Norwegians are said to be born with skis on their feet, and it is true that few other nations are as passionate about skiing as Norway is. And as good at it. Norway's success in the Winter Olympics is unrivalled, and the country has a total of 329 medals (118 gold, 111 silver and 100 bronze) to its tally.
While cross-country skiing has long been the most common winter sport, Alpine skiing and snowboarding are also popular. You do not have to ski though to enjoy a winter trip to Norway, as there are plenty of other activities on offer, from dog sledding and snow scooting to a wide range of ice related sports, be it ice climbing, ice skating, or even ice fishing.
- Norway, the cradle of skiing
- Cross-country skiing in Norway
- Alpine skiing in Norway
- Snowboarding in Norway
- Extreme skiing and snowboarding in Norway
- Ski right outside the city
- Snow-kiting in Norway
- Winter without ski
Norway, the cradle of skiing
Did you know that Norway was the country where skiing first became a sport? Norwegians have been skiing for more than 4,000 years. Over the years, skiing moved from being a means of transportation, to pure fun. In the 1870s, Sondre Norheim from Morgedal in Telemark revolutionised skiing and introduced the discipline we today know as Telemark skiing.
Norheim began using stiff bindings around the heel so that the skier could turn and jump without losing his skis. The ski Norheim constructed was narrow at the middle and became the prototype for all later ski production. Morgedal has therefore been named the cradle of ski sports and was a natural place for the Olympic flame to be lit before the Winter Olympics in Lillehammer in 1994.
Cross-country skiing in Norway
Cross-country skiing is Norway's national sport, and one of its most cherished traditions. It is also a great way to explore the country's stunning and unspoilt landscape. Every municipality has prepared tracks in winter, some of them are lit up at night. Families with young children are not an unusual sight on these tracks – even future champions have to start somewhere. Cross-country skiers like Marit Bjørgen and Petter Northug, who both have won an impressive number of medals and trophies in recent years, enjoy celebrity status, and watching cross-country skiing races on TV is a popular activity. Classic and skating are the two prevalent styles.
Alpine skiing in Norway
The Norwegian ski season typically lasts for six months and usually offers good snow conditions throughout. Resorts usually open in November. The snow often remains light, powdery and deep until April. First-timers are usually impressed by the fast and efficient lift systems, the rather short queues and the modern ski equipment for hire. Skiing in Norway is neither a fashionable fad nor an international industry, and the relatively small size of Norwegian resorts makes for a more relaxed skiing experience. Trysil is Norway's largest ski resort, with 39 lifts and 45 miles of runs. Versatile Hemsedal is another favourite. Here you will find 24 lifts, 51 slopes and activities for all ages. Kvitfjell, which was developed for the Olympics in 1994, is a regular world cup host for alpine skiing. In 2014, Kvitfjell and Hafjell, another Olympic resort, became one destination connected by a shuttle bus service. Geilo and Oslo Winter Park are also popular.
Snowboarding in Norway
Vierli snowboard park in Telemark, Southern Norway, is regarded by many as the best in Norway. It was voted "resort of the year" at the Norwegian Snowboard Awards in 2010, and nominated again in 2011. The Norwegian Snowboard Championship NM 2012 was held there. The winner of the award in 2011 was Ringkollen, a tiny resort 38 miles northwest of Oslo, hugely popular with younger snowboarders. Oslo Winter Park, which hosted the World Snowboarding Championship (WSC) in 2012, is also popular. Trysil, Norway's largest resort, has a big terrain park.
Extreme skiing and snowboarding in Norway
Once voted "the best terrain park in the world" by the international snowboard press, Hemsedal one of Norway's largest resorts, offers excellent opportunities for off-piste snowboarding too. So do the Lyngen Alps near Tromsø – the whole area is an eldorado for powder snow enthusiasts. Extreme skiing is also popular in the Lofoten Islands – where a skiing expedition often starts off with a boat trip to reach the most remote part of the islands.
Snowkiting is the latest craze in adrenaline soaked sports in Norway. Best places to try this include Varanger in Finnmark, Northern Norway, which hosted the Snowkiting World Championship in 2005; Hardangervidda mountain plateau, a World Cup arena, rated as one of the top snowkiting spots in the world, and offers excellent conditions for kiters of all abilities; and the popular mountain resort of Geilo in Eastern Norway, which has hosted both World Cup and World Championship events in snowkiting.
Ski right outside the city
Few other countries in the world can boast ski resorts right on their cities' doorstep the way Norway does. Cross-country trails crisscross Nordmarka, a vast forest north of Oslo, while Oslo Winter Park is the place to go for Alpine skiing and snowboarding. Both are within easy reach of Oslo center on public transport. Bergen also offers miles upon miles of cross-country tracks in the mountains surrounding the city, and the same applies to many other Norwegian towns. Kongsberg in the south and Narvik in the north also have top Alpine resorts a short ride away.
Winter without skis
Non-skiing visitors travelling to Norway in winter will find plenty of other activities to keep them occupied. Fun in the snow doesn't mean you have to don skis, or carry a snowboard. Instead you could pack a pair of snow shoes. Or skates. Ice skating is a popular thing to do in winter when Norway's many lakes freeze over and turn into huge open air ice rinks. If that sounds too risky, you will find artificial ice rinks on which to practice your moves in most towns and cities. Dog sledding and snow scooting are popular ways to explore Norway's winterland. Dog sledding is available in many places up and down the country, while snow scooters are mainly used in the north. Other winter activities include ice climbing (Rjukan in Telemark hosts a popular ice climbing festival every year in February), ice fishing, sledging (Korketrekkeren, Oslo's corkscrew hill is legendary for this) and the occasional ice or snow golf competitions. For many, though, the most awesome thing to do on a winter trip to Norway is to go chasing for the northern lights in Arctic Norway – an awesome experience that can easily be combined with one or several of the above named activities.
- Holmenkollen Festival, the highlight of the winter-sport season is a hugely popular event drawing thousands of skiing enthusiasts to Oslo (Mar)
- Birkebeinerrennet, a historical cross-country skiing race from Rena to Lillehammer (Mar)
- Skarverennet, a skiing competition that attracts over 12,000 participants (Apr)
- Flyktningrennet (website in Norwegian and Swedish), from Lierne in Norway to Gäddede in Sweden. The race commemorates those who fled Nazi-occupied Norway to Sweden during the Second World War (Apr)
Did you know?
Lillehammer successfully hosted the Winter Olympics in 1994. These were the best ever games for Norway, which, competing on home turf, topped the medal table, with 26 medals, of which 10 gold.
Most people associate skiing with winter, but in Norway it is actually possible to go skiing in summer too. Stryn, Galdhøpiggen and Folgefonna are the three largest summer skiing centers.
There are 1,600 miles of prepared cross-country tracks around Oslo.
The new Holmenkollen Ski Jump, designed by JDS Architects, opened in 2011. The hill has been rebuilt 19 times since 1892. The Ski Museum inside the ski jump is the world's oldest ski museum. It presents over 4,000 years of skiing history and polar exploration artefacts.
Korketrekkeren (literally "the corkscrew") is a 2-mile-long toboggan run stretching from Frognerseteren to Midtstuen subway station in Oslo. Korketrekkeren boasts a drop of 836 feet, and is popular among local sledge enthusiasts. It is prepared each morning in the winter season.