Skiing in Norway? Probably not your first choice or for most people. How can it compete with the glitz, glamour and après skis of the Alps? It doesn’t have the verticals or expansive terrain of Canada, so it can’t claim that. The only thing it can do is be different. Instead focus on making sure that everyone knows how different it is. And it is different.
I’ve had the fortune to have done a bit of skiing in my time (this an attempt to modestly say I’m a ski bum). This time I decided to venture away from the usual destinations of the Alps. No longer following the masses like a lemming, I opted to book a skiing holiday to Norway with Crystal Ski. I was sold on the fact that Norway had empty slopes. Skiing within yourself and carving sharply to avoid a gathering of people mid run would be a thing of the past! Any sort of ski rage would be non-existent.
What I wasn’t expecting were the resorts themselves. Once you have visited a few resorts around Europe, you get the sense that they are all the same. Identical shops, identical restaurants. Turn left onto any street and it’s lined with spas and hotels. Why would Norway be any different? Well maybe it is because the destinations popularity dipped as others grew; maybe it is because everyone thinks the winters are harsh (they’re not by the way) or maybe it is that everyone thinks that it is really hard to get to. Whatever the reason is, it hasn’t been hit by the commercial fist of the ski industry. It was a rustic quaint resort that oozed skiing.
The resorts themselves were rural looking log cabins lined with snow. Not a neon light in sight. Nothing big, nothing brash just understated. The closest resorts in style to them are some of the lesser known ones in North American. As pretty as the villages are their primary goal is to be a place to stay while skiing. That is not to say that there are no facilities, but they do not overwhelm the resort. Something that can’t always be said (I’m looking at you Aspen). The facilities enhance the experience. At no point do you walk down the street and lose your sense of place. Always there is overwhelming feeling that you are in Scandinavia.
Once you learn the history of Norway you begin to realize why it is like this. There aren’t many cultures that are as entwined with all things ski as Norway is. They claim to have invented it; they definitely invented a couple of turns (Telemark and Stem Christie); and they spend an obscene amount of money on equipment. For them it isn’t a hobby, it is a way of life and a means of transport. This is probably the biggest reason why skiing takes centre stage over everything else in Norway. And why Norway is a back to basics destination.
Norway isn’t perfect though. It can be let down by the slopes. They are not challenging enough. No chutes, no gulleys but plenty of fresh powder. At mid week, the urge for something new becomes overwhelming. Cross country skiing becomes a genuine option. In Norway it is a major sport, not just the coward’s way out. So the courses stretch for miles and miles. The fact that Cross country is so important to Norwegians could be why the downhill runs see less attention and why it doesn’t suffer from overcrowding.
So Norway is a destination for skiers who have had enough of the sideshow around Europe and the Alps. If it had a few more difficult runs and alpine lined slopes, it would probably be heralded as a Mecca for the skiing purist. But it doesn’t. But what it did offer me was a week purely dedicated to the pursuit of powder. A week I enjoyed. A week of fresh air living. I left almost as chilled as my Scandinavian hosts. Pure escapism on the slopes.
Thanks to Martin Nolan, certified ski bum, for this post on the often overlooked ski destination of Norway. Follow Martin on Twitter @martinnolan7