Norway XC skiing -- a visitor's impressions

Norway XC skiing -- a visitor's impressions

Post by Ken Robert » Wed, 13 Mar 2002 04:29:24


I've been having fun sampling the skiing in Norway for a week, so here's
some impressions from an American which might help other visitors who might
want to try skiing there sometime.

I hope those with a deeper and more detailed knowledge will correct my
mistakes, and add some insights.

First, some places I skied:

Geilo -- Most different from American skiing.  Access to groomed, marked
trails completely above tree-line, and also some pleasant lower trails.
Lots of snow.

Hemsedal -- Pretty good lift-served downhill skiing, in addition to XC which
included a 5 km of skating trails.  I'd say the downhill resort had advanced
trails and tree skiing at least as good as the best northeast US downhill
resorts, and also some above tree-line and touring access which count as
superior variety -- bigger and more serious than lots of other Norway
resorts -- but not up there with the best of the Alps and western North
America.  (Someone suggested that another resort called Beitostolen might be
a place to mix XC skiing with more "family-oriented" lift-served downhill
skiing-snowboarding).

Jotunheimen Park -- This is a famous park with the highest mountains.  I
wanted to get in there for a day tour from Lom in the north.  But the access
roads looked uninviting to my rental car, and the map I had showed that you
had to ski in a good ways just to get beyond the power lines, so I settled
for taking some photos from the main road.  My sense it that ski touring in
there is a serious multi-day undertaking.

Oslo / Nordmark -- Good for lots of interesting trails sheltered in the
trees, easy metro train access (Frognerseteren station on the metro "T-bane"
#1 train line), significant amount of skating trails, and seeing the
Holmenkollen ski jump, stadium, ski museum.  Snow quantity up there was way
better I could have imagined from downtown Oslo, but not as much as other
places further away.  Definitely purchase the "Oslo Nordmark vinter" map
from a bookstore if you want to ski here.

Sjusjoen (near Lillehammer) -- Place where good XC skiing is the main focus.
Different from American skiing in that many trails are on a high plateau
with sparse little trees (but there's also some tree-sheltered trails a
little lower).  Trails that go to other places:  Like one afternoon I skated
to Hornsjo, Pellestova, and Nordseter and had hot chocolate at each one.
Like you can ski the Birkebeinerrennet trail down to the 1994 Olympic XC ski
and other events in Lillehammer, and take the bus back to Sjusjoen.  Higher
percentage of skating trails than I found at the other places.  Big views to
mountains all over Norway.  Nice mix of gentle-to-moderate hills and flat
sections -- I liked that there were lots of hills in the right steepness
range for my Classic striding, but without much herringbone.  Sjusjoen held
good-quality snow up high even while everything was melting down in the
valley.

Some other impressions:

Skiing and Living -- I was somehow thinking that skiing might be more
integrated with regular living in Norway -- like skiing to work, or skiing
to buy groceries.  But it seems that most Norwegians get to work by train,
bus, car, bicycle.  It looked to me like the point where skiing is more
integrated with life is at their weekend cabins up in the hills.

Maps -- Although each ski region usually provides its own trail map, I was
glad I had bought detailed topo maps in Oslo (where some bookstores to try
are Norli, Quist, Tanum).

Language -- Norway is the most English-friendly European skiing country I've
found.  I studied "Norwegian in 10 minutes a Day" on the flight, and it was
helpful background.  But in the various places or situations I was in, I
never once had a reason to utter a single word of Norwegian.

Car rental -- Rather expensive compared to other European skiing countries.
Definitely not necessary, since Norway as a whole, and the ski centers I
visited, seemed to have reasonably good public transportation network.  I
decided to rent a car, and I was glad for the flexibility it gave me to
visit several different places quickly.  But I spent a lot of time driving
on curvy, snow-covered 2-lane roads with no shoulders.  And once I got away
from Oslo, even the most major roads had realistic travel speeds
significantly lower than American roads of comparable significance, and were
more subject to closures ("stengt") and restrictions ("kolonne") due to snow
and wind.

