Skiing in Norway may be more untamed than you’re used to. Rather than all-inclusive resorts with perfectly manicured slopes, intrepid Norwegians venture into the wilderness to find elusive (and much-coveted) off-piste terrain. That may mean wearing skis with sharp edges for hiking up mountains or cross-country journeys - and it definitely means you should invest in some reliable outerwear for hardcore conditions and temperatures. As with any wild adventure, safety should always be your top priority, generally making it crucial to invest in a seasoned guide. Read on to learn where the locals ski, and how to get in on the action.
A catch-all destination for winter adventures, Oppdal has a lot going for it. It’s set between gorgeous mountain regions – Dovrefjell and Trollheimen – and more than half of it is designated as a protected area or national park region. Four mountains connected by a ski pass, plus plenty of untouched nature, means you can choose from among downhill, cross-country, and off-piste skiing.
The area’s ski school offers comprehensive packages and counsels both first-timers and out-of-practice skiers on how to master the powdery slopes. What’s more, if you need a break, there’s plenty to do here, from curling, snowshoeing and ice-climbing to dog-sledding and horse-drawn sleighs. Children’s areas and a number of private huts make this a perfect place to go with family. For a more romantic vacation, check out Skifer, a stylish hotel with an upscale restaurant and spa services.
If you’re big on adventure and at peak performance fitness-wise, you’ll want to check out this predominantly off-piste ski area. Sogndal sits on an inlet of the Sognefjord, guaranteeing an excellent backdrop in any season. The small student town really comes alive with ski enthusiasts in winter, and most are looking to forge their own paths through pristine powder.
Take advantage of the 1,200-meter-long ski lift to get you to the top of four downhill tracks, or get in on the local spirit by hiking up to one of a number of charming towns and lavish resorts before skiing back down to the main road. You can connect to Blåfjell – the Blue Mountain – and Grånipa - the Grey Mountain – in a hike of a little over an hour, and be rewarded by sparklingly clean slopes just begging you to shove off and ski down.
If you dream of challenging backcountry skiing, with some untouched trails of at least a kilometer long, the Sunndalsøra area is the place to be. Although this is an area best left to expert skiers, there are guided trips at all levels with a special focus on safety. Sunndalsfjella is the star of the show here– a mountain with spectacular views and pristine downhill terrain. You’ll need to be especially fit and fast to keep up, since your days will include quite a bit of uphill hiking with your group.
Best of all, the area even has snow in spring, which means you can combine skiing with other hikes that are best done when temperatures get above freezing. Only one kilometer away are a number of breathtaking waterfalls, including Vinnufossen, said to be the highest cascade in Norway. A series of nearby rivers like Driva, Surna, and Tingvoll, some with active rapids, offer excellent trout and salmon fishing - and the entire area is part of the Dovre-Sunndalsfjella National Park, known for its native musk oxen and wolverines.
A rarity in the world: year-round skiing! This mountainous area near Tromsø offers snow even in summer, so you can ski 24 hours a day under the midnight sun or hit the slopes with only the greens, blues, and reds of the Northern Lights to guide you.
You can even pair your powder time with a sailing trip on the majestic Lyngenfjord, to better appreciate the towering mountain landscape from afar. As you can imagine, this is one of Norway’s most popular ski areas, which certainly means a lot of competition for the slopes, but also guarantees many more options: whatever your level, whether you’re looking for downhill or cross-country skiing, you’ll be able to find it here. For special accommodations, check out the picture-perfect Lyngen Lodge, with its roaring fireplace, local cuisine, and boutique touches.
The first national park in Norway, this vast highland area centers on the tall peak of Rondeslottet and is scattered with farm villages like Høvringen, and mountain lodges like the famed Rondvassbu, the largest of many run by the Norwegian Trekking Association (DNT). This is the place for extensive cross-country skiing, and many tour outfitters will allow you to go unencumbered from one village to the next by transporting your luggage for you.
The most well-known route is the so-called "Troll Trail," which takes you through Lillehammer, site of the 1994 Winter Olympics, as well as high mountain passes, allowing you the chance to ski through some pretty spectacular untouched nature. There are plenty of modest accommodations available, but for a touch of history, book rooms at the Folldal Mines, a turn-of-the-century mining community, now modernized for intrepid travelers.
Formed by glaciers over millennia, the name of this area actually translates as “home of the trolls,” and with a history stretching back to the Stone Age, it can be easy to see how such a place would come to be steeped in mystery and legend. Trollheimen covers several valleys, but the most popular is Storlidalen, beloved for its accessibility, stable snow conditions, and variety of terrains appropriate for all levels.
Trails can be accessed by car directly from the road, and with many Norwegian Trekking Association cabins available for visitors, this area is perfect for an easy-going, even last-minute ski vacation. If you’re looking for a bit more luxury, however, check out Bortistu Gjestegard, with its quaint wood-paneled rooms, fine-dining restaurant, and farm shop selling local delicacies like pasture-raised lamb.