Surprise, surprise, Norwegian winters are not known for being short, bright and warm. Yet you may have been told many many times that you simply must get outside despite the weather. It’s true that being outside, even Norway’s short and intemperate days, improves your mood. Perhaps it is an important cultural key to Norway’s status as one of the happiest countries in the world despite long dark winters and a high cost of living. So how do you inspire yourself to get outside, especially given Bergen’s normal cloak of grey and moist winter? Well, when it is raining in the city, gaining altitude or traveling just an hour may turn that rain into glorious snow.
You may not be Norwegian, and you may not have been born with skis on your feet, but that doesn’t mean you can’t strap some skis to those feet and get out into a winter wonderland. Being outside in the bright(er) snow gliding… or falling… surrounded by nature can really make a winter livable. So, today’s blog is dedicated to the Norwegian cultural practice of skiing, specifically cross-country skiing. Downhill (salaam) skiing, snowboarding and other winter sports are certainly options in Norway, but cross-country or lanngren skiing is potentially far more culturally ingrained and, more importantly for students, cheaper. So let’s talk lanngren!
It is winter – and so you shall ski
The cultural importance of skiing cannot be overestimated in Norway. Skiing is even one of the most important parts of the Easter holiday in Norway. This New Year, at long last, I had my first Norwegian skiing experience (my excuse is a herniated disc that sadly took a really long time to heal). I had never cross-country skied ever before. Now that I had my first Norwegian ski experience, I want to evangelize about it – let’s all ski together!
First let me say, despite some downhill ski experience back in the states, my first time(s) cross-country skiing had a fair amount of falling and yelping in fear – and yet I still loved it. So! Don’t let embarrassment discourage you, skiing is well-worth the experience regardless how many times you have to yell, “too fast too fast!” as you wizz down tiny slopes in ski tracks. What I really appreciated about cross-country skiing was feeling my entire body engaging in the activity, feeling the rhythm of the movement, and enjoying the gorgeous views. The downhill part is still coming for me (I still wish for slalom skis in those moments). With that ringing endorsement, let’s talk about getting the equipment you need and where you can do this thing!
Renting equipment is certainly an option and may be the most inexpensive option if you think you’ll only try out skiing once or twice. It certainly solves the issue of where to store your equipment – you don’t have to!
Becoming a member of BSI Friluft can be a useful way to get involved in trips with experienced individuals and to rent inexpensive equipment (as cheap as kr 150 for a cross-country ski package for a week), but be warned, the equipment office may not be open around some holidays that you might wish to ski on.
If you ski at or near a ski resort, renting is also possible. It will be more expensive than BSI Friluft, but may still be reasonable. I rented near Geilo for kr 300 for a cross-country package (including skis, boots, and poles) for 2 days.
Planning to ski a lot? Maybe you want to buy equipment. You can search for inexpensive used equipment on Finn.no, Fantoft Market, Alrek Little Market, Bergen Expat Classifieds, or Kjøpe, selge bytte, gis bort Bergen (buy, sell, exchange, given away Bergen).
Prefer new equipment? You may be able to buy a ski package new at a relatively reasonable price. As is generally true in Norway, it is worthwhile to watch for seasonal sales in stores, these make prices much more reasonable. Also keep your eyes open in Fall for a big ski sale for the following season, usually hosted in Greig Hall (here’s the sale that occurred in 2017).
Additionally, you can search online. Looking up “billig lanngrenski” on google might help direct you to some retailers. It may be worthwhile to take a peek at XXL Sport, Coop, or G Sport (the last of which has “ski packages” (skis, bindings + boots) available for as low as kr 999).
Places to ski
Where in Bergen can you ski?
When the weather cooperates you can ski right here in Bergen. You can read here about the ski trails that are in Byfjellene (“the city mountains” – those mountains nearest Bergen). There are several trails that range in length from 1.5 km to 5 km. You may want to use a translator app on your browser for to explore the Byfjellene pages.
Skiing outside Bergen
Kvamskogen: Kvamskogen offers downhill skiing and 20-60 km of prepared cross-country trails in the winter. Take a look at a map of trails here. Kvamskogen is located about 40 minutes outside of Bergen by car/about an hour by bus (925 or 930 from the bus station). You can ride the bus to the following points in Kvamskogen: Eikedalen Skisenter (Samnanger) or Furedalen alpinsenter (Kvam). You can read more about Kvamskogen here.
Voss: Voss has about 18 km of cross-country trails, as well as downhill options. It looks like you have to buy a lift ticket even to access the cross-country trails, though, so it may not be the most affordable option. Read more about skiing in Voss here. The easiest way to get to Voss is by train (~1 hour ).
Geilo: Geilo is known for its skiing. It is located a bit further from Bergen, about 3 hours by train. Geilo’s ski resort has several downhill ski trails and even has English on its website. There are also hundreds of kilometers of cross-country trails available in the vicinity of Geilo.
Knowing what to expect
You can read about skiing in/near Bergen here. For snow reports and other skiing information for Norway, click here (in Norwegian, use a translator app). For ski information and reports for Bergen, you can also try this Facebook page.
Remember, days in Norway’s winter can be short! Plan ahead for your ski-trip to be during daylight hours, bring headlamps, or make sure you’re headed for lighted trails. To find ski trails that have lights for evening skiing, look for “lysløypen”.
Hows of skiing
How do I ski?
Never skied before? Make sure to take a class or go with an experienced skier who is willing to teach you. You can watch some videos online, of course, to get an idea of how it will work. Here’s one in German with English subtitles – warning: it doesn’t cover heading downhill, for me the most challenging part of cross-country skiing (see my reference to yelling above).
As always in Norway, remember you have to dress appropriately! There are several guides online to lead you through what to wear skiing – here is one example.
All the best on your future ski trips! Hope to see you on the slopes! Have suggestions for great places to ski near Bergen? Comment below 🙂