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Cross-country skiing

Master the trails on skinny skis
Up, down, all around. During winter, you will find groomed trails for cross­-country skiing crisscrossing the entire country.
A man cross-country skiing in sunny weather in Oppdal
Cross-country skiing in Oppdal.
Photo: Martin I. Dalen

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.

Norway has traditionally dominated the skiing world cup and olympic events, and skiers like Bjørn Dæhlie, 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.

Top cross-country places

Norway’s cross-country star Petter Northug, winner of more than a dozen World Championships, began his skiing career as a boy in Nord-Trøndelag. He also points at other destinations for rewarding skiing experiences.

Cross-country: A brief history

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 skis. 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.

Safety in the mountains

Norway is an incredible place to explore, with untamed mythical landscapes, mountains, valleys, and fjords. Before you enter the outdoors, get familiar with the nine simple rules of the Norwegian mountain code to help you stay safe.

Read the mountain code

Leaving it as you found it

Norway is a country of outstanding natural beauty, with dramatic waterfalls, crystal clear fjords, majestic mountains, and spectacular glaciers. Preserving this landscape, its communities, and the way of life is essential for locals and visitors alike.

Make as small a footprint as possible. Leave it as you would like to find it is the mantra – take only pictures, keep only memories.

Travel green in Norway

Go up – or down

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