News Headlines     |     


Looking back at Norway - James Cove, Norway
Thursday December 10, 2015 - Email this article to a friend

PlanetSKI has just spent 4 days in Norway. We posted a blog each day and they received thousands of views. So, here they are again - in order and with some unpublished photos & anecdotes. NEW

Day One:

Now I must declare an interest.

I am a bit of a fan of Norway and I make no excuse for being somewhat biased when I write about the place and its people.

The Norwegians invented skiing, they are some of the friendliest people on the planet and I just love being in the country.

Two incidents stand out.

On arrival the customs officers always smile and welcome you - there is no other country where that happens.

And on departure on this trip my hand luggage was searched by a lady from security. She aked me if I had anything electrical in my bag.

"Only a giant vibrator that's raring to go," said my friend Trevor who I was travelling with. She burst into fits of laughter and blushed slightly (you will hear more of Trevor later in this blog).

The Norwegians are a friendly nation and they have a sense of humour. Smile

Norway is fundamentally different from the Alps and that it what makes it special.

The skiing is not much to write home about, with small areas and limited vertical, but that is not really the point.

It is a proper winter country with so much to experience and enjoy.

December sees cold temperatures and guaranteed snow this far north.

At least that is what I have found in past years.

This time round I was told it would be somewhat different.

"Look James I'll be honest with you - there is limited snow in the resort of Trysil where we were planning to go and you may want to postpone your trip," said my friend and guide in Norway, Trevor de Villiers, a few days ago.

"We could try somewhere else if you like or come later in the year," he offered.

"Nonsense, there should be a bit of cross county skiing and even if there are only a few slopes open it doesn't matter as there is always plenty to do.  We could go husky dog sleighing or take a boat up a fjord or just spend a few random days at some other ski resorts," I said.

It was a good call as this is what it was like as I arrived in Geilo last weekend.

Heavy snowfall.

It has been raining heavily in preceeding days but I seemed to have brought the snow with me.

Geilo, Sunday eveningGeilo, Sunday evening
















NorwayThe snow arrives
















NorwayTrevor and yours truly
















In anticipation of a lack of snow Trevor had lined up some alternative activities.

"What is on the cards for the next few days?" I asked Trevor.

"Do you trust me James?" he replied.

"No," I said.

"Good because I'm not going to tell you, just stick close by and go with the flow," he advised.

The flow consisted of a visit to the Cultural Church on Sunday evening for an evening of music with a Xmas theme.

Hardly my cup of tea.

Top of the bill was Elisabeth Andreassen.

"Who is she?" you may well ask.

Well in Norway she gets recognised as she walks down the street. She won the Eurovision Song Contest back in 1985 as one half of Bobbysocks!.

She went on to sell 1.7 million records.

She was fabulous.

NorwayElisabeth entertains
















Elisabeth is something of a Eurovision enthusiast and has performed 4 times - she is one of only 4 artists to have done so and the only one to have come first and second. 

She was runner up in 1996 as a solo performer.

She has also been awarded the Peer Gynt prize by the Norwegian Parliament.

NorwayElisabeth Andreassen















Afterwards there were scores of people queuing for autographs.

NorwayThe next generation of fans

















"Come on James, I'll introduce you, lets go and meet her," said Trevor after the performance.

"It was a magical evening tonight and I'm so glad you enjoyed the show," she said to me.  "I know that English people love Eurovision and it meant so much to me as it launched my career and gave me the life that I have had," she added.

And she was delighted to pose for the PlanetSKI camera.

NorwayYours truly and Elisabeth


















We have since been messaging each other on Facebook!

And here are Bobbysocks! winning Eurovision all those years ago.

With that it was off to dinner.

And not just any old dinner.

We went to a restaurant with the largest wine cellar in Norway - 6,000 bottles.

Quite a selectionQuite a selection
















And the most expensive was a 1990 Burgundy at 85,000 krone - that's £6,525.

It's not surprising the wine waiter was keeping his eyes on it.

£6,525 for a bottle of red£6,525 for a bottle of red
















And the oldest bottle was a madeira from 1834. A bargain at 9,390 krone - £730.

181 years old 181 years old
















Now I know Norway has a reputation for expensive drinks, but the prices were slightly over the top.

So I settled for a couple of small beers and was pleasantly surprised. They were 77 krone each - £5.95

A couple of years ago that would have been £8.50.

But the exchange rate has tumbled and £1 now buys 13 krone instead of 9.

It appears my single biggest grumble about Norway (the cost of a beer) has been resolved (slightly).

It should be rather a good next 48 hours. Smile

I wonder what this man has in store for me on Monday.

NorwayTrevor and James
















Day Two:

Now I'm often asked why I like skiing and visiting Norway so much.

Well if you want to know you will need to read on and bear with me to the end, even though today's blog is somewhat rambling.

It was a long day! Wink

It was pretty much my perfect Norwegian ski day.

It is not often you get to wake up to views like this.

Geilo, NorwayGood morning Geilo
















Even better when dawn is around 9.00am so you can have a bit of a lie in.

Welcome to Norway in December - a magical place for me.

Now normally I like to be up and out early in ski resorts.

But not only did I have the luxury of a lie in, but after I picked up my skis and lift pass I looked at the slopes on my left.

And headed right.

I had heard that the Vestlia Hotel had a collection of original Edvard Monch sketches and paintings plus some other works by Norwegian artists. 

Now I am not much of a culture vulture but I was intrigued.

Priceless paintings on display in a ski resort?

As I have said in many previous articles there is so much more to Norway than the skiing and my good friend and guide to Norway, Trevor de Villiers, advised me to take a look at the works of art.

So I did.

I met the manager and expected to be ushered off to a private gallery to view the works of art.

But no, there they were in the main lobby.

16 Munch's and they are worth rather lot of money.

I was shown the secuirty system but promised not to divulge it.

Geilo, NorwayMunchs on display
















Geilo, NorwayA draft of The Scream
















The owner of the hotel, Pal Gundersen, is one of the richest men in Norway and simply wants his guests to be able to see them and enjoy them.

And the art collection goes beyond Edvard Monch - there are paintings from the talented Norwegian artist, Kair Fjell.

They line the walls in a private dining room.

Geilo, NorwayKair Fjell
















Geilo, NorwayRoom with a view















Geilo, NorwayKair Fjell
















Geilo, NorwayKair Fjell




















It was a unique way to start a ski day and what a day it turned out to be.

Geilo, NorwayTrevor and Yours Truly


















The resort was near- deserted and with 10-15cm of fresh snow that had fallen on our arrival on Sunday ('see below for my blog from Sunday) and we hammered round the red runs.

Geilo, NorwayHammering it
















Geilo, NorwayHardangerervidda, Norway
















The views were breathtaking.

Geilo, NorwayThe slopes of Geilo
















Geilo, NorwayLooking down to Geilo
















We snatched a quick lunch at the Hausdalskroa restaurant.

I say snatched because that is exactly how the restaurant is set up.

It was my kind of place.

"People come here to ski not have a long lunch and we have food that takes us a while to prepare before they arrive, but is served swiftly and can be eaten quickly," said the owner, Knut-Arne Bredal-Thorsen.

It was delicious - one of the tastiest goulash soups I have eaten in the mountains (and I have had many).

Geilo, NorwayFast food Geilo-style
















Followed by a pizza - made more interesting by the addition of honey.

Again it was one of the best pizzas I have eaten and I have never eaten one with honey before.

Geilo, NorwayFast food Geilo-style
















After lunch we took up where we had left off, but it was just a few runs as we had a date.

Geilo, NorwayBackside Geilo, Norway
















Geilo, NorwayGeilo, Norway
















The date was the the Elite Nordic Ski Centre in Geilo - one of just a handful in the country.

It is one of the main national training centres for Nordic skiing and where many Olympic and World Champions are produced.

If I give people one piece of advice when they come to Norway it is this: give cross country skiing a go.

For Scandinavians it is in their blood.

Children cross country ski to school and it is a national pastime with thousands upon thouands of kms of trails in the country.

For them it is 'proper' skiing.

Ask most Norwegians if they would rather Aksul Lund Svindall wins in alpine skiing, which he has done many times this season, or the Nordic skiers top the podium a look of total disbelief comes across their faces.

They can't quite fathom such a ridiculous question.

The  Norwegians lead the Nordic medal table for the most medals in the Olympics and World Cup races since 1980.

Norway: Gold 126, Silver 98, Bronze 100.

Finland: Gold 62, Silver 69, Bronze 64.

Sweden: Gold 44, Silver 43, Bronze 43.

My coach for the evening was actually a Swede, Viktor Palm, who used to be part of the national team. He now lives and works in Norway.

Geilo, NorwayViktor and Yours Truly

















"This is real skiing and the genuine article. For me downhill and alpine skiing are a pale imitation," he said.

I begged to differ and he looked at me with some disdain.

And with that we were off.

It was hard work and I took a couple of tumbles but it soon came back to me.

It is a full body work out and fabulous to be skiing at night under the lights.

Through the cold night air there was the distant pop of gunfire.

Five shots in quick succession.

They  came from the squad members of the national team and others shooting as part of the biathlon discipline.

Geilo, NorwayBiathon
















Geilo, NorwayThe Anschutz, 202 calibre
















Now I accept that is highly skillfull to cross-country ski and then fire 5 shots at a target with one's heart rate racing.

But I stil had a nagging doubt about its interest a sport.  It clearly more interesting than darts, but.....

I thoroughly enjoy cross-country skiing but to say it is better than alpine.......not for me.

I decided that I would at least try tomorrow to find someone who preferred downhill skiing - did such a person exist in Norway?

After such a typical Norwegian day there was only one way to get back to our hotel.

With Rsla and his horse drawn taxi.

Geilo, NorwayRsla and friends
















Once again another magical day in Norway.

A beautiful dawn, an art exhibtion, some fabulous skiing, a great lunch, more skiing (of the alpine and cross country discipline) a horse drawn sleigh ride round a frozen river and through the woods to the twinkeling lights of Geilo.

And I have just finishing writing this blog in the bar of my hotel with the evening beckoning.

I wonder what Trevor has in store for me?

Bring it on Smile

Day Three:

After two fabulous days in Geilo it was time to move on.

I ALWAYS leave a ski resort with a heavy heart and gazing back up at the slopes and I ALWAYS wish I could stay for longer and make a few more turns.

But rather than heading to the airport I was heading off to one of my favourite resorts in Norway - Hemsedal. 

And hopefully to find some Norwegians who prefer downhill skiing to cross-country; see the end of my post from Monday below to understand why. Wink

We drove through some stunning Norwegian scenery.

The road to HemsedalThe road to Hemsedal
















Hemsedal, along with Trysil, is more like a resort you would find in the Alps and hopefully there will be a few people who prefer downhill skiing.

It has 1,800m of vertical descent and 56 lifts. 

By the standards of the Alps it is small, but by the standards of Norway it is big.

It is a main alpine race centre for Norway and holds Europa Cup ski races along with national and international events.

As I left Geilo earlier in the day I had canvassed a couple of Norwegians about what is better - downhill or cross-country.

That same look of disbelief mixed with contempt was in their eyes as they immediately replied 'cross-country'.

As I looked around Hemsedal I felt a tinge of satisfaction; in the ski room were some seriously proper skis. 

Atomic giant slalom skis reigned supreme.

Hemsedal, Norway Hemsedal, Norway
















In the lobby of the Day Lodge young alpine ski racers awaited.

Hemsedal, Norway Hemsedal, Norway
















I had bet my friend and guide in Norway, Trevor de Villiers, that I would find plenty of people who preferred downhill.

He has been in Norway too many times and has sadly crossed to the dark side.

"I now prefer cross country and have embraced it totally. Everyone here will prefer cross-country," he said as we drove over.

He looked unperturbed as he sorted out lunch.

Or placed a bet with the bookies.

Hemsedal NorwayTrevor gets serious
















"This winter we have already had more than 500 people come here to trainin alpine skiing  and race slalom in Hemsedal," said the managing director of the tourist office, Richard Taraldson, to me.

I was going to win the wager easily.

However I reluctantly decided that it would be unfair to ask an alpine ski racer which they preferred. The answer would be obvious and there were dozens and dozens here in Hemsedal.

It was a bit like going to Buckingham Palace and asking the people outside if they supported the monarchy.

I needed to find someone independent. 

I enquired on the lift and got the same answer - "cross-country". 

On the slopes it was the same - "cross country".

I asked at the reception desk of a hotel; "Excuse me, but you are really asking me if I am Norwegian or not,"  she responded with some disdain.

No matter I would just enjoy my whistle stop tour of the resort.

But where to go?

Hemsedal, NorwayWhich way?
















We headed to the highest restaurant and hotel in the resort, Skarsnutten, where there are some fabulous views across the resorts and surrounding area.

When it is not cloudy.

Hemsedal, NorwayHemsedal, Norway
















And on my last visit I had a disagreement with the management of the main day lodge  - the WiFi was not only very slow and only in a few rooms, but also they charged for it.

Suffice to say I got into a rather heated discussed with the head of the tourist office.

Anyone that has skied with me will know that I believe in free WiFi at ski resorts with religious zeal.

I am pleased to say that, one year on, Hemsedal now has it and even admitted that my earlier remonstrations had played some part in the decision to offer it to guests.

Hemsedal, Norway Hemsedal, Norway
















As I updated this article for PlanetSKI I wondered if I should start a campaign against illuminated moose's heads being displayed in public areas (yes that really is one behind me).

I decided to leave it for my next visit.

One victory at a time.

Now some lighting that is very welcome in Hemsedal are the floodlights on the ski slopes.

Hemsedal, NorwayHemsedal, Norway
















Hemsedal, Norway Skiing under lights
















They come on at lunchtime and by late afternoon at this time of year are vital - it gets dark early in Norway.

Hemsedal, Norway One more run
















Hemsedal, Norway Hemsedal, Norway
















Sadly only 30% of the slopes were open on my visit as the resort - see here for when I visted last year.

There was an earlier shortage of snow, but 50% of the resort opens this weekend and for Xmas week all the slopes and lifts will be available.

But back to my task of finding a Norwegian who prefers downhill skiing. I was not leaving until I had found one.

"Cross- country" came back the answer as I asked random people on the slopes and the lifts.

Even the lift attendant preferred cross-country.

And then I struck gold....

I was riding a chairlift with 33-year old Hanne Morud.

I asked her the question and she looked back at me with that same look of disdain and contempt.

"Downhill of course, it the only true skiing and is so much more exciting than the cross-country variety,"

I hugged her immediatley.

As we skied off the lift we headed off together - downhill.

She was good and we had a magical (downhill) ski together.

Hanne and Yours TrulyHanne and Yours Truly
















Trevor conceded defeat with good grace, but he was out-numbered.

Hemsedal, NorwayTrevor, Hanne and Yours truly
















It had been a long day of trying but it has been worthwhile.

Tomorrow is my final day in Norway, but at last I had found someone that prefers downhill and Hanne seemed pleased to have found a kindred spirit.

Hemsedal, NorwayHemsedal, Norway
















I don't want to leave Norway.

Day 4:

All good things must come to an end.

Wednesday was departure day and we need to leave around noon. 

Plenty of time for a few turns in Geilo and we headed off early to share a piste with the international alpine ski racers.

And we got up close to see them in action.

Geilo, NorwayGetting the edge
















Like Hemsedal, Geilo is a centre for the racers with teams from across Europe on the training slopes at the moment: Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Belgium, Andorra, Spain, Croatia, France, Italy and Great Britain.

"We offer good snow and the teams can get to the top of the race slope on one lift, rather than the long time it takes to get to the training slopes of the glaciers in the resorts in the Alps," said the head of the Geilo ski school, Hans Snilsberg.

