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You know that old saying, “Norwegians are born with skis on their feet”? We’re not ones to repeat a cliché, but let’s just say that if it was indeed true, they’d have plenty of places to take their ski-clad feet to. There are around 125 ski resorts in Norway, catering to everyone from wobbly beginners and families with young kids to professional skiers and snowboarders.
While Norway is known for being rather expensive, it is certainly a unique place to visit. With a population of just 5.4 million people spread over a country over a third larger than the UK. From snow-covered mountaintops to icy fjords, these are 10 of the best ski resorts in Norway.
Back in 1994, Norway successfully hosted the Winter Olympics in nearby Lillehammer. Many of the downhill ski races were held on the slopes of Hafjell. It’s now the third largest ski resort in Norway. Not only do they offer 47 kilometres (29mi) of ski slopes and several terrain parks, they also have something called SkiMovie – a slope that’s equipped with automatic timing and filming equipment to document your every triumph (and tumble). If you love hitting the park, then Hafjell has three – Front Yard for kids, Back Yard for those a little older and the Main Park where experienced riders can try the big line.
Located in West-Telemark, Rauland Skisenter has three interconnected ski areas – Tiur, Holtardalen and Vierli – with a free ski bus helping you move about, and a joint ski pass for all of them. This means there are 41 pistes to explore, spanning a total of 20 kilometres (12mi). Adventurous riders should hunt out the off-piste here, as Rauland is home to some of Norway’s steepest terrain, plus they also teach kite-skiing here, which is like kitesurfing but on the snow. For those who are looking for a gentler experience, there are 150km (93mi) of cross-country ski trails to skate along and admire the snow-capped trees.
As one of the country’s oldest ski resorts, there is a very strong ski tradition in Geilo, a town about half way between Oslo to Bergen, in southern Norway. A great destination for families, Geilo has 37 slopes that range from beginner to black diamond (the toughest on the mountain). It spans across a valley with views over the icy Ustedalsfjorden and two national parks, Hallingskarvet and Hardangervidda. Geilo is constantly investing more money into this ski resort – last year, they improved the snow park, upgraded the kids’ area and added in new lifts. It’s no wonder it was crowned Norway’s best ski resort at the World Ski Awards in 2019.
Just one and a half hour’s drive from Oslo, Norefjell hosted the alpine skiing events at the 1952 Winter Olympics. With Northern Europe’s largest vertical descent of 1,010m (3,445ft), you may get lucky and catch a morning inversion (when you are above the clouds) over the valley. Alongside a bustling ski school, there are six restaurants, 30 slopes and 14 lifts. Once finished on the hill, head to the award-winning spa with saunas, steam room and swimming pool, plus (if you weren’t exhausted enough) they also have a 16m (52ft) indoor climbing wall for those bad weather days.
Just 35 minutes away from Lillehammer, Skeikampen has been attracting cross-country skiers since 1895 – although the resort’s first ski lift was built in 1959. While the 21 downhill slopes are mostly for beginners and intermediates, there is a 3,000-square-metre (32,290-sq-ft) kids’ area with two magic-carpet lifts and two barbecue huts to warm up around. If you love cross-country skiing, then Skeikampen is the spot for you. From October to May, there is an enormous network of trails to explore, situated between mountains and forest. It’s the setting for the play Peer Gynt by famous Norwegian playwright, Henrik Ibsen.
Did you know there is such a thing as the Scandinavian Alps? The term may not be 100% official, but it’s definitely well deserved: the craggy Hallingdal mountain slopes rise up to 1,500 metres (4,920ft) – don’t worry, there’s a lift – making Hemsedal the ski resort with the highest lift-served slopes in all of Scandinavia. There are more than 50 slopes to choose from – and the largest children’s ski area in Norway.
Although it’s smaller than most of the other ski resorts on the list, Oslo Vinterpark gets points because of its location: it’s just a subway ride from Oslo. There are 18 slopes for various levels of difficulty, as well as a SuperPipe for snowboarding. Oslo Vinterpark is also where the World Snowboarding Championships (WSC) were held in 2012.
Are you one of those people who can never choose between a mountain and a beach holiday? You will be pleased to know that Myrkdalen is located a short drive from Sognefjord, in West Norway – so even if you get bored skiing, you won’t be short of alternative options. Not that it’s likely that you’ll get bored skiing: Myrkdalen has 22 slopes for all difficulty levels and some great off-piste terrain.
Hovden is located in the Aust-Agder County, in the Setesdal valley. It’s actually the largest ski resort in southern Norway, with over 30 slopes that will set you up with more than 30 kilometres (19mi) of downhill skiing. There are also many cool events happening in the alpine lodge.
Additional reporting by Nina Zietman.