9th December 2017 | James Cove, Norway
Our editor is on his annual ski trip to Norway. He’s just visited a resort that gets an annual average of 18m of snow and been where? UPDATED
THURSDAY 14TH DECEMBER
I don’t like getting up at 6.45AM unless there is a very good reason.
I dislike it even more if I’m in a ski resort that I have only just discovered and a powder day awaits.
See my post below from Wednesday as I fell in love with the ski resort of Myrkdalen that was covered in fresh snow.
But my friend and partner in crime on this trip, Trevor de Villiers from Norway – Home of Skiing insisted.
“Look have I ever let you down? Just trust me you will have the best day ever,” said Trevor.
“Put your skis away, stop being such a pussy and follow me,” he added for good measure.
I was not in the best of moods as we met in the hotel lobby for Trevor’s Magical Mystery Tour.
It was my last day in Norway and I was giving up a powder day for one of Trevor’s bright ideas.
I must be barking mad.
We set off in the dark.
I didn’t have the slightest clue where I was going or what I would be doing.
Even when we got to our final destination.
We passed a few out-buidings and then Trevor introduced me to the prize.
A boat trip on the Fjords is something I have never done in Norway and always wanted to – a day in the powder can wait thank you very much.
We were in the village of Flam on the 27-km Aurlands fjord and a 2-hr fjord safari awaited.
It was absolutely breath-taking as our vessel nudged out on to the waters.
But watch out for the noise of the wind – you may want to keep the volume down.
It was also cold.
Or rather it would have been if we weren’t wearing another full layer over our clothes and a full-body immersion suit.
Not to mention goggles, hat and mittens.
Believe it or not I was toasty warm.
And this is the lakeside hamlet of Undredal – it has a human population of 64 and a goat population of 407.
The place is world famous for its goat’s cheese.
And it has one of the oldest churches in Norway dating back to 1147 – that’s it in the middle of the photo.
We saw an abundance of wildlife – seals in the water and Golden Eagles overhead.
But most of all it was the stunning scenery that left me speechless.
The mountains rise to a height of 900m and the depth of the water goes down to 500m in places.
There were clusters of homes on the water’s edge:
Our guide, Jonatan Rindthomsen, was a mine of information as he steered us through the icy cold waters and described the setting.
I can only describe it as one of the most beautiful places in the mountains I have ever visited.
And I have seen a few.
See here for more details about Fjordsafari.
So, what do you do after a morning like that?
“Follow me my man the fun doesn’t stop yet!” exclaimed Trevor.
We walked of the jetty and into Flamsbrygga to sample a 5-course Viking tasting menu – complete with a selection of beers to accompany each course.
The beers were a Witbier, Rallar amber ale, Boyla Blode Ale, Lindisfarne Scottish ale and a Sumber porter.
All are brewed on the premises.
All too soon it was time to catch the train to Bergen and then on to the airport.
I can safely say I have never had a better day in the mountains without skis on.
One again Trevor had pulled out all the stops and I hardly ever have so much fun and laughs as when I’m travelling with Trevor in Norway.
When I cast my mind back over these past few days with him I wonder what will stand out.
Undoubtedly it will be the powder skiing of Myrkdalen yesterday and the Fjord safari today, though that is not saying my time in Geilo and Norefjell weren’t amazing – I love Norway in all its guises.
It’s a quick turn around as I arrive home in London tonight – I am off to Les Arcs in France tomorrow and then straight on to Verbier in Switzerland ahead of Xmas.
France and Switzerland will have a very, very hard act to follow.
Once again I have utterly fallen in love with Norway and had THE best of times.
I will be back and am determined not to leave it till next winter.
I alway come to Norway once each winter – why not make it twice?
After all skiing in Norway goes well into April and beyond….
And if like James you are tempted to find out a bit more about Myrkdalen then the British ski operator, Ski Solutions, is offering holidays to the resort this winter.
WEDNESDAY 13TH DECEMBER
Why have I never been to Myrkdalen?
In fact why have I never heard of Myrkdalen?
I have a reasonable knowledge of skiing in Norway.
I have lost count of how many times I have visited but have skied numerous times in Geilo, Trysil, Beitostolen, Hemsedal, Kvitfjell, Hafjell and Norefjell.
But Myrkdalen has passed me by.
It lights up late in Norway at this time of year and here is the view as I flung open my curtains on Wednesday morning at 8.30.
I can’t recall being so impressed by a resort I have never heard of.
It has some steep skiing and acres of off piste with a snow record to match.
The resort is a new one, built in 2002.
It has just 9 lifts and 35kms of marked trails, but it is the powder snow that people come for.
The nearest airport is Bergen and it’s a drive of 20 minutes or so from the nearby resort of Voss that I have heard of, but never skied.
I was lucky enough to visit Myrkdalen on a powder day with Harald as my guide.
The downside is the cloud never really lifted but I am assured by Harald that the area has mountains, rather than hills.
Many resorts in Norway have ski hills, rather than ski mountains.
