Skiers ready to hit the trails

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Not all cross-country skiers seek merely the solitude and scenic beauty of a day on the ski trails: Fully 7,000 skiing enthusiasts were registered to take part this weekend in the annual “Holmenkollmarsjen” ski race in the hills above Oslo, while thousands of others are skiing in organized events all over the country and training for the biggest of them all, Birkebeinerrennet, later in the season.

Skiers can choose to either enjoy the solitude of the ski trails around Oslo or join the pack and take part in ski races and events that attract thousands. This photo was taken at Trantjern, just west of the lake known as Mylla in the northernmost areas of Nordmarka. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

Skiers can choose to either enjoy the solitude of the ski trails around Oslo or join the pack and take part in ski races and events that attract thousands. This photo was taken at Trantjern, just west of the lake known as Mylla in the northernmost areas of Nordmarka. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

The traditional Holmenkollmarsjen is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year and is more popular than ever: Saturday’s long trek in either the 54- or 25-kilometer version drew record registration interest this year and “sold out” after 7,000 skiers had signed up.

Most of them go for the full 54 kilometer-route that was due to start Saturday morning in Oslo’s western valley of Sørkedalen, proceed up along the scenic Heggeli lakes, then head east over Storflåten and towards Kikut before turning south again and ending at Holmenkollen after a final, long climb. Around 1,500 skiers signed up for the shorter 25-kilometer trek that also ends up at Holmenkollen after starting on the valley floor.

While some of the most active skiers compete seriously with one another, the vast majority simply like the idea of a huge, organized ski trek with lots of action and socializing along the way. Officials at the ski association Skiforeningen, which organizes the annual event, noted that many skiers will use all day to complete the route.

“We want to make sure that those who finish last will have had at least as good an experience as those coming in first,” Ole Kristian Sørland of Skiforeningen told newspaper Dagsavisen this week.

While many like to avoid crowds on the trails of Nordmarka, others like to ski in a pack, and test the limits of their ability. PHOTO: Skiforeningen.no

While many like to avoid crowds on the trails of Nordmarka, others like to ski in a pack, and test the limits of their ability. PHOTO: Skiforeningen.no

Events such as Holmekollmarsjen are said to be “typically Norwegian” ways of spending a winter weekend, even though the Oslo event attracts top names among its participants. Skiing champs Martin Johnsrud Sundby and former Olympic medalist Thomas Alsgaard were among the stars taking part, as was former Foreign Minister and now Health Minister Jonas Gahr Støre. Many wondered how Støre finds the time to train properly for such a lengthy ski trek given his demanding work schedule, but he also took part last year and has made a point of making exercise a priority.

Several companies also mount teams of employees who take part, such as United Bakeries and construction firm Veidekke, which has more than 100 of its workers skiing in Holmenkollmarsjen this year. United Bakeries was also providing, predictably enough, baked goods and sweets for skiers at one of the many food stations to be set up along the way.

The first and fastest skiers were expected to cross the finish line well before noon. Everyone is supposed to ski the route by 5pm.

More competitive skiing events loom: The traditional, and gruelling, 90-kilometer Grenaderløpet through Oslo’s marka is set for February 16, for example, along with the 40-kilometer Stomperudrennet in Sørum and Baglerrennet in Askim. A 27-kilometer race called Lillomarka Rundt leaves from Kjelsås on March 2 and Ringkollenløpet runs on March 9 as does Mylla Rundt, Mossemarka Rundt and Ulveløpet. Details can be found on the website langrenn.com.

For less-competitive and solitude-seeking skiers who prefer avoiding the crowds, Skiforeningen was promising that it would still be preparing ski trails all over the quieter forests and hills of marka as usual, not just along the race route. (To see our guide for skiing around Oslo, click here.) Groomed trails are also found in and around most Norwegian cities and towns as long as the snow lasts. And this year there’s quite a bit of it, with the weekend weather forecast close to perfect over much of the country.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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