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
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
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