‘Christmas is the new Easter’

Norwegians are heading for the mountains or traveling elsewhere this Christmas in droves generally only seen during the country’s long, traditional Easter holidays. The reasons are clear: A cluster of official holidays next week, and Norwegians able to afford making the most of them.

Ski resorts like here at Trysil are reporting big increases in bookings, as visitors take advantage of several legal holidays over the next two weeks. PHOTO: Ola Masson/skistar.com/trysil

Norway doesn’t offer the system of “bank holidays” found in many other countries, so when legal holidays fall on a weekend, workers generally lose them instead of, for example, getting the Monday off in compensation.

Last year both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day fell on a Saturday and Sunday, leaving only what’s called annen juledag (literally, “Second Christmas Day” on the 26th) free from work. New Year’s Day also fell on a Sunday, so there was no legal holiday the following week either.

This year the situation is different, with legal holidays on Tuesday and Wednesday next week (Dec 25 and 26) and again on Tuesday of the following week (January 1st). With Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve falling on Mondays, many take them off as well, leaving only two days during the next week-and-a-half as normal workdays.

Areas like Sjusjøen, not far from Lillehammer, are also likely to get a big influx of skiers on holiday over Christmas and New Year. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

That’s led to a hefty increase in bookings at mountain hotels and other accommodation near Norwegian ski resorts, reports newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN). Since it’s possible to take a long Christmas- and New Year’s holiday this year by using a minimum of vacation days, many Norwegians are creating what one tourism official called the equivalent of an “Easter rush” to the mountains in mid-winter.

“We’ve sold 66,000 nights of accommodation,” Gudrun Sanaker Lohne of Destination Trysil told DN. Hotels, cabins and rental apartments are almost fully booked around the popular Trysil ski resort in eastern Norway, with many arriving this weekend to spend Christmas itself on the slopes and ski trails.

Lohne said the number of Swedish visitors reserving accommodation at Trysil is up 22 percent and she expects a large influx of those owning cabins as well. The situation is the same at ski centers including Skeikampen, Norefjell, Hemsedal, Geilo, Beitostølen and Hovden.

“We have very strong demand,” Anne Rustberggard Varden, managing director of the Quality Spa and Resort Norefjell told DN. “From December 29 we’re almost sold out.” Bookings are up 10 percent from last year, while advance reservations are up 45 percent in Hemsedal.

“Many people have booked a whole week, and it looks like a lot of Danish visitors have chosen to travel north for Christmas and New Year, too” said Trond H Østby, destination chief for Skistar Norge, which handles a large portion of bookings for Hemsedal hotels and rental accommodation. He said the biggest increase has been over the Christmas weekend itself.

The increases are even bigger at the Radisson Blu and Bergo hotels at Beitostølen, where bookings are up 55 percent. Around 85 percent of all available rooms are booked over the weekend leading into the New Year’s holiday.

At Hovden, at the northern tip of Setesdal, hardly any accommodation is still available. “It’s dangerous to say we have bookings of 100 percent, but that’s not far off,” said Lasse Eidskrem of Destination Hovden.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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