Okay, it’s hard for me to say this at all, let alone to strangers.
I have a problem. I’m a ski bum. Even worse, I’m a ski bum who was disillusioned with skiing. It was almost out of habit that I kept returning to the Alps year after year, as if it was ingrained in my muscle memory to head over to France, but earlier this year I had an epiphany. It was time to make a change.
Since we’re in the mood for sharing, I have another confession to make.
I didn’t even know there were ski resorts in Norway. When, I told the tour operated I fancied a change. Somewhere non-commercial, different in feel from the Alps. The man from Crystal Ski suggested, Geilo. My first response was “Where’s that?” and No-way are there ski resorts there. In my head Norway is associated with longboats and marauding Vikings, not two pieces of wood and a snow covered mountain. How wrong I was.
So with curiosity getting the better of me, I headed to Geilo and the land of the midnight sun. The first thing that struck me was the river that ran parallel to the village. It almost embroidered the village and the mountains. Creating a feeling of an untouched rural location.
A small distance back, towards the bottom of the mountain are the rustic log style accommodations. There were no towering multi storeyed hotels in Geilo. There were no boutique style spas lining the village. It was as if Geilo was there purely as a platform to explore nature, to become intimate with the slopes.
If I had known anything about their history, it would have made sense. See, the Norwegians invented skiing. It is, as entwined in their history as the Vikings are. It is a part of their culture. An activity that is for everyone, more of a hobby. Not just something that you do once a year every winter. The resort itself reflected everything that skiing in Norway was about. Back to basics and completely non-commercial.
For me, this was exactly what the doctor ordered. Somewhere peaceful without the hustle and bustle of The Alps. Mornings were spent on the mountain with a clear head. I couldn’t fall prey to Après skis because there weren’t any. Yes, there were bars in town, but they were filled with locals, not indulgent party animals whose enthusiasm for drinking seeps into you. Evenings were spent, strolling through the triangular topped Scandinavian buildings or walking along the riverside. Breathing in the cool fresh air. Listening to the river beside you and admiring the way lamps perfectly framed the buildings.
The only fault with skiing in Geilo was the skiing itself. The runs were less than challenging, suited to beginners and intermediates. Groomed to within an inch of their lives. None of the enjoyment of turning around and seeing the track you’ve just made. Admiring it, snaking its way down the mountains curves. No spray behind you, as you carve through the fresh powder. If it did have them I would have hailed it as a ski purist’s paradise. But it didn’t so I can only call it ski escapism.
The major beauty of Geilo and Norway is the passion for skiing. It seeps out of every person you speak to in resort. Combine that with an atmosphere that is as laid back as the air the Norwegians breath, and you have a pretty great ski resort. I’m glad I didn’t know they had ski resorts there, because if I didn’t know, then it’s likely others won’t. The longer that continues, the more likely it is to stay untouched. Well, as much as a ski resort can anyway.
About the Author
Martin Nolan is a travel enthusiast who spends his winters up a mountain and his summers with a backpack on. He loves everything travel and travel related. You can read his anecdotes, views and tips at his blog The Travel Ramble.
All photos by Jon Kristian Bernhardsen.