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Saturday, July 20, 2024

Trollstigen closed for the season

UPDATED: The popular mountain road known as Trollstigen, known for its hairpin curves, was closed again this week after another rockslide. It was expected to reopen Thursday, but major road improvements are needed and officials are also arguing over who should pay for them.

The observation platform at the top of the Trollstigen road is also a major tourist attraction. It will remain open from the western approach to the road. PHOTO: Nasjonale Turist Vegen

Several rocks crashed down on to Trollstigen earlier in the week, one of them as large as a football. It reportedly crashed through the windshield of a car and the road was quickly closed, while geologists examined its steep sides.

They have now determined that driving along Trollstigen, located in the scenic mountain area of Møre og Romsdal, is now so dangerous that it can’t be reopened until the mountainsides are secured and the road stabilized.

“We have had so many incidents that we can’t defend a reopening,” Ole Jan Tønnesen, chief of the county road system, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) on Thursday. “We simply have to halt traffic before someone is seriously injured or killed.”

The road is only open during the summer months, and heavy snow and ice last winter delayed its reopening this season. The road has also long been plagued by rockslides and now it’s closed after less than two weeks, disappointing thousands of tourists and blocking one route of access into the popular area around the Geiranger Fjord.

At least six rockslides were registered during the 10 days it was open, hitting at least five vehicles. Other mountainsides in the area are also known for being unstable and Trollstigen has been subjected to mass tourism especially in recent years, after it became more popular and usual for cruiseships to dock in nearby Åndalsnes. More than a million tourists a year have been registered, with tour buses also known for occasionally getting stuck on Trollstigen’s narrow hairpin turns.

The closure, aimed at preserving the road for the future, has already been described as a “crisis” for local businesses, many of them catering to all the tourists. “That’s why we’ve tried to keep it open for years, also this year, because it’s so important for the area,” Tønnesen told NRK. “But now we have to say ‘stop,’ because we worry about life and health. Safety must come first.”

Local and national officials, though, are quarreling over who should pay for repairs to what’s still a county road but part of the National Tourist Routes system that highlights especially scenic roads. Local mayor Anders Riise of the Conservative Party confirmed a lack of local funding for the constant repairs needed on the iconic Trollstigen.

“We expect the state to contribute much more,” Riise told NRK. “This is a tourist road, and it’s in the state’s interests that it’s kept open to ensure value creation for the travel industry.” Randi Frissvoll, who leads a national organization aimed at protecting roads from slides (Nasjonal rassikringsgruppe) also thinks the state “should take a much larger share of the costs to secure national tourist roads.”

Sylvi Listhaug, leader of the conservative Progress Party, said she’ll propose a measure in Parliament to cover costs of securing Trollstigen in advance. She comes from the area and thinks the state should contribute more towards making “one of the most popular tourist destinations in Norway” safer. Berglund



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