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Oslo Skiing Guide 2010-2011

The Oslo area, and most of Norway for that matter, is getting covered with snow once again and the locals are flocking out to prepared ski trails in the hills and forests surrounding the capital. Here come some tips for joining them.

A crisp winter’s day in the hills around Oslo. PHOTO: Views and News

Few national capitals in the world offer such a bounty of winter sports opportunities as Oslo does. Ice rinks dot the city, slalom skiers and snowboarders have several nearby slopes to choose from and sledders can zoom down a track once used by Olympic bobsledders.

But perhaps the best offer lies in Oslo’s 2,600 kilometers of groomed cross-country ski trails that snake through the hills and forests surrounding the city on all sides.

It’s a skier’s paradise, with easy access to trailheads and all ski trails marked with wooden directional signs lettered in red. The city’s parks and recreation department, Oslo’s ski association (Skiforeningen) and local sports clubs keep busy preparing trails.

To ease your conscience as you glide over the tracks, and to support this tradition-rich endeavour, it’s a good idea to join Skiforeningen. The annual fee (which varies for individuals, families and senior citizens) includes discounts on bus transport to popular starting points, other special offers and a subscription to the association’s magazine, Snø og ski.

Hospitality. Forest lodges around the Oslomarka offer light refreshment (but no proper lunch). Most are only open at the weekend. Left to right, the remote Sandvikskoia in the north of Nordmarka, the large Kobberhaughytta in the south of Nordmarka, and the modest Mikkelsbonn in Vestmarka. PHOTO: Views and News

How to get started
Buy local trail maps for the forest areas near you: Nordmarka and Romeriksaasen to the north and northeast, Ostmarka to the east, Vestmarka and Kjekstadsmarka to the west and southwest. The maps are available at the offices of the Norwegian Trekking Association (Den Norske Turistforening, DNT) on Storgata downtown as well as at local bookstores and stationery stores.

The maps also offer lots of practical information about the areas you’re about to explore. Be sure to get winter editions, showing all the ski trails (in red). Summer maps have hiking trails marked in blue but most show up as dotted lines on the winter maps. Even if you can’t read Norwegian, you’ll enjoy the photos.
While you’re at it, join DNT and its Oslo chapter DNT Oslo og Omegn as well. DNT aims to preserve the great outdoors for recreational use, as well as make it easier to access, and is well worth supporting. A membership will give you a discount on the maps, and contribute to their efforts.
All local sports stores can help outfit you with equipment and clothing. The forested areas (called marka in general) are dotted with cabins and lodges offering food and drink, but it’s a good idea to also have provisions with you in a backpack, so you can feel free to wander farther off the beaten track(s) and enjoy the solitude and beauty of the great outdoors.
The ski association offers ski school at a variety of levels. If the classes are full for this year, it might be something to think about for next year.
A family takes off over a frozen lake in Østmarka. PHOTO: Views and News

Leave your car at home

Parking lots are often located near trail heads, but it’s also entirely possible to start your ski trip via tram, train or bus.

One popular run, for example, is to take the Frognerseteren tram (T-bane) to the end of the line. It’s temporarily been replaced by a bus from the Besserud station, pending completion of improvements to the line, but your T-bane ticket will be honored by the bus.

There are a bewildering number of trails starting from here, but ski down past Skistua and then pick up the trail that also lights up at night and heads for Ullevålseter. It’s a broad, double-track trail with great views over the city and mostly downhill to Ullevålseter, where you can get something to eat and drink. Then continue down to Sognsvann, where you can take another tram back to town. The total trip is about 12 kilometers, mostly downhill.

The Tonsenhagen bus, meanwhile, can get you into Lillomarka, while the Ellingsrud T-bane line and Skullerud bus can deposit you into Ostmarka. Another option is to take taxis to or from trail heads… more expensive, but cheaper than the price of a lift ticket at slalom centers.

It’s great fun to start your ski trip at one point, and end at another. That way, you get a feel for traveling on your skis, not just making round trips. You can ski from one valley (“dal,” in Norwegian) to another (Sørkedalen to Maridalen, for example, or Lommedalen to Sørkedalen). Just consult your map, and local bus and tram time-tables.

The Holmenkollen-Frognerseteren area north of downtown is by far the most popular, but also the most crowded. Alternative starting points in Nordmarka, served by city bus, are Låkeberget or Skar in Maridalen (from which it’s a short trip up to Øyungen and beyond), or Skansebakken and Sørkedalen skole in Sørkedalen.

It doesn’t take much effort to venture farther afield. The scenery and solitude can be spectacular.

Longer trips
The ski association also offers one-way bus rides every Saturday and Sunday to two popular starting points: Ringkollen on the far west side of the Nordmarka map, and Mylla at the northern end of Nordmarka.

Skiers then make their way back to town, about 30 kilometers from Ringkollen and 45 kilometers from Mylla, depending on what route you take. It’s a full-day project for most of us, but with ample opportunity for breaks along the way.

Another option is to take NSB’s local train to Stryken. The train, on the Gjøvik line, doesn’t stop there anymore on weekdays, but makes a stop (albeit fairly late in the morning) on the weekend and sometimes on request. The station is a stone’s throw from the ski trails back to Oslo (again, about 30 kilometers, with the popular Kikut lodge just over half-way. Kikut also offers overnight accommodation for those who’d like to break up the trip, provided you book long in advance.)

The least-tiring end point to aim for from Mylla or Stryken is probably Sørkedalen skole, the school in Sørkedalen where a bus can carry you back to town, or to the tram stop at Roa. The bus only runs once an hour these days, though, so try to time your arrival so you don’t have to wait too long at the busstop. There’s now a cozy café and grocery store, though, right next to the busstop where you can buy a snack and warm up.

These are just a few tips. Opportunities in all the marka-areas are endless. As the locals would say, God tur! (roughly, “Have a good trek!”)

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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