Although most Britons only know of half a dozen Norwegian ski areas at most, there are in fact more than 100 in the country. Most are of quite modest size and common factors include rather low, rolling hills meaning short to mid-length runs over equally modest verticals. In other words, although there are always challenging runs to be found, most of the terrain is well suited to beginners and intermediates.
Indeed, Norway is usually a good choice for beginners and for families with children as most resorts are friendly, relaxed and with English widely spoken. The only real down side for holiday makers on any kind of budget is the high cost of food and drink and it’s easy for a family of four to spend the best part of £100 in a pizza restaurant.
So half board is worth considering or bringing packet food with you for at least some of your meals if you are planning to stay in an apartment. On the upside the cost of lift tickets, equipment rental and tuition all tend to compare favourably with the Alps.
Facilities for families are usually good with high quality affordable childcare by the slopes the norm for the larger international resorts. Children are encouraged to wear helmets and parents are often encouraged to join in their children’s care rather than be separated from it, being asked to come back and share lunch time for example. Altogether Norwegian ski resorts tend to have a very family friendly atmosphere.
Because of its northerly latitude Norway can be very cold, so thermal clothing is important to bring along, although in these times of climate change even Norway has suffered from warm temperatures and poor snow at times, so the snow is not guaranteed.
Snowboarding culture is quite strong with most ski areas operating good terrain parks which are not so reliant on size or gradient to match the Alps.
Norway is a key country in both the history of skiing and in the development of ski holidays from the UK. Skis some 4,000 years old have been found preserved in bogs here and, after the nation developed over the intervening years with skis as transportation for much of the year, a gentleman living in the country’s Telemark region invented what became known as the ‘Telemark Technique’ in the 1860s. This was the first attempt at downhill skiing.
Such was its success that Norway began exporting Telemark skis to pioneers in the Alps and further a field, leading to the development of the Alpine technique a century ago. But it all started in Norway, where Telemark skiing, as well as cross-country skiing and other disciplines, including biathlon and ski jumping, remain major interests for the population as a whole.
Winter sports are as big here as any other kind of sport and when the country hosted the Olympics at Oslo more than 100,000 fans, a sizeable chunk of the population then, turned out to cheer the ski jumpers. More recently the country hosted the Olympics again at Lillehammer.
In the 1950s and 60s before air travel became “mass market” and more recently fast roads cut a way from the Channel to the Alps, Norway was also the most popular ski holiday destination for British skiers who crossed the North sea in a reversal of the Viking invasions and found the country’s ski slopes a short distance inland from the Norwegian coast!
The leading resorts today include coastal Voss, Beitstolen, Trysil and Hemsedal, the latter members of the Skitar group which operates leading resorts across Scandinavia. You can also ski when you take a city break to Oslo, by taking the tram from the city centre up to the great little city ski hill at Tryvann.