Ken

 
 
 

Norway XC skiing -- a visitor's impressions

Post by Jay Teged » Wed, 13 Mar 2002 09:25:41

Any mention of the Nordmarka Trails and the Holmenkollen deserves the
following description;

"Awesome! The Craddle of Skiing." It's one of the sacred places in the
nordic world. I'd rank it among the top three of all-time with the
Vasaloppet Trail in Sweden and Lahti, Finland in the same group. Check
out the Holmenkollen on an evening when they have a kids race. Under
the lights, watch the pre-***s exhibit perfect skiing technique at
such a young age. That's why the Norwegians are so good when they're
on the National Team.

Jay Tegeder
"On the podium if the right people don't show up!" JT

Quote:

> Oslo / Nordmark -- Good for lots of interesting trails sheltered in the
> trees, easy metro train access (Frognerseteren station on the metro "T-bane"
> #1 train line), significant amount of skating trails, and seeing the
> Holmenkollen ski jump, stadium, ski museum.  Snow quantity up there was way
> better I could have imagined from downtown Oslo, but not as much as other
> places further away.  Definitely purchase the "Oslo Nordmark vinter" map
> from a bookstore if you want to ski here.


 
 
 

Norway XC skiing -- a visitor's impressions

Post by David Dermot » Wed, 13 Mar 2002 14:00:51

Quote:

> I've been having fun sampling the skiing in Norway for a week, so here's
> some impressions from an American which might help other visitors who might
> want to try skiing there sometime.

> I hope those with a deeper and more detailed knowledge will correct my
> mistakes, and add some insights.

   Well, you've made me very "homesick". My first winter trip to Norway
(Mar 95) was great and the next 2 (96, 99) were even better. I guess I
should have planned a trip there this March.

Quote:

> First, some places I skied:
> ............
> Jotunheimen Park -- This is a famous park with the highest mountains.

  I haven't skied there yet. It's probably best to ski in spring or even
early summer. In 1994 cycled over the highest paved road pass
(Sognefjell 1450 m) on July 1  and the whole area was still completely
covered in snow. There were a lot of people skiing -red klister and a
very high factor sunscreen! Of course, this was just after the
legendary "Olympic Winter" with record snow accumulations.

Quote:

> Oslo / Nordmark -- Good for lots of interesting trails sheltered in the
> trees, easy metro train access (Frognerseteren station on the metro "T-bane"
> #1 train line),

   There are also several other T-bane lines to access points, my favorite
was the Sognsvann line (maybe #2). I also noticed several bus stops
near trail heads. Another fun trip was to take the train 30 or 40 km
north (Stryken, Harestua, Grua etc) and ski back to the city.
It helps to study train, T-bane, and bus schedules beforehand.

Quote:
> ....
> ...  Definitely purchase the "Oslo Nordmark vinter" map
> from a bookstore if you want to ski here.

   The Oslo Nordmark Vinter map is online at:
http://www.math.uio.no/~jnygaard/nordm/html/finalb.html
  You can "zoom" in to enlarge areas.

  The Oslo Ski Association also has trail maps of Nordmarka (and the
other "marka" encircling the city) at:
http://www.skiforeningen.no/maps/
   Either select "Hele Oslomarka" and then "zoom" into the area you want,
or choose a place by name.

   Nordmarka by itself could keep a skier busy for a long, long time.
The only comparison I can think of in Canada is Gatineau Park, near
Ottawa. But Nordmarka is about 20 times bigger than Gatineau Park.

   One of the biggest events in Nordmarka is scheduled for this weekend-
the Holmenkollen ski festival. The big event is the men's 50 km. A lot of
spectators (1000 maybe?) camp out the night before along the race course.
And many more thousands will ski out for the day to line the race
course.

  I promise I will someday finish the story of my 1999 trip :-)
 "http://www3.ns.sympatico.ca/dermott/ski/99/index.html"

--
 David Dermott , Wolfville Ridge, Nova Scotia, Canada

 WWW pages: http://www3.ns.sympatico.ca/dermott/

 
 
 

Norway XC skiing -- a visitor's impressions

Post by jobr » Thu, 14 Mar 2002 09:52:49


skiing in Norway, this time a drool-provoking travelogue.  I might as well
add my .02, which I believe I might have done last summer, but can't really
remember.

