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Svalbard Unplugged with Antti Autti and Enni Rukajärvi

Shredding Svalbard with two Finnish snowboard legends

Svalbard – one of the world’s most northernmost inhabited areas with less than 3000 people living there. With polar bears being more common than people, this is the ideal place for anyone who’s looking to get away, whether it was from your overly intrusive neighbour or civilization in general. Svalbard’s got you sorted mate, and there’s plenty of snow too to keep you happily isolated from the rest of the world. It’s no wonder this is slowly becoming the mecca for freeriders.

For the ones familiar with the overly sociable personality of Finnish people, it might come as no surprise that Antti Autti (X-Games Superpipe gold medallist back in 2005) and Enni Rukajärvi (the Finnish Female ripper who’s taken home two Olympic medals) travelled up to this arctic paradise in hope of shredding some white lines in peace and quiet. And oh my, we might need to crash their next trip up because this-looks-siiiiiiiiick!

“Svalbard’s got you sorted mate, and there’s plenty of snow too to keep you happily isolated from the rest of the world”

If you’re one of those in need of a Svalbard get-away, but unsure how to go about it, you’re in for a treat. We were lucky enough to chat with Antti Autti himself about the logistics of Svalbard Unplugged, so keep on scrolling, and you’ll get an insider guide on how to conquer this Arctic Archipelago of Norway.

Antti Autti, Svalbard. Photo: Rami Hanafi.

WL: Planning a trip to Svalbard must take some time, where does one start?
AA: First of all, you should definitely contact an operator that’s been working there for a longer time. Nowadays, there is a reasonable amount of tourism in Svalbard, and the quality of the operators does differ. In order to make the most out of the trip, you should make sure to travel with the right mountain guides who have good knowledge about the area. We travelled together with the Swedish Arctic Guides and without their help we could never have been able to carry out this project.

WL: How long did it take to plan this project?
AA: We already got the idea for this project last spring when we were filming the Arctic Light documentary in Svalbard. I realised how much potential the place had and knew I had to go back.

WL: How long did it take to carry out the project?
AA: The planning and rotating between different scenarios prior to the trip took quite a while since you need to have a solid shooting plan which can be adjusted if needed. Also, the preparations for the trip itself took some time. Once we were on location, it only took a couple of weeks to shoot it.

WL: What was most time consuming?
AA: Probably playing with a bunch of changing factors. We were really struggling with the weather, and on top of that we encountered a bit too many polar bears than desired. If you see a bear on the shore when approaching the shoot location, you may as well forget going ashore. The bears need to be given peace. We had to turn around at least 3-4 times because of bear observations. I’ve never encountered as many polar bears in Svalbard before as I did on this trip.

WL: How many polar bears did you see then?
AA: I guess around 8. I’ve been to Svalbard three times and always come across polar bears. This year there were just a few more of them.

Enni Rukajarvi, Svalbard. Photo: Rami Hanafi.

WL: Did you stumble across any unexpected things?
AA: Due to the fact that I’ve been to Svalbard earlier, I had a better idea of what to expect and thus be better prepared. However, the challenging weather was on a whole other level this year than before.

WL: What’s the most important tip you’d give to a group who’d be keen to travel to Svalbard, with or without a camera?
AA: Don’t aim to go just on a snowboard trip, and don’t count the meters you’ll manage to go up and down. Concentrate on what you see and experience. Especially whilst filming, or going down bigger lines, one of the most important things is the level of experience within the group and the actions taken within it. When moving around in the wilderness it is extremely important that all the members of the group are on the same mission. If one of the members starts to improvise, and starts bending the “rules”, it can affect the more important matters as well.

Wise words from a wise man. Seems like a trip up the North is well worth all the hassle. You might not encounter white walkers, but polar bears might just do, or the Whitelines team, once we get to it.

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