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Norway visit

posted to rec.skiing.nordic 02mar11:

Subject: Norway XC skiing -- a visitor's impressions

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.



Date: Wednesday, March 13, 2002

Jay Tegeder wrote

Any mention of the Nordmarka Trails and the Holmenkollen deserves the following description: "Awesome! The Cradle 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?



Date: Thursday, March 14, 2002

Dan -

I enjoyed savoring the details of your trip.

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.

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 your 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.  

Salt Lake City skiing

posted to rec.skiing.nordic 02feb11:

Subject: Re: Going to Salt Lake City ...

As a long-time Utah ski visitor, here's some thoughts:

  • most of Salt Lake City is different variations on "sprawl" -- so if you have to choose, I'd suggest the downtown area at night.

  • Utah has the most spectacular cross-country skiing in the world, but it's not around SLC. It's the Fairyland trail at Bryce Canyon. Only in good snow conditions, and for expert skiers with backcountry touring experience. (Not far out of you way, coming from LA). [ photos ]

  • southeastern Utah is wonderful for hiking in the winter, with rock formations unique in the world. Sharon and I often drive down south when the snow in the Wasatch is bad. And the drive from Spanish Fork to Moab has a long desolate section which should be special for European visitors.

  • I think for European visitors, perhaps the most "different" thing is the emptiness of the desert. Perhaps just drive West from the city toward Nevada and try wandering around a bit.

Skiing near Salt Lake City:

  • I think the Wasatch backcountry skiing is way better than the groomed tracks. But for that you need to be able to handle serious avalanche danger, have good downhill technique. And the skiing can be slow, since often you have to travel through 30-50 cm of new powder snow. Good maps and guidebooks are readily available in local cross-country ski shops.

  • if you've got solid downhill technique and snow conditions are not icy, one unusual way to get to a pretty place on cross-country skis is try drive up to the top of the Little Cottonwood Canyon road to Alta, buy a half-day lift ticket, and ski the Albion and Cecret areas. Once you're there at Alta and look around, you might notice other interesting things you want to do.

groomed tracks around Salt Lake City (see . . .

  • If the snow is good, Mountain Dell offers golf course skiing that doesn't feel like golf course skiing, once you get used to ignoring the sound of the cars on Interstate 80. I think it was the site of both Belmondo's and Daehlie's first World Cup victories.

  • At the White Pine nordic center in Park City, head for the "Farm" area. The rest of the center is golf course skiing which does feel like golf course skiing -- but if someone in your party needs flat terrain, that's it.

  • for a hill workout, there's Mill Creek Canyon starting right at the east end of a SLC street (3800 South). Or Solitude Nordic center (finish your day with a 150 vertical meter climb).

  • Soldier Hollow is the biggest and most interesting center. Happens to be the farthest from SLC (but closer to Provo), and they forgot to include any flat terrain. But you'll have to wait to ski there until the racers are done using it.


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