Why Norway and Why Cross-Country Skiing?
As I go through my 50s, 60s, and beyond, I like to try one new experience in the world every year, and this year I decided to try cross-country skiing in Norway.
I’d never been to Norway before (so it’d be a new country to tick off the list) and it’s a country that I knew would be stunning scenically and that is possible for cross-country skiing.
I am afraid of skiing downhill and do not like cold weather – BUT I like to challenge myself so the cold Northern part of Norway and skiing cross-country rather than downhill was the decision! 🙂
A Little About Norway
Norway is renowned for its stunning natural beauty, so it’s no surprise that the country has become one of the top destinations for cross-country skiing holidays.
With vast, unspoiled landscapes, Norway provides an ideal setting to explore on skis.
Norway provides a wide range of trails for all abilities and levels. From beginners to experienced cross-country skiers.
Furthermore, its capital Oslo is worth exploring including to see the Munch Museum and the Kon-Tiki museum (more on my time in Oslo at the end of this post).
Where We Stayed
One of the main hotels in Norway that offer both accommodation and cross-country skiing lessons as a package, is the Venabu Mountain Hotel.
Located in the town of Venabu, it’s a 3-hour drive north from the capital Oslo.
Set in the mountains, this cozy hotel is family run and they really seemed to care about each person’s stay and they were excellent in terms of customer service.
Beginner Cross-Country Ski Lessons Days 1 – 7
I have only ever done one day on a ski slope and that was in the Italian Alps at a downhill skiing resort about 30 years ago. And truth be told, I didn’t like it all and have not been on a ski slope since.
I have always though liked the idea of trying skiing on the flat and so I headed out for the first day of cross-country ski school with a mix of excitement and trepidation.
Day 1 – we started by getting fitted with the cross-country skis and learned how to clip them in. Then we headed outdoors to where we had to gently walk on the skis in a large circle (without any poles).
After 20 minutes or so getting used to moving without relying on the poles, we then had the chance to practice going around in a large circle with the skis and poles.
Then, after a sip of coffee, we practiced on a 100-meter or so stretch of snow, getting used to gliding on the skis.
Then, those who were good enough at this point went for a short cross-country ski. I stayed and practiced the basics more.
Days 2 and 3 – After doing some stretching and warm-up exercises outside, you either stay in the standard beginners’ group or go into a slightly more advanced group (for those who are picking it up faster).
You then go out on some trails in your group and you also learn some basics such as the snowplough (the way to stop if you need to).
Day 4 – It was a day off of cross-country skiing and time to try snowshoeing (it’s an optional add-on and well worth trying once).
You are given a pair of very large ski shoes, and this helps to distribute your weight as you then walk through thick snow. So, with snowshoes, you can take routes directly through the tall snow.
If you are less fit than others then you simply go further behind in the queue so that you can benefit from the already padded down snow trail that the others in front of you create.
Days 5, 6, and 7 – Back to the cross-country skiing and the chance to go out as a group with your instructor on some scenic trails and to do around 15 km cross country.
There are various routes that can be taken in loops and, according to how the group is doing, the instructors adapt the route accordingly.
Other Activities and Things to Do Staying in Venabu
The tutored cross-country ski lessons take place in the mornings, i.e. from roughly 09:30 through to around 12:30 or 13:00 each day.
In the afternoon, you can go cross-country skiing by yourself or with others (i.e., with your new friends).
Likewise, you also have the chance to enjoy:
- the sauna in the hotel
- try dog-sledding (add-on fee)
- table tennis
- relaxing by the warm fire in the spacious hotel lobby and relaxation area
- tv room
It is very easy and relaxing to spend a week here and I had a fantastic experience.
We had the choice of staying in Oslo, the capital, for a few days either before or after the skiing so we chose first to visit Oslo for 3 days before the skiing.
Where We Stayed in Oslo
We chose to stay in the Thon Hotel Oslo given that we wanted something that was:
- Very central, i.e. close to the central station
- reasonably priced
- including breakfast
If you are looking for something similar, then you can >> book the Thon Hotel here.
Whilst the rooms are quite small and cramped (as you’ll see in the reviews), I feel that this, given the price (much cheaper than many other Oslo city center hotels) and given the excellent breakfast buffet they offer, is a good option.
