Norway Ski Holidays Guide

Norway Ski Holidays Guide

It’s said that Norwegians are born with skis on their feet. A slight exaggeration, but it is true that skiing is Norway’s national sport and an important family activity. Skis were invented as a means of transportation and evolved over the years to being pure fun. Skiers can expect efficient lift systems and modern facilities on any Norwegian ski holiday. The Norwegians’ passion for the sport is evident, making for a ski holiday in Norway to remember.

Contents of this guide:

Alpine Skiing in Norway

Hafjell is a ski resort north of Lillehammer. It was used in the 1994 Winter Olympics so the slopes and facilities are top class. There are 25 miles of pistes with an even balance of easy to difficult runs. Seven slopes are floodlit for night time skiing. There are runs for children and four children’s clubs. Experienced skiers can enjoy a spot of off-piste freedom and snowboarders have their own school and snowboard centre. Restaurants and cafés are plentiful and there are three discos and nightclubs. Hafjell is an all round Norwegian ski holiday.

The Norwegian ski resort of Trysil has an inter-connected lift system and the downhill runs are easily accessed from the accommodation. Trysil is known for its fine, dry snow and the good conditions can be expected to last until early May, giving skiers plenty of opportunity to book a ski holiday in Norway.

A small but challenging mountain is Kvitfjell, not far from Hafjell. The Olympic Downhill Run is here and is recommended for confident skiers only as it is much steeper than it appears on television. This mountain is best for adventure seekers with its steep runs and activities such as ice climbing and dog sledding. That said, there is a large children’s area for families of differing abilities.

Cross-Country Skiing

Cross-country skis are lighter and narrower then downhill skis. Special boots with a bar in the toe clip into the ski at the front, leaving the heel free. Different types of waxes are applied to the bottom of the skis to ensure the right amount of grip and glide as the skier makes his way across, up and down country.

The Høvringen-Rondane ski area focuses on cross-country skiing holidays. There are 94 miles of marked trails of all distances through trees and beautiful open space. Guided trips are available as is instruction for those embarking on their first Norwegian ski holiday.

Cross-country enthusiasts will feel at home at Jotunheimen Ski Resort. There are downhill runs but much of the area is given over to 190 miles of beautifully prepared tracks. There are tours for adults and children, or skiers can head out to discover the white expanse alone. Jotunheimen is a National Park and skiers can choose a base hotel and take day trips or ski from hut to hut.

Norway has various marked trails criss-crossing the country. For advanced cross-country skiers this could be a perfect ski holiday in Norway. The Troll Trail goes from Høvringen and Rondane in the north to Lillehammer via Ringebufjellet. The scenery is stunning and changes from flatland to high mountains. There are huts along the way, built especially for long distance skiers to rest and spend a night in the wilderness before carrying on the next day. The Peer Gynt Trail has lodges and hotels along the way, making it an ideal family ski holiday in Norway. As well as hotels, there are ski resorts en route and skiers pass through the National Parks of Jotunheimen, Rondane and Dovrefjell. The route is challenging, but not difficult for anyone used to cross-country skiing.

It is easy to forget the weather conditions while on holiday, but weather can change suddenly in the mountains. It is always best to have a map and to let people know any planned routes.

Snowboarding in Norway

Known as the Scandinavian Alps, Hemsedal is one of Norway’s best and largest ski areas. It has 22 ski lifts and 48 pistes for all levels. The chairlifts are express and snowboarders have their own park, voted ‘one of the best terrain parks in the world’ by the international snowboard press. Snowboarders will be in heaven with big jumps, two half-pipes, two quarter-pipes and rails. There is even a park for beginners.

Oslo, Norway’s capital has two terrain parks within half an hour from the city centre. Tryvann Winter Park has one of Norway’s largest parks and Varingskollen has jumps, rails and slides. Oslo is an excellent Norwegian ski holiday base with plenty of hotels, restaurants and nightlife.

