Cross country skiing – Lillehammer, Norway

Skiing down into Lillehammer

Time off work had been booked and the grandparents had agreed to have the children, so all there was to do was to decide on where to go for our mini-break.  We fancied going abroad, but didn’t want to spend too much of our precious freedom on a plane.  I wanted a mixture of relaxation and adventure, so I put my foot down when it was suggested staying in our Bongo and mountain biking in Scotland (it was February), and going downhill skiing was out as my knee op had been booked for the following month.

So after spending way too much time researching (does anyone else think that the internet has made deciding on a holiday even harder? – way too much choice promises the hours upon hours spent searching looking for that perfect everything) – it was decided, cross country skiing in Norway!  It was to be a 4 day break that included the travel with 2 1/2 days skiing.
One of the things I love about Scandinavia, is that everything is smooth!  We arrived at Oslo airport then almost immediately caught a train from within 100m of baggage collection directly to Lillehammer. By the time we left the train station at Lillehammer, we had bus timetables, an xc skiing map and a map of the town from the tourist information stall.
Lillehammer is a lovely town, which I can imagine would look even more beautiful in the summer.  It has everything a tourist would need;  places to eat, places to shop and lovely streets to walk around.  We were staying at the Radisson Blu which whilst was nice enough (with a great buffet breakfast and scope to smuggle more out for our lunch), it was on the edge of town (up a big hill) so I would recommend staying in the middle of town for ease.  Especially when trekking up and down with skis and wearing boots that don’t really like icy pavements.

lovely snow

So to the skiing….I had done some cross country skiing when I studied for a semester in Central Finland during university, more than half a lifetime ago, and Gareth had never tried it.  So with this in mind, we hired our skis and had a little go (much to the amusement of the locals) before we were due to meet our instructor.  We had booked a private lesson for 90 minutes, which whilst wasn’t cheap was money well spent as she genuinely taught us techniques that we wouldn’t have mastered otherwise.  Well, I say mastered, a slight exaggeration especially when it came to Gareth and stopping.
Day one comprised of hiring skis, having a lesson and then skiing back to Lillehammer.  However, even though both of us are qualified outdoor leaders, we didn’t really consult the map and followed verbal directions from our instructor then followed the flow of skiers and ended up in Sjusjoen, the opposite direction!  Luckily, there was a bus back to Lillehammer which you can pay with debit card.
Don’t be fooled by those YouTube videos of people skiing making it look effortless, gliding through the snow, its bloody knackering.  Especially when you are a beginner, nothing is effortless and you certainly don’t glide,  It is hard!  What is just as tough (to the ego) is seeing octogenarians glide past you chatting away, whilst you are grunting away trying not to slide backwards as you wipe the sweat off your face.
(Ski Centre to Sjusjoen – 6.2 miles, 1530ft of ascent, 1hr 45 moving time plus 90 minute lesson)

Day 2 –  What a day! We caught the bus to Hafjell, caught the ski lift up to the top of the mountain (only €5 for xc’ers) then spent the rest of the day skiing back to Lillehammer.  The weather was fantastic, the views were truly incredible, the tracks were pristine and it was one of the best days on a mountain I have ever had.  Also one of the funniest, no matter how hard he tried, Gareth couldn’t stop if he was going downhill, so time after time I saw him in the widest snow plough he could muster head for a bank of snow to crash into shouting out expletives.

The final part of this route goes through the Olympic park – and we saw some of the Norweigan national squad there on a training run.  Blink and you miss them.
(Hafjell to Lillehammer – 17.2 miles, 2444ft of ascent, 3 hrs 17 moving time)


Day 3 – From hero to zero – for our last morning of skiing, we caught the bus to Sjusjoen to ski back to the ski centre to drop our rental equipment back.  The weather was really mild making the snow very soft and almost impossible to ski on.  It was so slippy that going uphill was near impossible, we learnt later that we had the wrong wax on the skis…nonetheless the views were fantastic, our fellow skiers friendly and the tracks in pristine condition.  On this route, there was an amazing gentle descent for a few kilometres, nothing too steep but where you gradually get more and more speed, quite nerve racking when you don’t have the skill to pop out of the deep parallel tracks – but exciting too.  I was sad to give my skis back but my body certainly wasn’t!
Cross country skiing is something I would love to do again, perhaps doing a linear journey next time, and Norway is certainly the place to do it.  Highly recommended 🙂
(Sjusjoen to ski centre – 7.2 miles, 1055ft of ascent, 1 hr 45 moving time)

 

Things I wish I knew before.
  • Hire skis from Hafjell instead as Sjusjoen ski centre is in the middle of nowhere (and not accessible by public transport), xc skis are cheap to hire.  If we went again, we would possibly do a few days xc with a day downhill skiing at Hafjell to mix it up a bit
  • Book accommodation in the centre of Lillehammer town
  • Buy wax for different temperatures (different wax makes such a difference!)
  • Buy the skiing trail map 1:50000 sheet 2495 – Oyer Lillehammer at the tourist information  at the train/bus station(and pick up the bus timetables too) – it’s much easier to plan your skiing days with it
  • It’s easy to get around by public transport – no car hire necessary
  • Clothing – thermal running tights, merino wool top, soft shell jacket and thin gloves  (that I have for hiking/biking) is pretty close to what the skiers wear – without having to buy xc specific clothing.  I wore two pairs of thin socks (my lovely Endura cycling socks), they were comfortable and helped me stay blister free
  • XC skiing will make you ache in places you haven’t ached in years!
  • Eating out CAN be reasonable!  We found a cheap but great Burger place on the edge of town that had a daily special for about £7, plus there’s an all you can eat for £10 pizza place in town – both good value,good food and good portions.
  • If you are on a budget, or don’t want to sell a kidney, then go teetotal for a few days  – we went for a post ski drink and a round of two pints cost £17!!

 

2 Comments

  1. Steve Braithwaite
    26th November 2016 / 12:18 pm

    Hi, exciting blog post!

    How did you go about arranging the private lesson, and what was the approximate price?

    • 6th December 2016 / 3:09 pm

      Hi Steve, apologies for the delay. Thanks for reading my blog!
      We booked our guide through Sjusjoen Ski Centre (www.sjusjoen-skisenter.no). We paid £100ish for a 90 minute less – there were two of us.
      We also hired our skis there.
      The coaching was great, however Sjusjoen is a bit of a challenge to get to…bus then walk and the buses aren’t that regular. If you are staying in Lillehammer, then I would suggest perhaps hiring/coaching at Hafjell, as the buses are much more frequent and more convenient.
      Let us know if you go….if you do have fun!
      Muddy Mam

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