Since 1970, the Wisløff family has steadily evolved Sorrisniva resort into a world-famous Arctic holiday destination. With over 150 years of fishing and farming along the Alta River, the family has a close relationship with local heritage and culture, as well as the awe-inspiring natural features of the region.
Now expanded to include the 24-room Arctic Wilderness Lodge and the world’s Northernmost Igloo Hotel, Sorrisniva offers guests premium accommodation, sustainable and responsibly sourced fine dining, and some of the most memorable activities available to nature-loving guests.
We spoke with Tor Kjetil Wisløff, owner of Sorrisniva, about this remarkable destination.
What experiences and influences guided you to hospitality management and how has your opinion about the profession changed over time?
Growing up in Sorrisniva, I was immersed in the world of hospitality from a young age. My father started this business by showing people around the stunning Alta River and introducing them to fishing for big salmon. I loved seeing the joy on our guests’ faces as they experienced the natural beauty of our surroundings, and I knew that I wanted to be a part of that.
As I got older and started to take on more responsibilities within the business, my opinion about hospitality management began to change. I realized that it’s not just about providing a beautiful setting for guests but also about creating an unforgettable experience that they will cherish forever.
I believe that what sets us apart is our focus on authenticity and personal connection with our guests. We want them to feel like they are part of our family, and we strive to create an environment that is warm, welcoming, and memorable.
Please describe Sorrisniva’s history and how it has evolved.
Sorrisniva has a rich and storied history that dates back several decades. It all began with my father’s love for the Alta River and the stunning natural beauty that surrounds it. He started by taking small groups of visitors on tours of the river, showcasing its unique flora and fauna, and sharing his passion for the region’s culture and history.
Over time, we expanded our offerings to include lodging, dining, and a wide range of outdoor activities. We have always stayed true to our roots, however, and our identity remains firmly rooted in our connection to the land and our commitment to providing our guests with an authentic, immersive experience.
One of the most significant milestones in our history was the construction of our signature Icehotel, which was first built in 1999. This was a groundbreaking project that allowed us to showcase the beauty and versatility of ice as a building material, while also providing guests with a truly unique and unforgettable place to stay.
Throughout our evolution, we have remained committed to our core values of sustainability, community, and authenticity. We believe that our success is rooted in our ability to balance the needs of our guests with our responsibility to the environment and the local community.
What elements of being the Manager/Owner of Sorrisniva bring you passion and enjoyment?
What I like the most about the job is its diversity. None of my days are the same, and neither is the industry. The tourism industry is ever-changing so we always try to think ahead.
Please describe Sorrisniva aesthetic concept, architecture, and interior design.
At Sorrisniva, we believe that our architecture and interior design should reflect the stunning natural beauty that surrounds us, as well as the unique culture and history of our region. Our aesthetic concept is grounded in a deep respect for the environment and a commitment to sustainable design practices.
Our signature Ice hotel, for example, is a true testament to the versatility and beauty of ice as a building material. Each winter, we work with a team of artists and designers to create a one-of-a-kind hotel that showcases the stunning natural formations of ice and snow. The design is always unique and inspired by elements like the landscape, Norwegian culture, and folklore.
We believe that our responsibility as stewards of this beautiful region is to create buildings and spaces that enhance and complement the natural beauty of our surroundings, while also showcasing the unique culture and history of our community.
What makes your management style unique and what experiences and events have shaped your management approach and decisions?
I think what is unique from a Sorrisniva perspective is that we have remained a family-owned company where a younger generation is taking over. We also have little distinction between staff roles. We all act as co-workers, and we are given the opportunity to share opinions and thoughts about all aspects of the company.
The most challenging part of our work with regard to the Arctic Wilderness Lodge is the swings in seasons and getting guests to visit outside of winter. Every season here has its own uniqueness and guests can experience extraordinary things in all of them. We have to work and show people that northern Norway is a year-round destination worth visiting.
Global warming and climate change [have also been a big challenge in the past ten years]. Rising temperatures and an ice hotel are not a good fit. We are looking into new solutions that make it possible for Sorrisniva to offer the ice hotel in the years ahead.
What do you think makes Sorrisniva special?
I think the key difference is that my brother and I keep believing in our ideas and don’t let ourselves be affected by others. We have had a focus on high quality in all our offerings. With the new Arctic Wilderness Lodge, we are now, more than ever, focusing on discerning guests, middle to high-end visitors who are willing to pay for a combination of unique accommodation, nature-based experiences, and exquisite cuisine.
How does Sorrisniva remain consistent in meeting its high hospitality and service standards?
We maintain consistency by focusing on continuous training and improvement. We invest in our staff’s knowledge of the culture and history here, ensuring that they have the skills and knowledge needed to provide exceptional and authentic services to our guests. The most challenging aspect of achieving a reliable high standard is balancing the need for consistency with the need for flexibility and adaptability as we strive to meet the unique needs and preferences of each guest.
What would make people want to visit Sorrisniva?