Not so Myrkdalen.
Up here in the clouds is the peak of Finnbunuten at 1,358m – I would have to take Harald’s word for it.
And as the visibility closed in we hit the trees.
And came across this gem of a place to stay that is availabe to rent – the Trafjosen cabin.
Fancy getting away from it all?
In the main part of the resort is the Myrkdalen Hotel – it has 112 rooms and sleeps 375 people.
Or there are the cabins that are available to rent.
Sadly I only had one day in Myrkdalen but as a powder resort I was utterly bowled over by the place.
Want to know a resort that gets huge amounts of powder snow on some fabulous terrain that very few people have heard of and you can get endless fresh lines when the conditions are right?
Look no further than Myrkdalen.
I will definitely be back.
And if like James you are tempted to find out a bit more about Myrkdalen then the British ski operator, Ski Solutions, is offering holidays to the resort this winter.
And after the powder it was time for an apres ski activity arranged by my good friend who has been travelling with me and organising the trip, Trevor de Villiers from Norway – Home of Skiing.
I assumed it would be dog sledging, an Xmas market or perhaps some night-time cross country skiing.
This is Norway after all.
See more here at Voss Vind.
And then it was the turn of the experts as a Norwegian free-fall team went through its paces:
And then an instructor did his stuff:
And tomorrow, Thurday, Trevor has lined up another surprise.
“Be in the hotel reception at 8AM it’s going to be a wicked day,” said Trevor.
I have absolutley no idea what we are going to be doing.
TUESDAY 12TH DECEMBER
Another Norwegian day, another Norwegian ski resort.
The sun arrives over the horizon late at this time of year, but it’s stunning nonetheless.
Welcome to Geilo at shortly after 10AM.
Geilo is perhaps one of best known ski resort names for people from the UK but the resort feels it may have slipped off the radar a bit in recent years and wants to change that position.
And here is the view from across the valley.
Once again the skiing area in this Norwegian resort is small by alpine standards, with no real difficult or expert skiing, but the pistes were fast, wide, grippy and had excellent snow cover.
And best of all?
There was barely a soul around – time for some fast piste skiing.
We put in our own first tracks.
The town itself is one of the prettiest ski villages in Norway and is a far cry for some of the purpose-built ones with ski-in/ski-out and a somewhat North American corporate ski feel.
It has character and charm.
Now Norway doesn’t have a reputation for wild après ski Austrian-style but that may be about to change in this unlikely looking building, the Taubanekroa.
It has been completely revamped and this weekend opens as an après ski venue.
The finishing touches were being painted as I passed through (matching clothing colours seemed required).
The décor installed.
And the bar is getting ready for some action, but hopefully with a better barman.
Geilo has big plans fo rthe future.
With a new CEO, Andreas Smith-Erichsen, for this winter there are plans to put a lift directly from the railway station to the top of the resort, to upgrade many of the facilites and to make significant investments in snowmaking.
The temperature here can pretty much be gauranteed and so snow cannons can assist when Mother Nature does not provide.
On my visit they were pumping it out like it was no tomorrow.
Geilo is normally one of the first resorts in Scandinavia to open as it stores snow across the summer and then pushes it out on the slopes as summer ends.
Not any more – the snow storage initiative is going to be scrapped.
“It attracts the racers but not so many others and we want to concentrate our summer thoughts and plans on January, not September. So we will not be storing snow over the summer for an early opening,” said the marketing manager of Geilo, Kevin Eikrahagen, to me.
This really is a swift visit of mine to Geilo, less than 24-hours.
Sadly there was no time for the skiing style the area is most famous for – cross-country skiing.
I have done it before, whether on a day trip.
Or something more adventurous with an overnight stop in a hut.
And as the sun went down (shorty after 15.30 at this time of year) it was all aboard for the train to Myrkdalen.
And best of all is I have slightly longer time in Myrkdalen: 48-hours.
And if you are tempted by Geilo the British ski operator, Ski Solutions, is offering holidays to the resort this winter. https://www.skisolutions.com/countries/norway/resorts/geilo
Crystal Ski Holidays (www.crystalski.co.uk; 020 8610 3123) also offers holidays in Geilo.
A week’s self-catering accommodation at the four-star Bardola Cabins from £329 per person (based on four sharing) including flights from Gatwick to Fagernes and transfers (price given is for departure on 14 January 2018).
MONDAY 11TH DECEMBER
It’s a final morning on the slopes of Norefjell.
The cold and crisp snow in Norefjell was even better then yesterday (see below for full details of my visit yesterday) and I joined a large group of Dutch tour operators who were on what is known as a Fam Trip in the business…
Hot chocolate could only be at the Norefjell Hytte again.
And after ripping up the pistes we made the journey to Geilo.
And why so few words today?
Lets just say it was a good night last night with the Dutchies in the hotel nightclub.
My brain hasn’t quite been quite working at its peak of performance for most of the day.