As you will have gathered from my posts on Tuesday that you will find below, I am a bit of a fan alpine skiing, as opposed to the cross-country variety  Wink

Geilo, NorwayGeilo, Norway
















Geilo, NorwayInternational ski racers
















After a few runs on the race slope we decided to cross town to head to the slopes on the other side - where the sun was out.

Geilo, NorwayGeilo, Norway
















Geilo, NorwayWelcome to Norway
















It was windy but the views, as always in Norway, were spectacular.

Geilo, NorwayWindy weather
















Geilo, Norway#LoveNorway
















It made me wonder about why I love skiing so much.

But I needn't have bothered as my good friend and fellow ski writer, Roger Bray, summed it up rather well as we rode the lift in Geilo on his first ski trip of the season.

"I have forgotten over the long summer months just how much I simply love skiing. I forget all my problems and live entirely for the moment. It is a truly wonderful activity," he said.

For me there is nothing further to add.

With that Roger gently meandered off over an overnight dusting of fresh snow where he made his usual elegant and controlled turns.

He is a true gentleman of the slopes.

His child-like grin lit up his face, and my time in Geilo.

Geilo, NorwayRoger Bray
















This has been my fourth trip to Norway in as many years.

And two of them have been with Trevor de Villiers from Norway, Home of Skiing.

He is not a gentleman of the slopes..... in fact the polar opposite.

He is a dangerous and subversive influence on me who can (and does) charm his way into, and out of, anything.

When I spend time with Trevor danger lurks.

He is a great person to ski (and apres ski) with.

It is easy to see why he is such good company.

Geilo, NorwayTrevor de Villiers
















Many of my friends who love the big mountain skiing that the Alps has to offer can't quite understand why I love Norway so much.

These are the slopes of Geilo; not much to write home about.

Geilo, NorwayGeilo, Norway
















But I love it as an all-round winter experience in one of the most beautiful places on Earth with some of the most hospitable people I have ever come across.

And above all they have a wicked sense of humour with an understanding of irony and sarcasm - something not often found with the locals in the Alps.

Now I rarely write about hotels as I prefer to concentrate on the skiing but it impossible not to mention, and highly recommend, the wonderfully named Dr Holmes Hotel in Geilo.

I have stayed in it a few times and it is one of my favourite hotels with its history and quirkiness.

Dr HolmesDr Holmes












It is currently run by the wonderful, Gro Odden.

Gr OddenGro Odden















Next time I return I intend to write a single piece about this establishment, so for the moment you will just have to take my word for it.

I am writing these final paragraphs on the way to Oslo airport as Trevor drives and Roger talks.

I am scrunched up in the back of a very small hire car tapping away on my laptop.

These are my views - I defy anyone not to fall in love with Norway.

Geilo, NorwayHeading home
















Geilo, Norway#LoveNorway



















Crystal Ski Holidays (; 020 8939 0726) offers a week's half board at the four-star Dr Holmes Hotel in Geilo from £824 per person (based on two sharing) including flights from Gatwick and transfers departing on 28 February 2016.

Direct flights available from all major UK airports.

To see why James likes Norway so much see here for his PlanetSKi articles from last year.

While in the seaosn of 2013/14 he was on a road-trip with his eldest son, Alex.

And before that in 2012/13 it was a visit with his youngest son, Max, to Geilo, Hemsedal and Beitostolen.

See here for the main PlanetSKI news page with all the latest stories from the world of snowsports.

For the spirit of the mountains

See here for the main PlanetSKI news page with all the latest stories from the world of snowsports.

For the spirit of the mountains

See here for the main PlanetSKI news page with all the latest stories from the world of snowsports.

For the spirit of the mountains

Related Articles

OCTOBER SKIING SECRETS (Monday October 14, 2019)
IT'S TEMPLE TIME IN JAPAN (Monday October 14, 2019)

With thanks to our main sponsors...

Platinum partners

Bronze partners