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ALPINE SKIING IN NORWAY - Jane Peel in Kvitfjell & Hafjell
Friday March 1, 2019 - Email this article to a friend

In a country famous for its nordic skiing PlanetSKI finds there's some seriously good alpine skiing too.

It's a myth that needs to be smashed.

Norway is not a great place for alpine skiing.


Take a bow Kvitfjell and Hafjell.

First things first.

Kvitfjell - pronounced Kvit-fyell - means white mountain.

Sounds promising.

The meaning of Hafjell - pronounced Hah-fyell - is a mountain broken off a larger mountain.

Not so promising.

But if I tell you that both resorts were the venues for all the alpine skiing events at the 1994 Lillehammer Winter Olympics you may begin to understand that Norway is not all small hills and gentle slopes.

I arrive at Lillehammer station after the 1hr 45min train journey from Oslo airport.

Lillehammer stationArrival in Lillehammer

It's the 25th anniversary of the Games so it seems fitting to take in one of the iconic Olympic sights on my drive north to the ski areas.

Lillehammer ski jumpsOlympic ski jumping hill, Lillehammer

Hafjell is around 15 minutes' easy drive from here, Kvitfjell another 45 minutes further on.

They are little known to the British snowsports market but the UK tour operator Ski Safari has just added the resorts for the rest of this season and will be offering them all next winter. 

So what are they like?


All it had in 1994 was the one Olympic downhill run.

The decision to develop was a great move.

This is what I call a skiers' resort.

Kvitfjell, NorwayKvitfjell

That may sound odd but what I mean is that the clear focus is on the skiing.

Not on 5-star luxury with added extras but on comfort and character.

Great little restaurants and bars serving good food and drink.

Kvitfjell, NorwayKvitfjell

Kvitfjell, NorwayKvitfjell

There's a laid-back welcoming atmosphere everywhere I go.

This weekend there are men's World Cup downhill and super G races taking place and the world's top speed specialists are in town.

US team skiersThe USA is in town

There are only two hotels in the resort and the athletes are staying along with the regular guests.

No one bothers them - it's that sort of place.

Unfortunately for me, it means I can't ski on the Olympic men's downhill run or the women's course which runs alongside it, which has been closed for training.

KvitfjellOlympic & World Cup downhill, Kvitfjell

Safety netting, Kvitfjell, NorwayWork on the safety netting ahead of the weekend's racing

It's long and I'm told it's fabulous.

Kvitfjell downhill run 1aMap showing the long black downhill run

But there's plenty more to get my teeth into from steep advanced slopes to wide cruisey reds and blues.

Nearly all of the runs are tree-lined, which is great on a flat light day like today.

I'm skiing with Vibeke Fürst Holtmann, Kvitfjell's marketing manager.

She tells me more about how skiing started here:

There's now skiing on three mountainsides, each with its own character and appealing to different levels of ability.

Last winter the wide slopes of Varden were opened up.

It increased the ski area by about 20 per cent and means this relatively advanced resort is now more attractive to less experience skiers and families.

Kvitfjell, NorwayThe new slopes of Varden can be seen on the other side of the valley

There are plans to expand with even more terrain over the next 5 or 6 years, adding slopes to the area to the left of the photo above.

A mountain village will be built at the foot of the Varden slopes.

The development will give access to more off-piste skiing.

It's obvious that there is a fair amount of off-piste through the trees in Kvitfjell already.

Just not today.

Unusually warm temperatures just before my visit have melted the powder and transformed what's left into the shiniest rock hard ice you can imagine.

The pistes are in great shape, though.

Kvitfjell, NorwayKvitfjell

They're groomed beautifully and there's hardly anyone around, despite it being peak season.

There are not many places that can boast that.

Kvitfjell, NorwayKvitfjell






The sun's come out and is shining on Fakkelmannen, the Olympic Torch man.

He was carved out of the forest on the other side of the valley before the Lillehammer games and is Hafjell's most famous landmark.

