Skiers may be rejoicing, while commuters were told to brace for the worst: Norway’s state meteorological institute predicted snowstorms all over southern Norway on Thursday, and at least sleet at low elevations along the coast. The low-pressure systems that have been creating hurricanes farther north were heading for the capital on Wednesday.
There hasn’t been any snow in Oslo so far this season, unusual for early December. Instead both the Norwegian capital and much of southern Norway has been experiencing the warmest autumn for more than a century. Last week, relatively balmy temperatures of nearly 14C made for the warmest late November day in 114 years, weather statistician Bernt Lie told newspaper Aftenposten.
It’s also been unseasonably warm all over eastern and southern Norway, disappointing skiers who are anxious to hit the trails that usually are already white and carefully groomed at this time of year. There’s been some snow in the mountains, allowing for some alpine skiing, but there’s little if any snow in marka (the hills and forests surrounding the cities) and that’s causing some economic concerns for ski centers like Oslo Vinterpark at Tryvann, in the hills behind Holmenkollen. It hasn’t even been cold enough to make their own snow.
“Unfortunately, the temperatures haven’t stayed low enough,” marketing chief Hanne Norstrøm at Oslo Vinterpark told Aftenposten late last week. Oslo Vinterpark had to postpone its season opening yet again. Operators at the popular downhill skiing area in Oslo had run their snow canons when thermometers dipped down to the freezing point in late November, but then temperatures rose again. Optimal snow-making temperatures are around minus-5C, Norstrøm said.
At one local day care center, the children got so impatient to go sledding that those running the center tried making snow of their own, but it didn’t last. Avid skiers have continued to use their roller skis, or simply go running, as they wait for some snow. Those registered to take part in the major ski races of the season like Birkebeiner need to be out training for them.
Skiing, after all, remains more popular than ever in Norway. Ski equipment sales have doubled, from around 200,000 pairs a year at the end of the 1990s to nearly 400,000 last winter, not least because many skiers now have several pairs each. Registration for events like Holmenkollmarsjen have risen from 2,147 in 1974 to 4,727 last year, and Birkebeiner registration has exploded, from 1,847 racers over the mountains from Østerdalen to Lillehammer in 1974, to 17,434 in 2012, reported Aftenposten.
Some of the longed-for white stuff was due to finally fall from the skies on Thursday, though, also in the hills around Oslo. Marianne Foss of the state meteorological institute said that a low-pressure system moving in from Iceland was due to hit Southern Norway on Thursday and move quickly in an easterly direction.
Foss predicted rain or some sleet along the coast, sleet at elevations of 100 meters and snow higher than that. Strong winds were also in the forecast, though not as strong as the hurricane-force winds that have rocked Northern Norway in recent days. Foss warned of slippery roads and sidewalks, and difficult driving conditions. Storm warnings were up in the mountains again, with visibility expected to be poor.
Lower temperatures through the weekend suggested that any snow falling on Thursday may stick around for awhile. Winds were due to die down from Friday, with the forecast fairly good for the weekend, until temperatures rise again early next week. Foss predicted temperatures of around 2-4C on Monday and Tuesday.