If you want a big room, then other options include the:
Oslo Attractions I Recommend
If you are staying for three days in the capital Oslo, I recommend certainly trying to visit the following attractions:
1. National Museum
There are actually 4 copies of ‘The Scream’ because Munch liked to do several versions of each painting. I saw three of the paintings and my favorite was in the National Museum.
Apart from Munch’s work, there are a number of other notable works in the museum worth seeing.
More info on the National Museum here
2. Munch Museum
You can see a lot of other work that Munch did by visiting the Munch Museum, which is situated very close to the Opera House (within easy walking distance of the central train station).
3. Kon-Tiki Museum
My favorite museum/attraction that I visited whilst in Oslo was actually the Kon-Tiki Museum.
I did not know about the Kon-Tiki voyage and so it was a pleasant surprise to learn about the trip and I loved this attraction.
In the summertime, you can get the ferry across the water to this attraction, or in wintertime, you can get there by bus. It takes approx 25 minutes from the city center by bus.
4. Opera House Tour
The Opera House in the center is a stunning building and I highly recommended the Opera House Tour.
Very interesting and a great chance to see behind the scenes.
Loved this tour!
More on the Opera House tours here.
Trying Norwegian Food
I found that there is a lot of emphasis in Norway on using locally produced foods that are seasonal.
Fish is an important part of the country’s diet, which is why the cuisine features dishes such as cod, herring, salmon, and trout.
However, Norwegian cuisine also includes a variety of other dishes, such as game and lamb.
Other popular Norwegian foods include:
- flatbreads (made from potatoes)
- and other starchy foods such as potatoes, rutabaga, and turnips.
In terms of beverages, Norwegian cuisine is heavily associated with coffee and akevitt, a traditional Norwegian liquor made from potatoes and flavored with caraway or dill.
Norway, like many countries, is also influenced by its neighbors hence you can also see dishes such as:
- lutefisk (a Norwegian version of Swedish surströmming)
- and Norwegian versions of various other dishes, such as Swedish meatballs.
These questions and answers might make your trip planning a lot easier.
1. Will I be fit enough in my 50s, 60s, or 70s for Cross-Country Skiing?
I was worried about, as someone in my 50s, if I would be fit enough to try cross-country skiing.
I do yoga quite a lot and I go on the running machine once a week in the local gym and I dance, so perhaps I have a decent base level of fitness.
What I found overall though was that, as long as you are in reasonable shape and with no obvious issues (such as with your knees or back), then you should be fine.
There were people in their 70s in our group and several in their 60s.
You can take it at your own pace. There were a couple of different levels in our group, so the instructors split us according to our skiing and fitness level.
2. What clothing will I need to have or buy?
If doing cross-country skiing in the wintertime, it is definitely a good idea to take thermals and very cold weather gear.
It is a lot about wearing layers in cross-country skiing so lots of thin layers can be best.
I recommend including packing:
- Thermal tops and bottoms and socks
- Neck scarf
- Windproof breathable jacket
- Gloves that are suitable for temperatures of up to minus 20 Celsius
3. What if I am a complete beginner at cross-country skiing?
I was a complete beginner and the staff at Venabu Mountain Hotel was brilliant at the tuition and accommodating all levels.
4. What kinds of people go to these ski schools?
The age range during the week we were there, for our group, was from 22 through to 78.
There were other groups there too though and the age range is really varied.
If you want to try cross-country skiing then this is the place!
5. Can I rent the skis and snowshoes?
Yes, you can rent all ski equipment and snow shoes from the hotel.
Sports Travel Booking Resources
Traveling around the world to watch & experience sports, I tend to always use the same resources for booking trips. These are the ones I use most frequently and that I find to have great customer support and competitive prices.
- Sports Event Tickets – Tickets for all sporting events
- Get Your Guide – is an excellent site as a one-stop shop for booking attractions, local tours, activities, and excursions. Great customer service and an easy-to-use site.
- Booking.com – The best site I have found for hotel and accommodation bookings.
- Flights – are also now offered by booking.com and as I love the brand this is my first port of call now for flights.
- Safety Wing Travel Insurance – I love Saftey Wing as they cover everything I need to be covered and they have a simple-to-use site, and again, I have found their customer service very good, when I needed to ask questions.
- Hostelworld – Book backpacker hostel rooms around the world with Hostel World.