When I announced to friends back in 2012 that I was going to be spending my Christmas skiing in Norway, their reactions could broadly classed into three camps:
- “You must be crazy – Christmas is too early for good snow!”
- “You must be crazy – there’s no daylight in Norway in December!”
- “You must be crazy – skiing in Norway costs a fortune!”
As my more observant readers might have noticed, there is a subtle theme running through these different reactions. And they were right – I was crazy – crazy like a fox! Skiing in Trysil, Norway turned out to be one of my favourite ski trips ever.
CHOOSING A SKI RESORT IN NORWAY
Skiing in Norway takes place at a large number of small resorts rather than massive joined-up ski areas that are so common in the Alps. These individual resorts are often tiny and therefore more suitable for people who happen to live in the area and want a day trip rather than people who are travelling from another country for a week’s skiing. For example, Folgefonn on the west coast has a sum total of one ski lift and three three pistes! Of course, of you live locally, it’s no problem going for a day’s skiing at a tiny resort, but if you want to book a week’s skiing, you need to make sure that you choose one of Norway’s larger resorts. Here are some to consider:
- Oslo Winter Park (also known as Tryvann) - 18 pistes, 11 lifts. A surprisingly large ski park only 20 minutes from Oslo city centre, also including a terrain park and a children’s area. Take Metro 1 to Voksenkollen and then the ski bus to Tryvann. Open until 10h00-22h00 Monday to Friday and 10h00-17h00 Saturday and Sunday.
- Norefjell - 23km and 26 pistes, 13 lifts. Only a 90-minute drive from Oslo, this is the high mountain area closest to the Norwegian capital. It also boasts Scandinavia’s highest drop. Every Saturday and Sunday during the winter season, you can get to Norefjell Ski Resort by direct bus from Oslo.
- Hemsedal - 48km, 51 pistes, 20 lifts. Hemsedal’s extensive ski area is one of only half a dozen in Scandinavia to offer a vertical of 800 metres or more (650m-1450m). From Oslo or Bergen, take the train to Gol, from where you can take a bus or taxi to Hemsedal; or drive from Oslo (220km – about 3 hours).
- Hafjell - 41km, 31 pistes, 18 ski lifts. Located about 10 miles from Lillehammer, Hafjell was the site for the giant slalom and slalom events during the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics. It’s about a 2.5 hour drive from Oslo. Alternatively, take a train from Oslo to Lillehammer and then taxi or the ski bus to Hafjell.
- Geilo - 38km, 39 pistes, 18 lifts. A sizeable resort about halfway between Oslo and Bergen, also featuring over 550km of marked and groomed cross-country ski tracks. Geilo is about 3.5 hours by train from Oslo; or 3 hours by train from Bergen.
- Trysil - 71km, 66 pistes, 31 lifts. Situated east of Lillehammer on about the same latitude, this is Norway’s largest ski resort overlooking Fuljufjallet nature reserve in neighbouring Sweden. Trysil is situated 210km from Oslo, about a 2-2.5 hour drive. The Trysilekspressen bus service runs regularly both from central Oslo as well as from Oslo’s Gardermoen Airport.
Looking at the relative sizes of the resorts, it won’t take you long to guess why we chose Trysil!
WHERE TO STAY IN TRYSIL
Trysil is a resort that makes the most of being the single mountain in the vicinity – every aspect of the mountain has been carefully developed and is easily accessed by an extensive lift system. In the Alps, this would merely be a 1100 foothill and barely at resort height, but here it is the highest point around for miles – when you get to the highest point and look out, you can see no other villages except the ones clustered around the base of the mountain. Trysil village itself is in the valley below the hill and is a little removed from the ski areas. It is a pleasant village with shops and restaurants within walking distance of its two hotels, but a 5-10 minute ride away from the slopes by ski bus, so not ideal if you want to squeeze as much skiing as you can into each day. So other than the Trysil village, your main choices on roughly opposite sides of the mountain are:
- Trysil Høyfjellssenter is the main gateway to the mountain on the north side, in an area called Fageråsen. It is a perfect area for families as there are many good slopes for beginners, as well as a large children’s area with activities for the children. However, bear in mind that in the middle of winter (December), very little sun reaches the slopes on the Høyfjellssenter side of the mountain
- Trysil Turistsenter is the main gate to the mountain from the south side. This area has the largest selection of eateries, restaurants and after skiing, all clustered around a pedestrianised street at the foot of the main lifts. Apart from the eponymous tourist centre, you will also find a good selection of restaurants and bars; a ski school and a ski rental shop here. a reception, shops, ski school and ski rental here. Everything is in walking distance no matter where you stay so no car is necessary once you get to the resort.