In March/April of 2001, my wife and two kids (10 and 13 at the time) went
from our home in Fairbanks, Alaska, to visit our relatives in Trondheim,
Norway, and then to their cabin in the mountains for about 10 days.  Their
cabin is in an area called Stugedal which is east, and I believe south of
Trondheim, in the mountains near Sweden.  It is roughly between Selbu and
Tydal.  I believe Stugedal translates into something like "cabin valley".
The valley surrounds a beautiful large lake and is indeed scattered with
cabins in the trees.

This is not a "destination" ski area, but more a small rural town on a lake
and a center of recreational cabins where Norwegians go to relax and hike
and ski in the mountains.  There are some hotels and rental cabins so I
think a visitor could find a place to stay.

There were countless km of trails - excellent touring trails all of them.
They are semi-maintained - sometimes groomed , but often skier maintained.
The trail marking and maintenance that is done is paid for by contributions
by the local cabin owners.  Some of them were race or near race quality,
most really just excellent backcountry touring trails.  Some trails are
within the valley floor, and some go up into the mountains up above tree
line.  Some take you above treeline where from which you can make your own
route through a nearby pass, or follow a historic trail across the valleys
to distant towns.  Many trails are from cabin to cabin, to and from the
nearby hotels, stores, etc. etc.  It is just a place for people to have a
cabin in the country and ski.

We spent our days skiing to various points in the mountains and valley, with
the main goal of each trip being stopping for an hour or two or three for a
picnic and maybe even a nap in the sun!  We carried light rucksacks with
camping pads to sit on, light weight shovels, food and hot drinks.  At break
time, we dug out a nice bench in the snow and built a wind shelter out of
blocks of snow if needed.  Ricco, the huge German Shepard dog, accompanied
us on every tour, sometimes even pulling his boss, Ruth Karin.  Yes, we
carried a pad for Ricco and it was a full sized reindeer (caribou) hide.

Sometimes we built a little fire or carried a disposable charcoal grille
("pyro picnic").  My  kids love to ski, but they really enjoyed this
extra-curricular stuff.  Sometimes we'd ski across the valley to visit
someone and have a little toddy or beer and shoot the breeze for a couple of
hours.  Many people, including my cousins (with our help), build fairly
elaborate "lounge" areas in the snow outside the cabin - conversation pits
in the snow, with back rests, snow block wind breaks and maybe a fire pit.
What a great way to spend a sunny afternoon or evening in the spring!  My
relatives had siblings, cousins, etc. scattered around, so sometimes we'd
ski a few km up or down the valley to visit and have dinner, then ski back
in the dark.

The skill factor ranged from touring rolling hills and flats to some fairly
rigorous up and down (especially the down).  My daughters and I didn't have
any difficulty keeping up, since we all grew up on skis and are fairly
comfortable with down hill technique.  My wife had some problems coming down
just because she's one who didn't learn to ski until ***hood brought
caution and the very justified fear of pain and injury into the equation.
But she made it every day and while a little frustrated and sore from falls,
would gladly go back.

The only thing I'd change in our gear is to add some light touring gear to
my personal quiver of skis since right now all I have are racing-type track
skis and heavy metal edge mountain touring and telemarking skis.  We all
used our racing skis, and they worked fine, but were not ideal.  I also
think my wife would benefit greatly from some shorter, wider skis, maybe
with edges, that would be easier to stop and turn on, as opposed to the very
narrow racing-type skis she was using.  It might slow her down a little
going up, but that's not really a problem. We thought that the combi
skate/stride boots that my wife and kids had were ideal - light, yet
excellent ankle support.  My low cut racing boots were OK, but a little
underpowered.  Because of the mixed ages and abilities in our group, we
didn't do anything that required heavy mountain touring gear. But next time
we go, I'm going to bring it because my cousin Rolf wanted to get a little
more hard core every once in a while, and I was definitely game.  We saw
people on every type of trail, with every type of gear:  heavy mountain gear
on the flat trails, racing gear up above tree line, vice versa and
everything in between.  Most were on mid-range light touring gear, even in
the mountains.

The Easter holiday is a big time in Norway for going to the cabin to ski.  I
think it might be THE time to go to the cabin and ski.  "Everyone" takes the
week off and goes to the cabin.  I think the city of Trondheim closes.
Thus, as I said, we did a lot of social trips and had a couple of giant
Easter feasts with my cousin's wife's extended family who all have cabins in
the vicinity.

