Thousands take off for winter holiday

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After a week when worries about declining productivity were in the news, thousands of Norwegians took off anyway for a traditional week of “vinterferie,” (literally, winter holiday). Most schools are closed either next week or the week after, and Norwegians are flocking to their hytter (holiday homes) like never before.

Mountain cabins in Norway now offer most of the comforts of home, and are more popular than ever with Norwegians. PHOTO: Tinde

Mountain cabins in Norway now offer most of the comforts of home, and are more popular than ever with Norwegians. PHOTO: Tinde

There are no official public holidays on the calendar next week, but an estimated 25 percent of the Norwegian population was expected to take a week off this year, according to a survey by employers’ organization Virke. Of those, 39 percent planned to travel abroad, meaning that airports were braced for crowds through the weekend.

Another 35 percent choose to spend their winter holiday week at their hytter (holiday cabins) in the mountains or at mountain hotels, reported Virke. There’s a lot of snow in the mountains at present and the stormy weather of recent weeks was due to abate, at least in southern Norway.

49 days a year at the hytte
Another study by Prognosesenteret in Norway found that Norwegians now spend an average of 49 days a year at their holiday homes: 58 days for those with homes by the sea and 41 days for those with cabins or condominiums in the mountains.  Many Norwegians have hytter both places. Bjørn Erik Øye of the research center told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) that he thinks Norwegians will spend even more time at their holiday retreats in the years to come.

Others opt to spend their winter holiday at more rustic hytter, like those run by the mountain trekking association DNT. PHOTO: DNT

Others opt to spend their winter holiday at more rustic hytter, like those run by the mountain trekking association DNT. PHOTO: DNT

“The number of hytter with running water and toilets has increased dramatically in recent years,” Øye told DN, meaning they’re far more comfortable than they used to be. “Well over 90 percent of those being built now have such facilities. Increased comfort leads to increased use.”

Rising affluence in Norway and a strong market for vacation properties has boosted construction of holiday homes. State statistics bureau SSB reported that the number of hytter in Norway has risen from 399,000 to 416,000 nationwide during the past five years. “Around half of us either own or have access to a hytte,” Øye told DN. “And if everyone who says they want a hytte realizes their dream, there’s a market for 200,000 more in the country.”

Øye noted that more Norwegians also have flexible jobs that allow them to work from remote locations other than the traditional office. Many choose to work from their hytter, and are able to do so because of improved mobile phone coverage and Internet access. Many Norwegians have also invested in holiday homes much closer to where they live, to reduce travel time and enhance use.

The annual rush to winter hytter coincided this year with debate over whether Norwegians have become lazy, given their penchant for holidays. The debate, launched by an accounting executive who claimed Norwegians’ priority on free time further threatened national productivity, continued on Friday, with industrial billionaire Trond Mohn also saying he was provoked by the thousands taking off on more holiday. “We need to work harder, and we need to work faster,” Mohn told DN.

The NTNU professor who leads the government’s commission evaluating productivity, Jørn Rattsø, said he had no statistics showing that either students or workers in Norway were lazy. He shared some of the concerns over worker attitudes and Norway’s high rate of sick leave, but he’s not worried about job flexibility and workers who take off on long weekends at their hytter. “We need to have a bit of fun,” he told DN.

Virke’s survey of winter holiday habits revealed that Norwegians responding wanted to ski or otherwise engage in outdoor activity during their winter holiday, but being together with friends and family ranked highest, whether they were traveling abroad or staying in Norway.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund