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The Corona Diaries

Nikolai Schirmer and crew face thrilling and unexpected challenges on four ski adventures in Norway, a pandemic inspired series.

Like most skiers, Nikolai Schirmer was forced to explore his native soil after the global pandemic revoked late-season ambitions. The skier and filmmaker from Tromsø, Norway, took advantage of this time and COVID-19 travel restrictions create four awe-inspiring ski videos.

Schirmer’s new series, “The Corona Diaries,” showcases four ski adventures near Tromsø this past spring, and the unexpected challenges he and his crew encountered. “With travel bans in force I decided to round up a crew of local riders and see what we could get up to right in our backyard,” says Schirmer. 

Elements in each part of the series can be related to the unpredictable and nervous state of the world during the COVID-19 outbreak. As much as these thrilling adventures exhilarated him, Schirmer did not plan for the nervous situations he and ski partners encountered throughout the four excursions.

Part 1: Unsuccessfully Dodging an Avalanche

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Schirmer emphasizes “There’s never a right time to take risks in the mountains.” This phrase stands especially true in the chaos of a global pandemic, which seems like an exceptionally bad time to participate in potentially dangerous activities.

“Initially the rescue service came out and said that people should stay away from the mountains, to not risk them catching the virus. But then after a few weeks, it became clear that it was under control,” says Schirmer. “So with the healthcare worker’s blessings, and promises to patch up any broken limbs, we went back out there.” At last, Schirmer and partner Vegard reignite the stoke of the ski season. 

Skier boot-packing up a couloir in Norway with the sea in the background
Nikolai boot-packing up from sea level. Photo courtesy of Nikolai Schirmer

It is no surprise that as Norwegian skiers and riders, Schirmer and his crew took advantage of the backcountry when lifts across the globe stopped spinning. According to Schirmer, a skier who acquired his first park skis with touring bindings at age 13, a lot of people in Norway make skiing part of their lives without ever loading a ski lift.

“I feel like American ski culture is based around ski resorts, whereas—especially in Northern Norway—there are barely any resorts of note,” says Schirmer. The skier also noted that Americans are far better at combining skiing and drinking beer where Norwegian skiers prefer to go big during the après ski. 

Part 2: The Gnarliest Thing I Saw this Season 

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Schirmer’s enthusiasm leads viewers through Part 2 of the Corona Diaries. From start to finish, he and his snowboarding buddies Eirik and Erik are constantly reassuring and supporting each other. Like many of us were comforted by friends and families during the peak of the pandemic, skiers rely on mountain friends for safety and comfort as well, especially on an exposed peak.

Part 3: Bringing a 30-Meter Rope to a 60-Meter Cliff – Why you Send the Girls First

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The third part of the series is no less thrilling than the first two. Schirmer and female ski partners Merrick and Emma head out to ski a steep and tight chute. As they reach their destination, they have with 30-meter rope, not ideal for an unexpected 60-meter rappel. 

“When that situation did arise it was important to be able to go with the flow and figure out a good solution,” says Schirmer. Luckily, Merrick found a solution.

Merrick looking over the edge of a mountain
“That’s why they send the girls first” -Merrick, a girl. Photo courtesy Nikolai Schirmer

Part 4: Hanging from my Ice Axe over a Cliff – A Ski Tour with Mixed Success

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As displayed in part 4 of the series and throughout the whole pandemic, the world is unpredictable and can set us on a different path at any time. It is up to us as individuals to choose how we deal with hurdles and uncertainty. In the fourth and final video, Schirmer deals with unexpected conditions and is forced to stay calm and hang from his ice axe after an awkward slip. 

“I guess I’m generally pretty relaxed when it comes to stuff like that,” he says. “I could’ve kicked off my ski at any point. I just didn’t want to because that might’ve meant it falling down the whole mountain.” Schirmer’s attitude and humor throughout the series are inspiring to skiers and non-skiers alike. 

Nikolai skiing a steep and narrow chute.
“3, 2, 1, Niko dropping.”Photo courtesy of Nikolai Schirmer

While obtaining a law degree, kicking off his ski career, and teaching himself the ways of filmmaking, Schirmer found his true passion in the mountains. A challenge he faced in the process was staying motivated to finish law school after realizing he would rather be on skis in the near future, not in any law firm offices. “On the mountain, the challenge is wearing the director hat and the skier hat at the same time,” he adds.

Although Schirmer does not worry about the future of skiing being impacted by the coronavirus, he does worry about the future of skiing and the impacts of climate change. “I am an optimist, and I think we’ll come around so that our grandkids can go on some snowy adventures in the mountains too.”

Says Schirmer, “If I could give my younger self advice it would be to be less critical of my skiing, learn more about avalanches earlier, and carve more of my tricks.” 

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