A highlight or our stay was the annual 25 km tour called the Stugedal Rundt.
I believe this translates roughly to the Tour de Stugedal.  It is a very
well attended un-timed tour on beautiful trails around the lake and valley.
There are several check points where you get your card stamped, and enjoy
some hot beverages and waffles.  We saw a few people trucking along in lycra
making time, but mostly it was families and groups of friends, from
grandparents to babies in pulkas.  Because of a little communication
misunderstanding, my kids and I thought it was a race.  We are all very
casual racers - occasionally enter local races just for fun - so we weren't
really serious.  But we were planning on seeing how fast we could do it.  I
was a little embarrassed when I realized that I was fretting over prepping
and waxing the kids skis when really I should have been figuring out how to
carry a thermos of cocoa or more snacks!  Didn't take long to change the
attitude though, and we had a great time.

The Stugedal Rundt is a long standing annual event around the Easter
holiday.  Hundreds or maybe even thousands of people come out to
participate.  There is no "start" or "finish" - you just start and end the
tour at any point along the circuit, pretty much at any time you want
(planning, of course, to finish before dark).  Progress is simply measured
by the stamps you receive on your card, so it doesn't matter where in the
loop you begin, or how long it takes.  We just got up in the morning, had a
big breakfast of gjetost, crackers, cereal, herring, toast, and lumpa, put
on our skis at the cabin door, skied about a km to where we met the trail,
and began the tour.  We ended the same way, by skiing off the Stugedal Rundt
trail, and down a long hill through the trees back to the cabin.

Upon presenting our cards with all the stamps in place, we received
certificates for completion, which we display proudly.  Multi year
completers get various medals  (bronze, silver, gold) as the years go by and
the completions add up.  This, I thought, was a really great way to have a
large ski event.  There was no competition, no timing, and it attracted
everyone, not just the well trained and fit.  If you have a gold medal for
the Stugedal Rundt on your wall, you can be sure your visitors would notice
it and congratulate you!

I thought we blended in pretty well - we were pretty good skiers, had a
blast, never tired of the skiing, and really didn't look too much different
(I'm from full Norwegian background and my wife's from Irish background -
which as my grandpa used to say are just transplanted Vikings anyway).  I
think the main difference between our family and the others is that we
didn't have the official Norwegian red and blue parkas.  It turns out that
we were somewhat of a curiosity though, because on our last day, a man from
the Selbu newspaper came to my cousins' house and interviewed us at length,
and next thing we knew, there was a large color photo of our two families in
the newspaper, and a full page story on our visit to Stugedal from Alaska!

I'd like to go back every year and can't recommend Norway more strongly to
any Nordic skier who is seeing the Grail.

Dan Johnson

 
 
 

Norway XC skiing -- a visitor's impressions

Post by Edga » Thu, 14 Mar 2002 12:23:11

Quote:

> Geilo -- Most different from American skiing.  Access to groomed, marked
> trails completely above tree-line, and also some pleasant lower trails.
> Lots of snow.

Geilo can be reached by the Oslo-Bergen train.

Quote:
> Sjusjoen (near Lillehammer) -- Place where good XC skiing is the main focus.
> Different from American skiing in that many trails are on a high plateau
> with sparse little trees (but there's also some tree-sheltered trails a
> little lower).  Trails that go to other places:  Like one afternoon I skated
> to Hornsjo, Pellestova, and Nordseter and had hot chocolate at each one.

The waffles at Pellestova go well with coffee.  We were fortunate to
discover Norge waffles mid-trip otherwise we would have had weight
problems.  (Lillehammer is also an easy train ride with bus transfer
to Sjusj?en.)

Edgar

 
 
 

Norway XC skiing -- a visitor's impressions

Post by Ken and Helen McNai » Thu, 14 Mar 2002 23:32:57

Well written! A few photos and you could submit this to a magazine.


Quote:

> skiing in Norway, this time a drool-provoking travelogue.  I might as well
> add my .02, which I believe I might have done last summer, but can't
really
> remember.

[snip]
 
 
 

Norway XC skiing -- a visitor's impressions

Post by Ken Robert » Fri, 15 Mar 2002 08:15:42

Jay Tegeder wrote

Quote:
> Any mention of the Nordmarka Trails and the
> Holmenkollen deserves the following description:
> "Awesome! The Craddle of Skiing."
> It's one of the sacred places in the nordic world.

