UPDATED: With thousands of kilometers of prepared ski trails around the Norwegian capital, skiing is a popular winter activity among Oslo-area residents. Newsinenglish.no offers some tips for getting out there and joining the locals, far from the maddening crowd.
The city’s ski season lurches into high gear when the snow starts falling. It came late again this year, but aficionados of cross-country skiing can quickly appreciate that the city’s system of well-marked and groomed trails, easy public access to trail heads and a network of ski-in and ski-out timber lodges in the hills and forests around the capital combine to offer unique skiing opportunities within a half-hour of downtown.
The trails are maintained by both the city’s parks and recreation department (Friluftsetaten) and the local ski association (Skiforeningen). They’re all free to use, but 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 (external link). 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.
How to get started
You can buy local trail maps for all the various forest areas around Oslo: Nordmarka and Romeriksåsen to the north and northeast, Østmarka and Sørmarka to the east and southeast, Vestmarka, Kjekstadsmarka and Hurumlandet to the west and southwest. The maps are available at the offices of the Norwegian Trekking Association (Den Norske Turistforening, DNT) (external link) on Storgata downtown, as well as at many local book-, stationery – and sporting goods stores.
The maps also offer lots of practical information about the areas you’re about to explore. Be sure to get the winter editions, showing all the ski trails (marked in red). Summer maps with hiking trails are also available, with the trails marked in blue. That’s the same system used for all the trail signs around the various marka, with signs in red denoting ski trails and those in blue denoting footpaths. Many of the hiking trails show up as dotted lines on the winter maps. And even if you can’t read Norwegian, you’ll enjoy the photos.
All local sporting goods shops can help outfit you with equipment and clothing. The forested areas called marka are dotted with cabins and lodges offering food and drink, but it’s always a good idea to have provisions with you in a backpack. Then you’ll feel free to wander father off the beaten track(s) and enjoy the solitude and beauty of the great outdoors that’s actually not all that far from all the comforts of home.
The ski association also offers ski school at a variety of levels. If classes are full for this year, it might be worth thinking about for next year.
Leave your car at home
Parking lots (noted with a blue “P” on the maps) are often located near trail heads, but it’s also entirely possible to start your ski trip using public transportation, including the T-bane (metro), train or bus. The most popular run, for example, is to take the Frognerseteren T-bane to the end of the line. There are a bewildering number of trails starting from here, but ski down past the old timber lodge of Frognerseteren and 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 T-bane 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 really traveling on your skis, not just making round trips. You can ski from one valley (called a “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, site of the World Championships this year, is by far the most popular, but also the most crowded. Alternative starting points in Nordmarka, served by city bus, are Låkeberget og Skar in Maridalen, (from which it’s a short trip up to Øyungen and beyond), or Skansebakken and Sørkedalen skole in Sørkedalen.
Once you’ve got your ski-legs, and built up some endurance, it doesn’t take much effort to venture farther afield. The scenery and solitude can be spectacular.
Longer trips – spend the whole day on skis
The ski association Skiforeningen also offers one-way bus rides every Saturday and Sunday from early January 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. A popular route is to follow the signs to Løvlia, 12.5 kilometers from Ringkollen, for lunch, then follow the signs for Skansebakken in Sørkedalen, where a bus will take you back to town.
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 T-bane stop at Røa. 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 and get cold 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, and many cities in Norway also offer prepared ski trails, many of them floodlit at night, close to town. As the locals would say, God tur! (roughly, “Have a good trek!”)