Hundreds of thousands of students began Norway’s traditional winter holiday this week, but they’re literally on thin ice if they opt to go skiing or skating in many areas. New warnings were posted Monday 0ver both inviting but unsafe ice at lower elevations and avalanches in the mountains.
Many lakes that normally are frozen solid have dangerously thin ice this year, even those marked on maps with ski trails over them. Heavy snowfall over the weekend has left them deceptively inviting, though, prompting ski associations and state meteorologists to warn skiers against crossing lakes on skis that are in forest areas, and located at elevations below 600 meters.
The danger is especially high in otherwise popular skiing areas near the Oslo Fjord. In one frightening case, a man out skiing alone in the hills above Bærum, just west of Oslo, one evening last week went through the ice even though the local ski association (Skiforeningen) had prepared a trail over the lake just the day before. Rapidly changing temperatures meant that the ice wasn’t safe after all. The man was rescued by another skier who happened to be nearby and heard his cries for help as he struggled to get out of the icy water.
News bureau NTB reported that many lakes in southeastern Norway are covered by a thick layer of snow and seem safe. They’re not, nor are many lakes in Western Norway. Even at higher elevations, ski patrols warn of unusual variation in ice depth, especially over deep mountain lakes. In some areas, unseasonably high temperatures earlier this winter mean that ice has only formed during the past few weeks and is not strong. Lakes in Trøndelag and northward are generally considered safe, but skiers were urged to consult local experts before setting off.
Meanwhile, avalanche danger remained high in the mountains of southern Norway, with holidaymakers warned against skiing off-piste. A lot of heavy, fresh snow fell in the mountains over the weekend but it’s far from stable.
Avalanche danger was highest in Nordfjord, Sogn, Voss, Røldal, and Rauland. Skiers were urged to avoid steep areas.