Up, down, all around. During winter, you will find groomed trails for cross-country skiing crisscrossing the entire country.
“Norwegians are born with skis on their feet”, is an expression often heard in Norway. Frankly, that’s not true at all: you could perfectly well grow up in Norway without having to spend every weekend perfecting your skiing technique (though there are many who do precisely that).
But cross-country skiing has a special place in Norwegian culture and history, as well as being a favourite pastime during winter. Over the years, skiing has moved from being a means of transportation, to pure, social fun – though sometimes used for hardcore fitness purposes as well. A ski marathon called Birkebeinerrennet attracts hoards of Norwegians year after year (a good chunk of them probably suffering from midlife crisis).
Norway has traditionally dominated the skiing world cup and olympic events, and skiers like Bjørn Dæhli, Marit Bjørgen, Therese Johaug and Petter Northug are, or have been, among the greatest sports stars in the country.
Advanced skiers come to Norway to go ski touring in the mountainside, and will oftentimes discover untouched nature that is much more difficult to reach in summer. Adventurers should familiarize themselves with the local conditions and the weather, though, as avalanches sometimes occur in the mountains, usually during or just after major snowfalls.
Newbies should start with easier groomed slopes, which you will find in most parts of Norway, even in the coastal areas, during the winter (which are family friendly and perfectly safe). The largest and most popular ski destinations are located in the mountains in central, eastern and southern Norway, like Holmenkollen in Oslo, Gålå, Sjusjøen in the county of Hedmark, Hovden in Setesdal, and Geilo in the valley of Hallingdal.
Norway’s cross-country star Petter Northug, winner of more than a dozen Word Championships, began his skiing career as a boy in Nord-Trøndelag.
He also points at other destinations for rewarding skiing experiences.
The word “ski” is actually a Norwegian word, which comes from the Old Norse word “skid”, meaning a split length of wood.
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 skies. The ski he constructed was narrow at the middle and became the prototype for all later ski production.
Norwegian polar explorers Roald Amundsen and Fridtjof Nansen have made a significant contribution to the existing national pride in the sport. Roald Amundsen was the first man in history to reach the South Pole, while Nansen led the team that made the first crossing of the Greenland interior in 1888.
Cross-country skiing contests have been organized in Norway since the 1840s. The men’s event debuted at the first Winter Olympic Games, and ever since the Nordic countries have dominated the sport.
Skiing like a Norwegian can be deeply rooted in traditions and rituals. Or you can forget all about that, and just focus on the adrenalinesurging drops and big jumps.
Stunning leaps leading to deserted expanses of powder snow, or large ski resorts with all modern conveniences. Either way, it all goes downhill from here.
Stay safe by following these simple rules of thumb:
Norwegian philosophy is very much that conservation is everyone's responsibility. Enjoying nature and the outdoors is considered a national pastime, and this is reflected in our attitude towards the preservation and use of the wilderness.
Whether it's hiking in the mountains or biking an idyllic forest road, Norwegians try to leave as small a footprint as possible. Leave it as you would like to find it is the mantra, regardless of whether you are a guest in the landscape or a small fishing village.
Quality of life is what it is all about, not only now, but for the time to come as well. It's about recognizing that everybody else are just as important as ourselves, and taking steps to implement that thought in all aspects of life. It's not easy, nor is it quickly done. But it is definitely worth it.
You are in Norway, therefore no reason to stay indoors. Here are some fun things to do, whether you're visiting the coast, the mountains or somewhere in between.
In the Viking sagas wintertime is often summed up as “that winter he stayed at home at the farm”. It was a time to stay indoors and rest up and spend time with the family, but in this day and age, you might as well spend your winter days enjoying the snow under your feet and the northern lights overhead.