On the road in Ibsen country, I feel the traditions and folklore forces of this wonderful landscape and how it inspires Norway’s greatest literary writers for centuries. Gazing at the enchanting mountains, I could imagine the trolls playing in the distant, hidden woodlands. My travels take me back in time on a cultural journey when the Danish Prince Karl was crowned Norway’s King Haakon VII. As a way of showing his Norwegian identity, the King took up Nordic skiing under the guidance of famous polar explorer, Fridtjof Nansen. King Haakon and Queen Maud came regularly to Fefor and stayed at the Fefor Hoifjellshotell before traveling to their own lodge. Visitors can experience the royal history and stay in one of the hotel’s guest suites occupied by the former King, Queen, or alternatively, another famous Norwegian. One of the most notable guests was Captain Robert Scott who stayed here in 1891 prior to his own polar expeditions.
Norwegian heritage and traditions remain strong to this day in Fefor. Most recently, Nordic exploration teams have used this terrain to prepare for Arctic expeditions to the North Pole. A top trainer who has brought Nordic teams to the North Pole is Martin Norman, who continues to come to Fefor to share his expertise with skiers. As an expert guide, Martin provides the fine points of cross-country skiing before leading me on the trails around Fefor Lake.
Even though this sport can provide an intense workout, I still enjoy the stillness of the frozen lake, the tranquility of the surrounding mountains, and the silence of the forests. Skiing on freshly-made, parallel tracks, I enjoy the crisp white snow glistening on the sunny trails as I ski on the outer rim of the lake. The quiet, ephemeral setting awakens my senses, while creating a relaxing state of pleasure and happiness. The remoteness provides contemplative moments to be part of nature and wholly embrace the wilds.
Apart from my own nature encounters, I notice other skiers with families enjoying their time together. I am amazed to see that some of these parents bring their little ones along in a sled Norwegian style. In particular, I noticed one proud father on Nordic skis and a tiny baby girl bundled in a ‘pulk’. As they passed by, they seemed to be enjoying the quiet moments in time in this captivating setting.
At another time, I spot a father with two children in brightly colored ski attire who seem to be having a wonderful time playing in a tree limb. Striking up a conversation, the father happily remarked that he hoped his children would have memories of this peaceful spot, then added -- he might like these moments to be remembered a long time later by his grandchildren. It strikes me that this brief encounter shows how cross-country is a part of the tradition and a way of life in Norway.
As for me, cross-country in the secluded woods feels almost like a moving meditation where I am far away from city life. I begin to feel the passion of a Nordic skier who revels in the beauty of nature in contrast to downhill diehards who find pleasure in just skiing the mountain above the lake.
Whether travelers come for adventure or just to relax, the Fefor Hoifjellshotell opens its doors to a variety of activities and sports, and even hosts special events, such as curling tournaments, Highland Games and Viking competitions. Yet, the hotel’s strong suit is preserving the cultural traditions of the locality. Furthermore, the inn’s excellent facilities are on par with those of any modern hotel and provide plenty of activities that keep visitors engaged.
After an exhilarating morning of cross-country skiing, it seems fitting to find a more leisurely pursuit for further exploration. For a different experience, ice fishing for Arctic char seems to be an ideal option. Experienced sportsman, Gier Arne, takes me snowshoeing on a winding trail down to the lake near an old aircraft hangar on the edge of the lake. The sun shimmering light is directly overhead as Gier shows me how to drill with an ice auger, one hole after the other. Not catching anything on flies does not perturb me, yet I feel enraptured by the stillness of nature in this Zen-like setting. One of the most appealing features is to hear the silence and savor the quiet moments of communing with nature.
This memorable experience will last a lifetime, combining invigorating cross-country skiing across beautiful surrounding landscape and afterwards, just relaxing in the indoors heated pool and sauna.
The delight of having afternoon tea in the company of other guests is something not to be missed. The delicious, hearty soup, a variety of homemade cakes and breads, and hot beverages instill warmth and comfort. Such simple pleasures go along way and in the glow of the fireplace as I relax and contemplate the day’s activities.
The day finished with a pre-dinner classical concert followed by an enticing smorgasbord. Once more, looking out into the forest, lake and mountains, I enjoy the rustic setting and feel part of this ‘pure Norway’ in this traditional mountain house in this secluded location.
Traveling from Fefor for three hours by train, I travel to Oslo to downhill ski at Winter Park Ski Resort at Tryvann in the outskirts of the city. At the City Center, I hop on the Metro with Nordic and alpine skiers, as well as an array of families carrying toboggans to sled at the resort, just 40 minutes away. Along the way, I pass the Holmenkollbakken ski jump, which is noted as Norway’s famous Olympic site. At the top of Holmenkollen’s peak, I join the camaraderie of fellow skiers who want to experience the fresh snow that fell the night before. After a fun day on the slopes, I am ready for a different experience the next day and opt to cross- country ski in the woodlands near a glacier lake. In this resort, the pleasures of skiing can extend into the evening until 10 p.m., which provides skiers with plenty of time to enjoy the slopes and trails.
One of the top features is the beautiful scenery that provides amazing views overlooking Oslo Fjord, due to the resort’s high elevation above the city skyline. In seeking accommodations within proximity to the ski resort, I choose the Swedish owned, Voksenåsen Culture and Conference Hotel, due to its convenient location that is within walking distance to the Metro and bus transportation to the slopes.
Upon entering this quiet retreat, this 4-star hotel offers a secluded woodlands settings. I feel right at home in this quiet and relaxing atmosphere. After a full day of skiing, I can access the sauna and fitness room where I can unwind and relax in privacy. For further convenience, fine dining is available in the Scandinavian restaurant and bar overlooking Oslo, which heightens the pleasure of dining on property.
Winter is an ideal time to come to the Oslo without the crowds. In this fjord setting, it is possible to enjoy the wonders of Nordic life, whether it is venturing on the waters or experiencing the beauty of the surrounding mountains. It is amazing to observe how many young Norwegians enjoy speeding through the cross-country tracks in the forests without another soul in sight or schussing down on the mountain slopes with fellow mates. For the beauty, the pleasure, and inspiration, my preference is to travel to Norway in winter and combine the experiences of the countryside and the capital in one spectacular visit.
For further information:
NSB Travel to Norway by Train - https://www.nsb.no/en/; Tel: (+47) 61 05 19 10
Voksenåsen Restaurant - http://www.voksenaasen.no/restaurant/