Late Easter trims annual exodus
April 15, 2011
Thousands of Norwegians were beginning their traditional Easter holidays this weekend, but fewer were heading for the hills for a final fling of spring skiing. The Red Cross would still be out in force, even though the late Easter and a sudden spurt of warm weather last week spoiled the snow all over southern Norway.
Most of the snow-measuring stations for the state meteorological institute around southeastern Norway (Østlandet) were showing “0 centimeter” on Friday, reported newspaper Aftenposten. The snow has disappeared, just when schools were letting out for the annual one-week holiday between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday. With snow also either “rotten” or melting away in the mountains as well, many Norwegians opted for holidays at their coastal cabins instead.
Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported that the traffic was heavier heading out to the islands of Hvaler, off the southeast coast near Fredrikstad, than it was at the busy highway intersection near Elverum, where mountain traffic branches off to both the Trysil resort area in the east and the mountain valleys of Østerdalen and Gudbrandsdalen.
Normally, the Friday before Palm Sunday is one of the most congested days of the year on the roads, because of a mass exodus from the cities. This year, however, newspapers in Oslo were full of stories about residents staying in town. With sunshine in the forecast and new entertainment offerings on tap, many residents were looking forward to sitting at outdoor cafés, going for walks along the waterfront and visiting museums.
There was a time when Oslo, for example, all but shut down during Easter, called påske (“poe-ske”). Norway’s unusually long slate of three official holidays (the Thursday, Friday and Monday around Easter Sunday) means many workers take Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday off as well and leave town. While hotels in the mountains were packed with guests, those in the cities often closed, as did local restaurants, cinemas, stores and most everything else.
That’s changed, with most cinemas and even many shops and restaurants now open to attract the urban crowd. Hotels in the mountains this year, meanwhile, were reporting available rooms because of the less-than-ideal snow conditions, although most alpine skiing areas still had plenty of snow because of hard packing and grooming all season long.
Even at high-altitude mountain areas known for cross-country skiing, snow was sparse with just 16 centimeters at Geilo and 30 at Beitostølen. Venabu, just south of Rondane, was reporting 47 centimeters, whereas snow was more plentiful at resorts closer to the west coast like Voss with 130 centimeters.
Meanwhile, the city of Strömstad in Sweden was bracing for the annual deluge of Norwegians who drive south of the border to stock up on much cheaper food and especially drink. Police were prepared with extra patrols on the street, special traffic regulations and an order to close the local wine and liquor stores on Thursday, instead of keeping them open when their Norwegian counterparts are closed.