Summer Ski Holidays in Norway

A summer ski holiday in Norway is entirely possible. Skiers need to rise early, however, as the snow is best in the morning before the sun gets too strong and turns it slushy. This signals that it’s time to head for a beer, a swim or even a spot of sunbathing.

There are three main summer ski centres in Norway. Stryn has slopes for all levels and a good terrain park for boarders. Two lifts rise to almost 1600 metres and there is cross-country skiing at the top. The views are spectacular and look out over green valleys and fjords.

Galdhøpiggen is the highest altitude summer ski centre in Norway with one slope suitable for skiers and boarders. It usually opens between May and October.

Lastly, the Folgefonna Glacier provides alpine and cross-country skiing as well as a terrain park for snowboarders. As with all these centres, the opening times depend on the weather so it’s advisable to check the websites before heading off on a Norwegian ski holiday with a difference.

The Best Time to Go Skiing in Norway

It’s a safe bet that it will snow from November to April in Norway and this is when most resorts open. The slopes are fairly quiet whatever the month and the queues short. Christmas and New Year can get busy but it is a lovely time to ski in Norway and the bustle of a busy resort adds to the festive atmosphere. The days are short meaning less skiing, but more relaxing in front of the fire with a glass of mulled wine.

It can get very cold in January and February, particularly in the north of the country, but the days start to lengthen. Mid-February is a popular time for a Norwegian ski holiday and accommodation prices are at their highest. Early March is excellent for snow conditions, prices and weather. Norwegians flock to the ski resorts at Easter and it can be busy. After Easter the snow may not be quite as good but the sun shines and the prices come down.

Ski Accommodation in Norway

Norwegian ski resorts have a wide selection of well-priced, well-equipped hotels, chalets and lodges. From the functional to the luxurious, all skiers are catered for. The food on the resorts comes in the form of hot or cold buffets and is typically Norwegian. Self-catered cabins can be very cost effective and supermarkets are never far away. Ski passes are generally cheaper in Norway and children often ski for free.

Catered chalets are not as common as in France or Italy, but there are ski companies offering fully catered Norwegian ski holidays, including flights and transfers. The Norwegian ski resort Geilo has such chalets, ideal for large groups and families.

The cross-country areas have hotels and guesthouses offering full board either in the main building or in nearby log cabins. Cross-country skiing is free of charge and after hiring skis, it’s simply a case of gliding away from the hotel and onto the tracks. Guiding is usually available and there are companies, such as Headwater that propose ski holidays in Norway with an instructor/guide.

Getting to Norway

Low cost airlines fly to Oslo, Bergen and Trondheim. Norway has an efficient train system to take skiers to nearby villages and link up with a bus service to the various ski resorts. Remote hotels often have their own transfer services and a phone call in advance will ensure a comfortable trip up the mountain.

Eurolines run coach services from London to Oslo, taking a day and a half.

The last direct ferry from the UK to Norway was withdrawn in 2008. For holidaymakers with a bit of time an option is to travel via Denmark. DFDS runs a service from Harwich to Esbjerg and then from Copenhagen to Oslo. Driving in Norway requires winter tyres and a set of snow chains for bad conditions. Main roads are cleared, but many still have packed snow and ice on the surface. Mountain passes may be closed and the speed limit is reduced meaning journeys can take longer.

Eurostar has trains from London to Brussels, and then a high-speed train to Cologne joins up with the sleeper train to Copenhagen. Then there is either a train or cruise ferry to Oslo.

All Norwegian airports offer car hire. It is best to book in advance to be sure of getting the right vehicle. All cars are prepared for the winter roads with studded or winter tyres. It is worthwhile asking about snow chains at the time of booking.

A Norwegian ski holiday is a trip into the wild. Most Norwegian ski resorts have both cross-country and downhill facilities, opening up opportunities to discover a different discipline. A ski holiday in Norway is perfect for families with a full programme of activities for everyone.