A large increase in the numbers of people trekking through the mountains of Norway this year is now being linked to groups of young Norwegians heading off on collective hikes. It’s suddenly become “cool,” it seems, to head for the high country.
“It’s absolutely become a trend among the young to go hiking in the mountains (fondly called fjellheimen in Norwegian),” Alf Odden, a professor at the College of Telemark, told newspaper Aftenposten, adding that mountain trekking now yields “high status.”
The Norwegian Trekking Association (Den Norske Turistforeningen, DNT) last week reported a double-digit jump in the numbers of visitors to its mountain lodges and in the numbers of people signing up for their organized hikes. Membership statistics for DNT (external link) have also seen a big boost in recent years.
DNT can also report that the biggest increase is among those aged 19 to 26 years. While overall membership rose 4.6 percent from last July to this July, the numbers were up 12 percent in the young adult category.
Newspaper Aftenposten reported on a group of five fellow students at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim (NTNU) who spent an entire month this summer hiking from Rindalen to Eidsbugarden in Jotunheimen. They passed through nearly 40 of DNT’s lodges and self-service cabins and also slept outdoors amidst Norway’s highest peaks, in all kinds of weather.
Their friends are impressed by the trip, some are envious and many are setting out på tur (“on a hike”) themselves. They’ll be adding to the record foot traffic at high elevations.
Odden wrote his doctoral dissertation on trends within activity in the “great outdoors” in Norway and attributes the renewed interest in mountain hiking mostly to a general focus on health and physical activity. DNT, he notes, also has done a good job promoting the great outdoors and focusing on the youth market, and then there’s what he calls the “Lars Monsen effect” — the influence of a popular TV series featuring outdoorsman Lars Monsen as he heads off on various expeditions and lives in the wild.
There also has been an increase in organized activities in the mountains, like the Vinjerock music festival, and other cultural events in the mountains like High Camp and Fjellfilmfestivalen.
The mountains also simply appeal to students who have spent hours in the library, and too many hours tied to computers and mobile phones. “You can get outdoors and completely unwind, you don’t see many people and you get good exercise,” Tor Martin Iversen from NTNU told Aftenposten.
The scenery is pretty nice, too.