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Saturday, April 20, 2024

Ski jump opens, closes, opens…

Oslo’s new national monument, the re-built Holmenkollen Ski Jump, was supposed to start welcoming paying visitors over the weekend after finally opening to the public. Its brand-new elevator, though, couldn’t handle the crowds and got stuck, forcing the tower to close on both Saturday and Sunday.

Crowds had to wait patiently for the new but temperamental elevator to the top of the new Holmenkollen Ski Jump. The trip up and down takes five minutes. PHOTO: Views and News

Hiccups continued on Monday, when Views and News made a trip up the hill to check out the new and expensive ski jump that’s vastly exceeded its reconstruction budget and is costing taxpayers nearly NOK 2 billion (around USD 315 million).

A permanent sign inside the ski jump's elevator says it's supposed to accommodate 16 persons. After several stoppages, operators on Monday posted this sign, also for the benefit of English-speaking visitors. PHOTO: Views and News

The new ski jump saw its first action last winter, when it was completed in time for the preliminaries of the Nordic Skiing World Championships that will be held in Oslo next year. Jumping was held, along with other Nordic skiing competition at adjacent facilities, but then Holmenkollen closed down again until the tower was believed ready to accommodate the public.

It’s debatable whether it was.

The area around the new Holmenkollen Ski Jump is still a construction zone, but everything is scheduled to be completed well before the Nordic Skiing World Championships next winter. PHOTO: Views and News

Long lines met those eager to ride the new elevator to the top of Holmenkollen, even on a Monday. They included a mix of both tourists and locals, many of whom may have been attracted by a double-spread ad in Oslo newspaper Aftenposten on Saturday. It announced to Norwegians that the ski jump itself was now “open for all,” boasting that it was “the result not only of modern building techniques and architecture,” but also of how “our forefathers” first “tied on skis … several thousand years ago.”

The ad further suggested that Holmenkollen “could get hearts to pound” even when no ski jumping competition was underway.

The “modern techniques” didn’t work too well over the weekend, but the hearts of visitors stuck in the elevator may well have been pounding. Those running the elevator quickly found out that even though it’s supposed to be able to carry 16 persons, or 1,200 kilos (2,640 pounds), it stopped running with that many on board.

Admiring the view from the top. PHOTO: Views and News

“We’re trying it now with only 10 persons up, and maybe a few more on the way down,” one harried attendant told Views and News. She said the elevator seemed to handle more weight on the way down, than on the way up.

Much of the Holmenkollen area remains off limits, while reconstruction work continues. PHOTO: Views and News

While operations resumed on Monday after the weekend interruptions, problems soon reappeared. The dreaded words “ute av drift” (out of order) appeared on the elevator’s lighted display when one group of 14 persons descended. The elevator kept running, though, much to the attendant’s relief, but she scolded those coming out, saying “you were too many.”

A hand-written sign was soon taped to the elevator wall Monday afternoon, warning against any more than 10 persons riding in it at a time. There was only sporadic staffing at the top of the elevator, though, so enforcement of the new rule was difficult.

Officials at local ski association Skiforening, which operates the ski jump for its owner, the City of Oslo, are now installing an elevator operator to regulate the number of people on board, and they’re changing its permanent sign to limit loads to just 10 persons at a time.

Steinar Eidaker, assistant secretary general of Skiforenining, said the elevator is the first of its kind in the world, and producer Doppelmayr of Austria erred in thinking it could handle 16 persons. He said the elevator also proved sensitive to wind, but has since been adjusted.

“Clearly we should have tested this a bit more (before opening) but we must be able to try things out,” Eidaker told Views and News. “The elevator will go like clockwork,” adding that “I’ve stood in much longer lines at both the Statue of Liberty and the Eiffel Tower.”

Traffic congestion
Meanwhile, on the ground, the area surrounding Holmenkollen remains a busy construction zone. That means tour busses, private cars and visitors on foot have to compete with bulldozers, dust and heavy construction activity.

The road up to Holmenkollen from the city (Holmenkollveien) also offers a fair degree of traffic challenges. More construction crews are working not only on parts of the busy road, which runs by some of the fanciest homes in Oslo, but also on the rapid transit system known as Holmenkollbanen, which shut down months ago for improvements. The metro line from downtown has been replaced with bus service, which adds to the traffic on the road.

The road work is so disruptive that the busy Holmenkollveien is reduced to one-way traffic up to the ski jump complex. To return, traffic is detoured through the even more posh residential area behind Holmenkollen and down another, windy road back to Holmenkollveien. Allow plenty of time for the trip alone.

Panoramic view worth the effort
Despite the start-up problems and traffic challenges, the view from the top of Holmenkollen is worth the effort. It is indeed impressive, and even seems better than the view from the old Holmenkollen, perhaps because of the open-air platform at the top.

It’s spacious, stylishly fenced in for the benefit of anyone suffering from vertigo, and offers a 360-degree panorama over the city, the fjord and the hills and forests surrounding Oslo. We believed we could see deeper into Marka (the local forest) than before, could see more hills in the distance, and the city from a new perspective.

Perhaps that’s just because it’s been so long since the last time we were allowed up in the old Holmenkollen Ski Jump that was torn down two years ago. 

So by all means, head for the hills to visit Holmenkollen. Just hope the elevator works.

See photos of Holmenkollen’s historic transformation here.

The Holmenkollen Ski Jump and its Ski Museum is open every day from 9am to 8pm until September, when it will close at 5pm. Admission fees run as high as NOK 90 for adults, lower for students, retirees and children. Free with a Skiforeningen membership card.

Refreshments are supposed to start being served at the top from Thursday, but there were no signs on Monday of any looming catering service.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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