Glad you added that, since I'm not much into sacred-ness myself.

I had lots of fun skiing there, and I think the overall range of
possibilities is really amazing.  But I didn't think the detailed design of
any particular trail was better than Mont-Sainte-Anne, Craftsbury, or Mt Van
Hoevenberg.  (But I didn't ski most of the 3 x 16.7 Holmenkolen 50K trail.)

And in none of the places I skied in Norway did I find anything that
measured up to the best of Sovereign Lakes in Vernon, BC, Canada for
amazingly interesting track skiing.

Maybe the Sovereign Lakes trail designers visited Nordmarka and then worked
on how to "top" it.  Maybe it's time for some Norwegian trail maintainers to
visit Vernon and ski Montezuma / Revenge and then go back and top that --
and prove that Norway can design the new coolest "fun" track in the world.

Or is the most interesting fun track somewhere in Austria?

Ken

 
 
 

Norway XC skiing -- a visitor's impressions

Post by Steinar Kj?rnsr? » Fri, 15 Mar 2002 08:25:11


Quote:
> Any mention of the Nordmarka Trails and the Holmenkollen deserves the
> following description;

> "Awesome! The Craddle of Skiing." It's one of the sacred places in the
> nordic world. I'd rank it among the top three of all-time with the
> Vasaloppet Trail in Sweden and Lahti, Finland in the same group. Check
> out the Holmenkollen on an evening when they have a kids race. Under
> the lights, watch the pre-***s exhibit perfect skiing technique at
> such a young age. That's why the Norwegians are so good when they're
> on the National Team.

You're right. Last Sunday, 9158 children from age 3 and above participated
in the "Childrens Holmenkoll Day" event, which by the way marked the start
of the Holmenkollen Ski Festival 2002. See the kids in action here:

http://SportToday.org/

Quote:

> Jay Tegeder
> "On the podium if the right people don't show up!" JT


> > Oslo / Nordmark -- Good for lots of interesting trails sheltered in the
> > trees, easy metro train access (Frognerseteren station on the metro
"T-bane"
> > #1 train line), significant amount of skating trails, and seeing the
> > Holmenkollen ski jump, stadium, ski museum.  Snow quantity up there was
way
> > better I could have imagined from downtown Oslo, but not as much as
other
> > places further away.  Definitely purchase the "Oslo Nordmark vinter" map
> > from a bookstore if you want to ski here.

 
 
 

Norway XC skiing -- a visitor's impressions

Post by Ken Robert » Fri, 15 Mar 2002 22:58:04

Dan -

I enjoyed savoring the details of your trip.

Quote:
> This is not a "destination" ski area, but more a small rural town
> on a lake and a center of recreational cabins where Norwegians
> go to relax and hike and ski in the mountains.

Yes, it seemed like in the areas I sampled, lots of the "places" I skied to
turned out to be mostly clusters of cabins.

Quote:
> The Easter holiday is a big time in Norway for going
> to the cabin to ski.  I think it might be THE time to go
> to the cabin and ski.

Often I try to plan ski trips to avoid crowds, but I think for a
cross-country skiing visit to Norway I think you're right that the idea is
to seek for lots of other skiers and enjoy being around them.  I think the
very special thing about Norway is the Norwegians.

I noticed that when I was out touring mid-week in the second week of March,
the cabins were mostly vacant.  My sense is that flashy architecture is not
a major part of Norwegian culture, so seeing the cabins without the skiers
was not the most interesting way to do the tour.

It wouldn't surprise me if people were saving up their mid-week days off for
Easter week.  Perhaps I would have seen more people out skiing mid-week if
I'd arrived a couple of weeks sooner.

Of course there's going to lots more folks out skiing on the weekend.  So
I'd say it's worth trying to schedule the dates of a XC ski vacation to get
a full weekend in an area with cabins.  (Unfortunately the way a vacation
week from a job usually goes, you end up losing weekend days to travel and
organization -- and Oslo gets few non-stop flights from North America).

The main concern I'd have about Easter is that by then there would be a lot
less lower-elevation skiing would remain -- so you might be doing _all_ you
skiing up on the high plateaus with few or no trees.  I think I'd prefer to
be able to choose to ski down in the trees some days -- especially when it's
windy.

