race — 50 km (31 miles) over mountains and valleys on skis in Inner Troms. The Påskefestival in Kautokeino and Karasjok celebrate Sami culture and include reindeer racing. VAKE is something out of the ordinary: A championship in snowkiting. Puls Lyngen is all about off-piste in the precipitous Lyngen Alps. The most northerly competition is the Svalbard Ski Marathon, a tough competition with guards watching for polar bears.
Spring cod fishery
One of the traditional fisheries along the coast is the Finnmark fishery or spring cod fishery, when shoals of fish spawn off the coast of Finnmark and young cod from the Barents Sea come to feed. The other major seasonal fishery, the Lofoten fishery, traditionally ends on 14 April at the latest, and the fishing fleet then moves to Finnmark. This brings a hustle and bustle to the fishing villages in the far north. Anglers have discovered that the biggest cod can be caught in the far north at this time.
Coffee in the sun
In urban areas, the fact that it is milder and brighter is also celebrated. Early in the morning, puddles are covered by a brittle layer of ice after the hard night frost, but during the day it thaws. Early in the afternoon many dare to enjoy to a cup of coffee in the sun, preferably with new sunglasses, hat and gloves. On the way home from work, it is bright and beautiful, and you get the urge to go for a walk instead of lying on the couch. It is important to enjoy the moment and look forward to spring and summer.