Norwegians are reluctant to brag (they prefer to do things quietly, including becoming the wealthiest country in the world). But all the evidence suggests they invented skiing. The word itself comes from the Norse word for planks, skíð, while Neolithic carvings from 5,000 BCE depict skiers.
While other Alpine nations were on the nursery slopes, Norway was scoring many firsts in winter sports: the first ski jumper (a soldier called Olaf Rye, Telemark, 1809); the first ski competition (Tromsø, 1843); the first ski clubs (Trysil, 1861). And it’s not just ancient history. As well as winning the most Winter Olympics medals, Norway, topped the table once again in 2018. And no, not just because of Nordic skiing. Their total of seven medals in Alpine skiing (including gold and silver in the men’s downhill) was equal highest.
Norway’s resorts have translated their long skiing history into modern-day holiday experiences with winter sports at their core. The overall level of infrastructure in Norwegian resorts is extremely high with constant improvements being made in lift systems, on-mountain facilities, snowmaking equipment (rarely used) and teaching methods.
At Geilo, a resort with over 50 runs where Olympic men’s downhill champion Aksel Lund Svindal learnt to ski at the age of three, the ski school teaches age groups up to teenager and, for adults, offers specialties such as telemark, freestyle riding and even snowkiting.
The current world men’s downhill champion, Kjetil Jansrud (yep, these Norwegians are cornering the market), would argue that his home slopes at Kvitfjell are even better – and the host of the Lillehammer Olympics speed events still regularly stages World Cup downhill and super-G races. The resort also embraces sports which were not included in the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics such as freestyle snowboarding and skiing and ski cross and boardercross with a terrain park and cross track.
Hafjell, the other 1994 Olympic Alpine venue, also hosts major competitions to this day, although the main focus has been on young athletes at the 2016 Winter Youth Olympics and on adrenaline sports such as snowboard slopestyle at the X Games Norway. The terrain parks – Frontyard, Backyard and the main park – cater for riders at different skill levels for everyone’s comfort.
Of course, Norway is not all about elite athletes. At Hafjell and Kvitfjell, the lift systems make it easy for beginners to start from the top of the mountain and learn a new sport in the best conditions.
Urban and wilderness as one
In Norway, winter sports are woven into daily life – even in the capital. There are slopes within Oslo city limits, and just 90 minutes from the capital, Norefjell has state-of-the-art lifts and snowmaking equipment that provides guaranteed snow throughout the winter. There are also dedicated arenas and schools for every winter sport.
In the north of the country, Narvik – another city on a fjord – opened the first cable car in Northern Europe in 1957. In 2019, a brand new cable car opened, leading to Narvikfjellet. This resort has Norway’s longest vertical drop (880m) and is gaining an ever-greater reputation for freeriding, as well as ski touring.
Here comes the night
In Myrkdalen, you can have a fabulous day of downhill skiing (including telemark lessons and guided freeriding in powder) before exploring the woods on floodlit cross-country trails at night. Beitostølen is another resort with night skiing – of the Alpine kind on the more challenging of its two mountains.
Norway has plenty to shout about, even if Norwegians’ natural modesty forbids!
A winter wonderland
Head to Norway – the country they call the home of skiing – for reliable snow, the Northern Lights and epic landscapes that have inspired legends, poetry and great classical music. Whether you’re a skier or a snowboarder, travelling as a couple or with family, this winter destination is ideal for a huge range of other winter sports in the prettiest of surroundings.
For further details on all the winter sports offered by Norwegian resorts plus travel information (including eco travel options) and partner tour operators, visit norwayhomeofskiing.com