Quote:
> A highlight of our stay was the annual 25 km tour called the Stugedal

Rundt.

I like your description of the details of this -- and I like the idea.
Personally I'd rather do one or two of those fun touring events on a Norway
vacation, rather than Birkebeinerrennet race (which in late March seems to
be mis-timed from a "fun ski vacation" perspective).

The closest I've seen to it in the U.S. is the touring option of the
Craftsbury (Vermont) marathon.

I like the idea of skiing to _places_ as an alternative to skiing on named
trails that just connect to other trails.

Lots of U.S. ski centers might say that they do not have the "critical mass"
of ski trails or variety of terrain to offer that.  But consider Prospect
Mountain in southwestern Vermont.  Not a large center, but on their gentle
terrain they've created some special little places with special names and
little games associated with visiting them.  For a special touring event,
lots more could be done to create colorful interesting stations that might
offer activities in addition to eating.

Ken

 
 
 

Norway XC skiing -- a visitor's impressions

Post by Terje Mathise » Fri, 15 Mar 2002 22:50:51

Quote:

> The Easter holiday is a big time in Norway for going to the cabin to ski.  I

Right.

Quote:
> think it might be THE time to go to the cabin and ski.  "Everyone" takes the
> week off and goes to the cabin.  I think the city of Trondheim closes.

This is unfortunately not true (any longer?):

A couple of years ago I read that currently "only" about 20% of Norway
go skiing during Easter, which of course leaves 80% at
home/work/whatever.

OTOH, try to imagine more than 50 million americans migrating up in the
hills at the same time. :-)

Terje
--

"almost all programming can be viewed as an exercise in caching"

 
 
 

Norway XC skiing -- a visitor's impressions

Post by jobr » Sat, 16 Mar 2002 07:00:10


Quote:
> Dan -

> I enjoyed savoring the details of your trip.

Thanks - it made me wish we were going back this spring.

Quote:
> > The Easter holiday is a big time in Norway for going
> > to the cabin to ski.  I think it might be THE time to go
> > to the cabin and ski.

> Often I try to plan ski trips to avoid crowds, but I think for a
> cross-country skiing visit to Norway I think you're right that the idea is
> to seek for lots of other skiers and enjoy being around them.  I think the
> very special thing about Norway is the Norwegians.

Same here.  I use skiing for two purposes:  to get out on some nice groomed
trails to enjoy "fitness" skiing, or to get out in the woods and experience
some peace and quiet.  Sometimes the fitness skiing accomplishes both in the
off hours.

We really enjoyed the people around during the Easter season though - you're
right it added a lot to the trip.  However, we definitely were able to go
off and find a secluded place to ski or have a picnic when we wanted to.

Quote:
> The main concern I'd have about Easter is that by then there would be a
lot
> less lower-elevation skiing would remain -- so you might be doing _all_
you
> skiing up on the high plateaus with few or no trees.  I think I'd prefer
to
> be able to choose to ski down in the trees some days -- especially when
it's
> windy.

Absolutely.  Being that Easter was mid-April last year really pushed the
limits.  We wanted to ski in Trondheim, but it was rainy and bare of snow in
the city and surrounding.  There was snow at Granaasen, but it was raining.
In Stugudal, there was plenty of snow in the valley and in the mountains
though.  We could ski low in the trees.  I think the whole area is fairly
high, but I don't have my map here to get elevations.

Quote:
> > A highlight of our stay was the annual 25 km tour called the Stugedal
> Rundt.

> I like your description of the details of this -- and I like the idea.
> Personally I'd rather do one or two of those fun touring events on a
Norway
> vacation, rather than Birkebeinerrennet race (which in late March seems to
> be mis-timed from a "fun ski vacation" perspective).

> The closest I've seen to it in the U.S. is the touring option of the
> Craftsbury (Vermont) marathon.

We have a couple of long distance races up here that attract a very few more
casual people such as myself - but they are timed and fairly intimidating
because of that and the fact that almost everyone who enters is pretty hard
core.  An untimed tour with relaxing stations to eat and drink, and
certificates, cumulative medals etc. would attract a lot of people who could
finish 20 K in say two or three hours and 50 K in 5 or 6.  As it is now, we
have virtually none of these skiers entering.
Thanks for the comments and stories.

Dan