Sorrisniva is a unique and unforgettable destination that offers guests an immersive experience in the heart of Norway’s stunning Arctic landscape. We are a family-owned and operated business that is committed to providing our guests with an authentic and sustainable experience that is rooted in the culture and history of our region. Our signature Ice Hotel is a one-of-a-kind attraction that draws visitors from around the world, while our wide range of outdoor activities and exceptional dining options make Sorrisniva a must-visit destination for anyone seeking adventure and relaxation or simply a chance to connect with nature.
What do you think guests look for in their accommodation and what features make them return?
At Sorrisniva, we believe that guests look for a unique and authentic experience that allows them to connect with the local culture and environment. To achieve this, we offer a range of comfortable and stylish accommodations that are designed to showcase the natural beauty of our surroundings. The Arctic Wilderness Lodge features large windows that allow guests to take in the breathtaking views of the landscape, while our interior design is inspired by traditional fishing culture, incorporating elements of artwork and equipment that date back to when my father was a kid.
We offer a wide range of activities, from dog sledding, nature hikes, and snowmobiling to Northern Lights tours and river boating. These allow guests to experience the unique beauty of the Arctic landscape in a way that is tailored to their preferences and interests year-round.
We are proud to offer a truly unique and unforgettable experience that showcases the best of what Norway’s Arctic has to offer.
Have you seen a difference in guest needs over the years?
Yes, we have seen a shift in guest needs over the years. Today’s guests are more interested in sustainable and authentic experiences that allow them to connect with the local culture and environment. They also expect a high level of personalised service and attention to detail. At Sorrisniva, we have adapted to these changes by prioritising sustainability and authenticity and by offering a wide range of activities and services that are tailored to the unique needs and preferences of each guest.
How does Sorrisniva draw from and incorporate local culture and work with local artisans and craftsmen?
At Sorrisniva, we are deeply committed to supporting and celebrating the local culture of the Alta region. We work closely with local artisans, craftsmen, and suppliers to incorporate traditional elements of Sami culture into our architecture, interior design, and dining experiences. We use locally sourced ingredients in our restaurants, and we offer guests the chance to learn about the region’s rich history and culture through a variety of educational experiences.
What can guests expect from a stay at the Lodge?
A stay at the Arctic Wilderness Lodge is a truly unforgettable experience that offers guests a chance to immerse themselves in the breathtaking natural beauty of Norway’s Arctic wilderness. Our stylish and comfortable accommodations are designed to showcase stunning surroundings, with large windows that offer panoramic views of the landscape. Guests can enjoy a range of locally sourced dining options that highlight the best of Norwegian cuisine, including fresh seafood and wild game. We also offer a variety of outdoor activities, such as dog sledding, snowmobiling, and Northern Lights tours, that allow guests to explore the stunning wilderness in a way that is tailored to their interests and abilities. One of my favourite aspects of the property is the terrace that sits only meters away from the Alta River, which offers a truly unique and rejuvenating way to relax with a view and the sound of the river after a day of outdoor adventure.
What hospitality industry changes would you like to see in future?
One change I would like to see in the hospitality industry is a shift away from fast-paced travel experiences towards more immersive and meaningful journeys that allow guests to connect with the local culture and lifestyle.
Please describe one of your favourite highlights of the Lodge.
One of the highlights of the Arctic Wilderness Lodge is our fine dining restaurant, Maku, which is a true reflection of the hotel’s commitment to showcasing the best of Norwegian cuisine and culture. The restaurant takes its name from the Kvensk work for “taste”, which perfectly encapsulates the experience that guests can expect when dining there. Our menu features locally sourced ingredients, including fresh seafood, wild game, and foraged berries and herbs, which are expertly prepared by our talented team of chefs.
Please describe your favourite dish/es on Sorrisniva’s menu.
I have to say that one of my favourite dishes on our menu is the traditional Norwegian cod. This dish is a true celebration of the best local ingredients, featuring sustainably caught cod from the nearby fjords, served with locally grown vegetables and ingredients. The cod is cooked to perfection, while the accompanying vegetables add a burst of freshness and colour to the plate.
Please describe your favourite cocktail/s or drinks on Sorrisniva’s menu.
Not mentioning our own Blue Igloo drink would be seen as a scam here. Our Blue Igloo drink is only served in the ice bar located in our Igloo Hotel. The glasses we serve this drink in are, of course, made out of the same ice we built the hotel with. The ingredients of the drink? That we keep secret!
Any there upcoming developments or events that visitors can look forward to?
At Sorrisniva, we are always looking for ways to improve and enhance the experience of our guests. One of the exciting developments that we are currently working on is the expansion of our meeting room and event facilities. This will make it easier for us to host larger events, such as weddings and small work events, while still maintaining the intimate and personalised atmosphere that our guests have come to expect from us. We are also exploring new and innovative ways to showcase the beauty and diversity of the Arctic wilderness and to create unforgettable experiences for our guests. We are confident that these developments will help us continue to grow and evolve as a world-class destination for travellers seeking adventure, culture, and class.