We chose the Turistsenter area for our stay and had a choice of self-catering apartments, chalets, and the resort’s flagship hotel – the Radisson Blu Resort Trysil. From the minute we walked through the front door, we knew we had made the right choice. The lobby is an airy, spacious atrium and you are immediately drawn to the welcoming bar in the one corner, complete with a firepit in the centre of a large table and sheepskins on chairs. Rooms range from Deluxe Doubles (28 sq m with spacious seating area and sofa bed; Anne Semonin bath products; drying cupboard, free wi-fi, bar fridge, flat screen TV and safe) to Deluxe apartments (46 sq m with facilities as above as well as a terrace, separate sleeping and living areas, a foldaway bed, and kitchenette with coffee making facilities) to Alpine Suites (125 sq m with facilities as above as well as two bedrooms, separate living area, dining table fro eight, spacious outdoor terrace and a kitchenette with espresso machine). We were very happy with our Deluxe Double with its calm blond wood finishes and view across the nursery slopes towards Trysil village. Having a small lounge area meant we actually enjoyed hanging out in our room and relaxing when we weren’t skiing, and all that I really missed was a kettle for making coffee and tea. The shower was powerful with plenty of hot water and the complimentary toiletries were good. We particularly liked the drying cupboard in the room which dried both boots and ski gear very efficiently overnight, and our snowy view over the nursery slopes. Once you step outside your room, the hotel has much else to offer. Guests can enjoy free access to the spacious wellness centre including an aromatic steam bath, a Turkish bath and 2 Finnish saunas. In the main area of the wellness centre, there is a generously-sized swimming pool with floor-to-ceiling windows, incorporating two alcoves fitted with powerful massage jets - absolute bliss after a day on the slopes. There is also a separate jacuzzi and Scandinavia’s only indoor surfing wave pool (available at extra cost) and glass climbing wall rising from one end of the swimming pool. Next to the pool area is a bowling alley with 8 modern lanes (bowling available at extra cost) which is great for kids. Guests also have a choice of eating and dining options at the Radisson Blu Trysil. A buffet breakfast and buffet or a la carte dinner are served every day in the main dining room. La Piazza bar & restaurant between the main restaurant and the lobby atrium offers genuine thin crust pizzas at lunch and dinner as well as hot and cold drinks all day. Adjacent to the bowling alley is the 1960s themed Chill Bowl & Dine, open nightly and serving salads, hamburgers and American diner classics. Located in the swimming pool area, the convenient Pool Bar offers a selection of cold drinks, ice cream and light snacks. The Sawmill is the hotel’s apres ski bar, all sheepskins and rough-hewn wood, with direct access to the ski slopes and a cosy atmosphere. And for sundowners there’s I:C Blu, a stylish contemporary bar with spectacular views on the hotel’s rooftop, serving fine Champagne and cocktails. For skiiers, the hotel is ideal. Apart from the drying cupboard in each room, there is also a ski room in the basement for storage of skis, and this has direct access to the snow. A short ski takes you down to a button lift on the nursery slopes, from the top of which you can access the main high-speed chair lift. If you would prefer to walk (or after the lifts shut for the night), there is also a covered travelator that takes you up to the level of the restaurants and ski rental shop. At the end of the day, you can ski back to the door of the ski room.
SKIING IN TRYSIL
The skiable area in Trysil is roughly divided into four ski areas:
- Trysil Turistsenter – entrance on the southern side of the mountain; long, wide slopes that are mainly red or blue; children’s ski area; a snow park; and a variety of restaurants and shops.
- Trysil Høyfjellssenter – entrance on the northern side of the mountain; a large children’s area with lots of organised children’s activities; shops and restaurants; ideal for families with small children.
- Høgegga – a number of cruisey, wide black slopes in a very pretty tree- lined area.
- Skihytta – the south-west facing slopes with the most hours of sunlight; slopes of many different levels and a small children’s ski area.
So as you can see, there is a good mix of slopes for all levels of skiing ability and it is easy to get around and over the mountain via an extensive lift system, although expert skiers will probably be bored after three days or so. The black runs, for example, correspond roughly to the level of difficulty of red runs in the French Alps – but none the less enjoyable for all that. There is also a good mix of slopes above and below the tree line – which is a good thing because the top of the mountain tends to get very windy and cold, but it is always possible to find milder tree-lined slopes lower down. I have to say that taken as a whole, the resort offers some of the prettiest skiing I have ever done with Christmas-card perfect pine trees dusted in snow at every turn. The snow when we went at Christmas was outstanding – although Christmas is usually too early in the season to expect much snow in the Alps, Trysil is so far north as to make the snow conditions super-reliable even in the early and late season. It snowed for at least three of the six days that we skiied, and the fresh powder was up to my knees on at least one day. The things that struck me most about the skiing in Trysil were: a) how empty the slopes were compared to the French Alps. The slopes did fill noticeable from 25 December onwards, but never as mad as France; b) how incredibly proficient almost everybody was at skiing. I saw very few snow-ploughs on piste, let alone novice skiiers careering out of control down a slope; c) how unbelievably cold it could get! On average, temperatures hovered around -15 Celsius or less; and on the day that the freezing fog descended, I thought I might never feel my nose again! d) how unbelievably windy it could get above the tree-line. The mountain may not be high, but as the tallest thing for miles, it catches a lot of wind. At the highest point, the cold and the wind make for a lunar landscape of icicles that extend horizontally off any antenna or ski lift machinery. Impressive. e) how many T-bars and button lifts there were - in fact pretty much everything that went up above the tree line. This is apparently a side-effect of the windiness – chair lifts and high winds are not friends. If you do not like T-bars and buttons, this is probably not the resort for you. f) how few snowboarders there were (refer to point e) above!) g) how astonished I was to find the ski instructors handing out free glögg and gingerbread cookies as you boarded the chair lift on 24 December. Yes really! Of course, skiing at Christmas does have its downsides – we were in Trysil for the shortest day of the year and it is even shorter here than it would be further south in the Alps. The first lifts only started at 09h00 – a good hour before the sun rose at 09h30 – and last lifts were at about 15h15. But fear not - there is evening skiing on both sides of the mountain on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays until 20h00 from 20 December to 15 April. at Trysil Turistsenter the open lifts are T7 Sindretrekket, T8 Knetta and the children’s lifts T4 Fryvil and Eventyr T6. At Trysil Høyfjellssenter the open lifts are F10 Smotten, F7 Stormyra, F13 Myrsnipa and F6 Hytteheisen. Unlike most resorts where the lifts close at their normal time and then reopen a few hours later for night skiing, in Trysil there is no break in the skiing. The piste lights are simply turned on at about 14h30 and you can ski right through until 20h00 if you wish.
