Snow-sure slopes and pristine winter wonderlands – Norway is at its most magical beneath a fresh blanket of white. Make like a local and embrace the national obsession with ‘langrenn’ (cross-country skiing) or pick from a raft of skiing activities; from ski-touring, alpine and Telemark skiing to snowboarding, splitboarding or off-piste. Climate change means guaranteed snow is now a gamble if you’re heading to mainland Europe’s Alps in winter. But there’s rarely a shortage of the white stuff somewhere in Norway. At Up Norway, we can tailor your dream winter trip, from luxurious short breaks combining mountain thrills with fine dining to once-in-a-lifetime journeys into the remote Arctic North.
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There is a saying that Norwegians are born with skis on their feet. Take the metro in Oslo during winter and you’ll begin to think it’s true – you’ll be surrounded by athletic, lycra-clad locals heading out for a spot of cross-country skiing after work. Where the last metro stop ends and the forest begins, trails weave between the trees and the only sound is the gentle swish of skis on snow. It’s this sense of easy escapism, the ability to simply strap on skis and leave behind the strains and stresses of daily life, that drives Norwegians’ love of ‘langrenn’. It’s a wonderful way to reconnect with nature – plus as exercise goes it’s incredibly effective (and kind on your joints, too).
When most people think of skiing, they tend to think of downhill or alpine skiing, where a skier rides a chairlift up a mountain and skis back down it. Rigid ski boots are worn, with both the toe and heel attached to the ski. Cross-country skiing is quite different: the heel of the boot isn’t attached, allowing more of a fluid walking motion. This means that cross-country skiers can travel across a wider variety of terrains, moving uphill as well as down, opening up a world of possibilities beyond the clamour and crowds of your typical ski resort.
Cross-country skiing has been around for millennia, with a 4,000-year old Norwegian rock carving depicting a man on skis. You can go cross-country skiing on groomed trails or venture off-piste (the latter requires a special type of cross-country ski with steel edges, called a Fjellski). There is also off-piste randonnée skiing, which combines elements of downhill and cross-country and is essentially climbing up a mountain before skiing down again.
The cross-country skiing season sometimes differs slightly from downhill because it doesn’t rely on resort openings and snow cannons. In Norway, December to March is generally considered the best time, although days can be very short at the start of the season – March is ideal as the days are longer. Norwegians don’t let summer stop their love for snow – at Folgefonna glacier or Sognefjellet summer ski centre you can try cross-country skiing from June to August, just remember to slap on lots of sun cream!
One of the joys of cross-country skiing is that pretty much anyone can have a go – it’s a relatively easy sport to learn once you’ve mastered the basics. Be prepared for a few undignified moments though – almost everyone falls over when they are learning. It’s a wise move to work on your fitness first, as cross-country skiing uses almost every muscle in your body and burns a huge number of calories. Happily, this means you’ve got a good excuse to indulge in ‘boller’ (sweet buns) and ‘kakao’ (hot chocolate) at the cabins dotted along the trails.
Beginners should stick to established cross-country routes, with parallel grooves set in the snow to make it easier to stay in control. Many areas have trails rated according to difficulty, which makes it easy to pick your level. If you’re used to dressing for downhill skiing, you’ll be surprised to swap bulky padded ski wear for layers that can easily be shed as you warm up.
The legendary “Birkebeinerrennet” or the "Birkebeiner Ski Race” is Norway's biggest and most famous cross-country ski race. From Rena to Lillehammer, the 54 km long route takes the participants across two mountains and breathtaking scenery. The yearly race was introduced in 1932 as an honour to “Birkebeinerne” who saved the Norwegian heir, by crossing the mountains to escape the enemies on skis. Ever since then hundreds of thousands of Norwegians have taken the challenge.
At Up Norway we use our insider expertise to curate bespoke winter adventures, from memorable ski weekends to snowy spa escapes. Here are some of our top picks.
Best for fjords and thrills:
Imagine leaving fresh tracks from mountaintop to glittering fjord. The spectacular Sunnmøre Alps are known for summit-to-fjord skiing. It’s a truly unforgettable experience, especially with private guides who know where to find the best powder and can tailor routes to your level of expertise. You’ll cruise through the fjords by private boat or by car & ferry, with experienced guides picking the best spot for the day’s skiing, before staying the night at luxury boutique retreat Storfjord Hotel. With swoon-worthy views and a soothing spa, there’s no better place to relax ski-sore muscles.
Best for gourmands who love to ski:
Here's an idea for a perfect combination of adventure and indulgence over a short winter break. First, you’ll arrive in Trondheim and drive to Åre in Sweden (just under two hours) for a glorious stay at ski-in ski-out Copperhill Mountain Lodge. Encircled by snow-muffled forests, high on Mount Förberget, this sleek retreat effortlessly blends pared-back Scandi cool with wonderfully cosy bedrooms and crackling fires. From your balcony, a web of ski trails unfurls invitingly, while the hotel’s renowned spa awaits to soothe tired muscles on your return.
Refreshed and revitalised, it’s time to move back to Norway’s Trondheim, a magnet for foodies. Named European Region of Gastronomy 2022, it’s renowned for its farm-to-table seasonal produce. From simple, traditional Norwegian cooking to inventive high-end tasting menus, eating out here is a treat, and we know just where to go. Your base is the elegant Britannia, a newly-renovated grande dame dating from 1870 and oozing refined charm.
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Best for a taste of Norway’s winter wonderland:
This memorable five-day trip combines thrilling winter adventures with cosy relaxation. With Bjørnfjell Lodge as your Alta-base you will practically be staying next to alpine slopes and cross-country trails. Courses can be arranged for beginners.
The journey encourages connection with the Arctic region through unique excursions such as dogsledding, ice-fishing, snowmobiling, sledging and one-of-a-kind dining experiences. You’ll stay in three handpicked properties, from an igloo-style dome with transparent roof panels for viewing the Northern Lights from your bed to a cosy wooden chalet at the edge of a snowy forest. There’s even a chance to stay in a magical ice hotel.