More of the Dutchies later…
SUNDAY 10TH DECEMBER
I could tell immediately I was in Norway.
I went to the front desk of the hotel I was staying in, the Norefjell Ski & Spa.
“Hi, could a have a piste map please?” I asked the charming girl behind the desk.
She handed my a piste map and it was only as I arrived at the ski room that I noticed it was the map for the cross-country trails.
In this part of Norway cross-country skiing is more popular than alpine skiing and if you say “skiing” there is only one interpretation.
Now I love cross-country skiing (though am rubbish at it – think that image of Bambi on ice as legs go in every way) and I’m donning the skinny skis at Geillo later in the week, so do check back for that.
Today though was a day for alpine skiing in the resort, Norefjell, with the biggest vertical descent in Norway.
It didn’t matter too much that I had the wrong map, as I had a guide for the day to show me around.
And not just any old guide.
Step forward Ed Sheeran.
Now I know Ed loves his skiing, as his latest video was shot in Hintertux in Austria and I reported about it on PlanetSKI last month.
But as I cleaned the fog from my goggles I realised I had the next best thing – Geir Bottolfs, the marketing manager of Norefjell.
And boy can he ski – he left me for dust.
“It was hilarious in Soelden last winter as these girls kept coming up and wanting selfies with me. I told them my name was Geir and I came from Norway but they thought I was bluffing!” he told me as we went up the lift.
Check out our video interview below about the resort and what it offers.
Before heading to the very top we had a serious blast round.
It is not a big area by alpine standards but what it has is more than enough in my opinion.
The Norefjell Ski & Spa hotel is actually pretty near the top of the resort, so the main skiing is beneath it and the lower down you go the more difficult it gets.
The steep blacks are at the bottom of the resort and as it is near the water it is colder too.
Truely an upside down resort, rather like Le Massif in Quebec in Canada by the St Lawrence Seaway.
And like Le Massif I fell in love with the place immediately – Norefjell was love at first sight.
And like Le Massif it has a stunning waterway at its base.
Here is the resort from the other side of the lake showing the black runs that go down to near the shoreline.
The Norefjell Ski and Spa where I was staying is the largest hotel in Norway with more than two thousand beds.
The resort also has the smallest – the Norefjell Hytta.
It has three rooms.
It is a fabulous place to the side of the piste.
And when do you think it was built?
The answer is 2010.
Nevertheless is feels authentic and ancient with more than a touch of style.
This weekend sees the opening of the resort’s pride and joy, the new Fjellekspressen 6-person lift – complete with wind stabilisers to make the journey more pleasant.
And so to the top.
The only problem is that the top lift wasn’t running – my travelling companion, Trevor from Norway- Home of Skiing, had joined us and put a quick call in.
It is never a dull moment travelling with Trevor as you will no doubt find out later in this blog as I am nosing round a few resorts for a week or so.
Indeed on the first day (see my report below ) the wheels almost came off the trip before it had even started!
And at the top after a little tow up?
Tonight, Sunday, it is the staff Xmas party at the hotel and Trevor has blagged an invitation – there are also a bunch of Dutch tour operator friends of his turning up to join the fun.
It might well get rather messy.
And ‘Ed’ went dancing:
SATURDAY 9TH DECEMBER
It is a fixture in my skiing calendar – a blast round a few of the Norwegian ski resorts with my mate Trevor de Villiers from the organisation Norway, Home of Skiing.
I tend not to follow the normal journalistic form and write resort reviews, informative pieces about the country, long lists of what’s new, the six best reasons to visit Geilo etc… etc….
Rather I have no plan at all and just write about what happens – something always does with Trevor.
See here for my trip in December 2015 that will give you a flavour:
And it appears to have started as it will undoubtedly go on.
We had agreed to meet at Gatwick airport in time for the 09.20 flight to Oslo with Norwegian.
As I sat at the departure gate there was no sign of Trevor.
I was the last passenger aboard and still no trace of Mr De Villiers.
I was not too perturbed, but the only problem was I had no idea which resort I was going to first or how I was going to get there.
“Don’t bother sending me an itinerary as I won’t read it. I will just tag along with you,” I said to Trevor a couple of weeks ago.
The trouble is that without him I was rather stuck.
Now I am please to say I was flying with Norwegian airlines.
It has wifi on board so I was able to contact Trevor to enquire of his whereabouts.
“Hello Mate – ok little mistake somewhere as I thought you arriving tomorrow- no problem though as Geir from Norefjell can come and pick you up. Go to Starbucks upstairs and have a coffee – Geir is on his way and will message you when he gets closer ðŸ™‚ See you later and welcome back to Norway.”
I could tell that this was not going to be an uneventful week.
And I have now checked and I am going skiing in Norefjell, Geilo and Myrkdalen over the course of this week.
I wonder if I have a hotel room booked for tonight.
No need to worry about a hotel bed for the night.
I had been booked into the Norefjell Ski & Spa – it has more than 2,000 beds and is the largest hotel in Norway.
It was full, but not that full.
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