Snow and skiers bring the hills alive

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PHOTO FEATURE: Norway is having one of its best winters in years in terms of snow for those who love to ski. Brilliant sunshine from north to south made this weekend especially memorable, and skiers in the Oslo area made the hills alive with the sounds of people having a good time, or enjoying the solitude of a frozen lake.

PHOTO: newsinenglish.noCross-country skiing is one of the great equalizers in Norway, rather like onsen or hot-spring soaking is in Japan. It cuts across age, income levels and other forms of social status, with groomed ski trails all free of charge and readily accessible by Oslo’s metro line (T-bane) to stops like here at Frognerseteren.

PHOTO: newsinenglish.noMetros were packed with skiers on Saturday and Sunday, but the crowds quickly disperse into the vast expanse of hills and forests that surround the Norwegian capital. Most other cities in Norway also have open recreational areas around them, with Trondheim, for example, offering tram service right up to the ski trails.

PHOTO: newsinenglish.noIt doesn’t take long before skiers can get off by themselves. The trails, some of which light up when darkness falls, are groomed either by crews from the City of Oslo or by the local ski association Skiforeningen, and there’s nearly 3,000 kilometers of them around Oslo. There’s no charge, but skiers are urged to join Skiforeningen (external link, in Norwegian), which currently has around 72,000 dues-paying members.

PHOTO: newsinenglish.noAfter another few kilometers from the Frognerseteren area, which has great views over Oslo, scenery like this opens up, and the solitude is complete.

PHOTO: newsinenglish.noThe trails are well-marked with reassuring signs like these posted all over marka. Trail maps are available for sale in local book- and sporting goods stores and at the offices of DNT, the Norwegian Mountain Trekking Association.

PHOTO: newsinenglish.noSkiforeningen also runs bus routes from downtown Oslo and several suburban stops on the weekends to both Ringkollen, northwest of the city, and Mylla, north of the city. Passengers then ski back to town, with the treks spanning from 30 to 40 kilometers or more depending on the route chosen. The fast skiers can make the trek in a couple of hours, while many use the whole day, with food and drink in backpacks or stops at one of the timber-lodges scattered around marka, for hot drinks, waffles or pastries. The skiers who piled off these buses headed back to Oslo from Ringkollen.

PHOTO: newsinenglish.noNot long after leaving the Ringkollen trailheads, this area opens up at Borgersætra, with views west towards Ringerike and the mountains.

PHOTO: newsinenglish.noThe sunset on Sunday was also spectacular, and is gradually occurring later and later as the sun rises higher in the sky. This photo was taken near Finnerud above the valley of Sørkedalen around 4pm on Sunday. Temperatures were due to dip even lower later in the week, down to around minus-11 in Oslo and much colder in inland areas, meaning the snow will stick around. Norway’s lowest temperatures on Sunday were logged around Folldal in the central-eastern portion of the country, where thermometers showed minus-36C.

ALL PHOTOS: Berglund