Norwegian ski resorts leave you with impressions as bright as the Northern Lights, and unique, like langoustines from Fitjar

 

The Prime Minister of Norway is a woman. The Norwegian Minister of Finance is a woman. Until recently, the position of the Minister of Defence was occupied by a woman, too. The country of Vikings has apparently never heard that men rule the world. Here they have total equality of rights and an honest balance, just like on the menu of the restaurant Brygga 11 in Hemsedal, where we are having dinner today: there are langoustines from Fitjar, and there are mussels from Trøndelag. And a plaque on the wall to indicate the mood of the evening: “They dance in this kitchen”.

Here the 37-year-old Norwegian chef, Geir Skeie, wunderkind, celebrity, winner of the international Bocuse d’Or contest, is in charge. He has two other restaurants with the same name at different corners of the country, but Geir comes in Hemsedal every two weeks: He loves the slopes here. And it is not surprising. The second largest Norwegian ski resort is diverse, like the tapas menu of the local Spanish restaurant cuisine Champagneria Montana. In addition to 49 trails of all levels of complexity, there are three snow parks, an off-piste zone called Gummiskogen (“Rubber Forest”) and the almost upright off-piste run Reidarskaret.

Sophisticated cuisine and advanced Scandinavian design (Hotel Skarsnuten, where Brygga 11 is located, is an ideal place for hipster Instagram posts) in Hemsedal peacefully coexist with a Norwegian classic, cleverly adapted to the new realities. The rooftops of apartments are decorated by grass caps. The most popular place for après-ski is the Stavkroa club which resembles Norwegian Stave Churches with its silhouette. Every Friday up to a thousand people gather here, which is only ten times less than all the resort’s hotels, lodges, and apartments can accommodate.

However, the latter number keeps growing: in December 2017, Hemsedal Suites apartments opened up, with a 14-meter climbing wall, a sports bar, and a restaurant. There are family suites dedicated to Valle the snowman, the brand persona for the SkiStar resorts, of which Hemsedal is a part. Valle cannot speak, but he is a great dancer and entertainer on the children’s slopes for toddlers who are just mastering alpine skiing.

Another option is dog sled riding. Johan Müller, owner of Hemsedal Huskies, compares his pets to gasoline and diesel engines. “The females are faster, but the males have more thrust, and they are stronger”, he explains. We just got back from a 15-kilometer journey. The dogs pulled the sleigh with enthusiasm: A husky can easily run up to 100–150 kilometers a day, so it is only really possible to tire the dog out during peak season.

Even more resilient are the Norwegian Fjord horses that Svein Eriksen from Trysil uses to carry guests to his hut. Trysil is Norway’s largest ski resort, with 68 slopes, 25,000 places to sleep, and two large Radisson Blu hotel complexes on different sides of the mountain. Svein’s hut is warm and smoky from the bonfire. For dinner he serves venison with berry sauce. “An open flame is an element of coziness,” he explains. Coziness in Norwegian is “kos”. A person with whom you feel comfortable is “koselig”.

There are a lot of “comfortable” people in Trysil; one of them is Englishman Tim Boocock, who organizes nighttime stargazing walks. “That blurry blob out there is the Andromeda Nebula”, he rumbles, handing out binoculars to everyone. We look at the stars trying to identify the galaxy closest to the Milky Way. It is getting colder and colder, but it is not time to go home yet. Above the forest, a shimmering green strip of light appears. This is the Northern Lights, Aurora Borealis, and we need to get a picture with them.

Getting up in the morning is difficult, but instructor Andreas is determined to take us to ski in the zone of the black trails of Høgegga, because we are Russians, and one of the pistes, the 63rd one, looks a lot like the Olympic slope in Sochi. To warm up we go down the 15th trail, a part of which passes through the snow park, and on ski jumps we quickly gain back the confidence.

In the afternoon, a miracle occurs – the one, from which any skier or snowboarder’s heart skips a beat. Snow starts falling. It sweeps up the pink tractor by the Juls shop in Trysil’s central square. It manages to linger on the triangular roof of the Ski Pub bar, where live music is played in the evenings. It sticks over the windows of the ratrac which is going to take us to the Knettsetra restaurant for dinner. It manages to shower us generously, like a cook would cover cakes in powdered sugar, before we reach the entrance.

Champagne and meat fondue from beef and elk await us inside. Local residents have a long and serious relationship with the elk. Urban Norwegians, who have lost touch with nature, are accustomed to watching TV and going to bars in their free time. While rural Norwegians practically live in the forest for a week, when hunting season starts.
In early September, the Elgfestival, dedicated to elk, is held in Trysil: You do not really have to eat them (although there will be tons of offerings), you can join a safari and see how gracefully these large animals move.

The morning after the snowfall makes us forget that we spent half a night building Valle the snowman in a tunnel flood-lit with ice-blue light. At the top of the Trysilfjellet Mountain the light is very different, gentle and shimmering. The far peaks are shrouded in a haze like in the Scottish ballads. Skiers (no less graceful than elk) float away up into the clouds. The board does not travel through the snow – it flies, and riding down the 75th piste at a 45-degree angle is not terrifying at all. Andreas says the best local area for freeride is Skihytta. By the start of the season a new ski lift with heated seats was opened there.

We sit at a round table in the hotel lobby of the Radisson Blu Resort and drink aperitifs, waiting for an invitation to the Brasserie T restaurant. We look at the fire burning in the center of the stone table top and listen about the success stories of the Trysilians, who are sincerely trying to make everything better: for themselves, tourists and Trysil.

For instance, thirty local residents chipped in to restore the Trysil Hotel in the city center. Now there are not just hotel rooms – also a brewery, bakery and cafe were opened. This is not the only local enterprise with a hipster slant: There is also a couple who bake gluten-free bread and pizza. There is even a project to deliver food, made per local recipes and of local ingredients, to apartments. But the main pride and joy of Trysil is Sweet Protection, which produces helmets and protective gear for different sports. The founders sought inspiration, as any real Trysilian would, in the forest: they studied how the head of a woodpecker is arranged while developing their technology.

Details

  • The main gastronomic souvenirs from Norway are a strong-flavored spirit aquavit, elk sausage, and brown brunost cheese that tastes like salty condensed milk. Thrillseekers are also recommended to try such traditional dish as lutefisk – dried cod, treated with lye.
  • It is difficult to capture a high-quality photo of the Northern Lights. For this you will need a dark place, clear weather, a tripod and a camera with manual shooting modes. There are a lot of detailed tips on the Internet, and it is better to read them before your trip.
  • You don’t need to exchange money for Norwegian kroner before your trip or withdraw money from an ATM in the airport: Visa and MasterCard are accepted absolutely everywhere. By 2020, progressive Norway is planning to completely switch to plastic.
 

Теxt: Polina Surnina

Published on: August 24, 2018