Olympic torch man, Hafjell, NorwayOlympic torch man, Hafjell
















The first lift was built here in 1988 to convince the International Olympic Committee of the viability of the Lillehammer 1994 bid.

The IOC said Hafjell was too flat for the downhill so that went to Kvitfjell while Hafjell got the slalom and giant slalom races.

The views down the valley from the slopes are stunning.

Hafjell, NorwayHafjell
















Hafjell is Norway's third biggest resort and, while that's nothing by alpine standards, it feels like there's a lot of skiing here.

And space.

Even the most popular runs are practically deserted.


Despite the IOC's verdict, Hafjell is certainly not flat.

There are lots of easy slopes but there are superfast steep pitches too.

I ask a British ski instructor who's lived in Norway for 15 years and works for the Hafjell ski school for his take on the place...


The dry snow Scott talks about is really noticeable both here and in Kvitfjell.

With temperatures up to 8 degrees just a week ago and well above freezing today the pistes are still in perfect shape.

Spring weather, winter snow.

It's one of the hallmarks of skiing in Norway.

Hafjell, NorwayHafjell
















But the lack of humidity in this region means it feels less cold when the temperatures really plummet.

Win, win.

Hafjell, NorwayHafjell
















As with Kvitfjell, Hafjell has undergone development in the last two years and a lot more is planned.

They're hoping to attract more skiers from outside Scandinavia.

At the moment it's almost exclusively Norwegian, Swedish and Danish.

In Hafjell, NorwayA rare Brit in Hafjell

















It is popular with families for its on and off-snow activities, day and night.

There's night skiing on three evenings a week and a winter theme park called Hunderfossen.

Hunderfossen & the night skiing slopes of HafjellHunderfossen & the night skiing slopes of Hafjell
















Its theme is classic Norwegian fairytales.

HunderfossenA big kid at Hunderfossen

















Hunderfossen, Hatfjell, NorwayA little kid at Hunderfossen
















It's not just for kids.

There's an ice bar and an ice hotel.....

Ice hotel, Hafjell, NorwayA room at the ice hotel, Hunderfossen
















There's even an ice cathedral where you can get married - outside opening hours, of course....

Ice cathedral at Hunderfossen, Hafjell, NorwayIce cathedral at Hunderfossen
















I can see the attractions of Kvitfjell and Hafjell and find it hard to say which I prefer.

Kvitfjell is probably more my sort of place but the fact that they're not far apart and you can ski at both on the same lift pass means there's no need to choose.

If you're hooked on the massive French mega resorts then maybe this won't be your thing.

But loving those mega resorts - and I do too - and loving the skiing here are not mutually exclusive.

True, it's nothing like the Alps.

But in peak season would you rather be standing in a lift queue, chicaning your way round the hordes on the slopes, fighting for a table at a restaurant or enjoying a bit of this...

Hafjell, NorwayHafjell
















I know where I'd rather be right now.

As this is Norway, Jane has also been getting into the nordic spirit.  See her separate report:


Kvitfjell and Hafjell are owned by the Norwegian alpine skiing company ALPINCO which has just linked up with PlanetSKI partner Norway-Home of Skiing.

Accommodation in the resorts is either in hotels or in typical Scandinavian cabins.

You can book a holiday with the UK tailor-made ski specialist Ski Safari.


7 nights half-board* at the GudbrandsGard Hotel with return flights from London Gatwick to Oslo and train/taxi transfers to and from resort for 2 adults and 2 children.

Price: £1,065pp for travel on 14th April 2019.

*Includes self-made lunch packet


7 nights full-board* at the Hafjell Hotel with return flights from London Gatwick to Oslo and train/taxi transfers to and from resort for 2 adults and 2 children.

Price: £795pp for travel on 14th April 2019.

*Lunch at the hotel or a choice of 3 mountain restaurants.

For the Spirit of the Mountains

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