EATING AND DRINKING IN TRYSIL
This was the only area in which people’s dire predictions turned out to be true: yes, eating and drinking in Trysil (and Norway as a whole) is not cheap. Although the food in Trysil’s restaurants is at the upper end of London’s mid-range restaurant prices, it is the alcohol prices that will come as a bit of a shock. A very average glass of wine and a single bottled beer can easily set you back £15-20, so if you are budget conscious, do what we did and buy a bottle of whisky at duty free, to be enjoyed with bottled water in your hotel room! That said, even with good intentions to try and keep eating costs down, you will still be eating out here and there. We found the hotel breakfast to be well worth the price and you could really fill up on wonderful items like the plentiful smoked salmon as well as the usual breakfast buffet fare and eggs cooked to order. We only had one dinner in the main hotel dining room which was an impressive Norwegian-style Christmas buffet on the evening of 24 December featuring plentiful seafood (a huge bowl of crab legs!), salads, multiple kinds of meat, cheeses and dessert. Other than that, we often ate at the Piazza restaurant where the pizzas were excellent and cost about £10 each. Venturing outside the hotel in Trustensenter, there were a couple of other bars and restaurants close by such as the cosy Ski Pub’n in Torghuset which is the perfect place for an apres ski glögg in a sociable atmosphere. Beware though – this bar (and everything else!) shuts early on 24 December. One evening we had dinner at Peppes Pizza, a national chain serving pizza and pasta where I had a completely untraditional but very tasty beef & bearnaise pizza (£16). Other than the hotel restaurants and barring a bus trip to Trysil village, there are not really many other dinner options available. Lunch offers more variety with the Big Horn Steakhouse, the Kringla bakery and the Laaven and Sindra restaurants only opening until mid-afternoon. Our favourite was Sindra, close to the Fjellekspressen chairlift, where we had lunch on a few occasions - an informal cafeteria-style mountain hut serving good burgers, pasta, pizza, salads, and soups. Unlike France and Switzerland, there are not many mountainside restaurants or bars and most of the eating places are clustered around the base of the various chair lifts. The short YouTube video below will give you an idea of that the pedestriansed main drag at Turistensenter looks like. If you really want to save money, self-catering accommodation is definitely an option and there is a small supermarket across the parking lot from the Radisson Blu. We also bought beer and snacks here to enjoy in our hotel room after a day’s skiing.
IS IT EXPENSIVE TO SKI IN TRYSIL?
Other than the food and drink, I would definitely say NO! Consider the following:
- The room that we stayed in, including breakfast, is available for roughly £133 per room per night over Christmas 2014. That works out at £465 per person for a week, including use of the wellness centre – no more than you would pay in the Alps.
- A 1 week ski pass in Trysil for the 2013/2014 season costs around £183 (compared to £222 for a 1 week Portes du Soleil ski pass in the Alps)
- A 6-8 day intermediate ski & boot hire (including a free helmet) for the 2013/2014 season costs £97 in Trysil (compared with about £91 for the equivalent rental in the French Alps)
I would say that the non-food and drink costs are on a par with the Alps and probably cheaper than some resorts in Switzerland. Of course, you have to factor in the travel time to get from London to Oslo plus a bus transfer of 2 to 2.5 hours – but for beginner to intermediate skiiers looking for plenty of snow and uncrowded slopes in a picture-book pretty setting, I would definitely recommend Trysil.
Norwegian offer daily flights from London Gatwick to Oslo from about £150 return, and are one of the first airlines to offer free in-flight wi-fi. The Trysil Express Bus operates a fast route between central Oslo, Oslo’s Airport Gardermoen and Trysil. There are several departures a day throughout the year. In the winter advance booking will be necessary as places on the buses tend to sell out. A return ticket costs about £70 per person for a 2.5 hour trip, and buses are comfortable and modern… with wi-fi!
The Radisson Blu Resort Trysil Hotellvegen 1 NO-2420 Trysil Norway