Norway: Cross-country skiing in Geilo

Blue skies later in the day

We’d been in Norway for several days so it was about time we had a go at their favourite winter sport. Geilo is criss-crossed with cross-country skiing tracks and it’s the only form of skiing that Graham will entertain.

With the weather forecast looking up, even promising sunshine, we hired our gear and went out towards the frozen lakes that split the village in two and that offer some of the easier langlaufing in the area.

I didn’t find it too difficult getting back into the swing of the sport after a two-year break, helped perhaps by many hours on the cross-country machine in the gym. But it still struck me as an odd way of getting about – a case of huge effort to achieve little forward motion, at least for those of us who aren’t experts.

The start of our trip
The start of our trip

Graham in particular was making hard work of it, walking with skis rather than gliding, but he gradually got into his rhythm. True to his risk averse form, however, he found the downhill sections stressful.

The track was long and sometimes punishing, taking us way beyond the village boundaries and into the woods skirting the banks of the lake. Occasionally we crossed gentle streams gurgling away amid the snow.

It was busy out there, from lone but fit pensioners to families and dog walkers – the dogs sporting colourful booties against the bitter cold, dragging their owners along behind them. It was definitely the faster way round. I envied the experts who made it look so effortless while we grunted around in various states of exhaustion.

The route, carved in the snow
The route, carved in the snow

Light snow fell early on but then the clouds parted and the sun came out, and Geilo looked a whole lot better. In fact, it looked beautiful with blue skies beyond the mountains.

On the way back towards the village, some steep downhill sections helped us to complete the inbound leg a lot faster than we’d managed the outbound journey.

Sweating profusely, we stopped at the Geilolia Skicentre, had lunch and drank beer in the cafe. The busy downhill slopes looked magnificent in the sunshine.

G in his gear
G in his gear

We skied back through the beautiful landscape of the lake and parked ourselves in the hotel bar, where a band played, we drank vodka surreptitiously (the cheaper duty free from the plane) and pondered the apparent rudeness of the Norwegians.

We’d noticed it on the cross-country tracks but in many other places in Bergen and Geilo too. It’s not overt, but subtle and takes the form of them refusing to give way to you, to stand aside, to hold doors open. It’s as if they think they’re superior to everyone else and have a right to be first. Are they aware of it?

We ate exceptionally well at Ekte, another restaurant with all too few people in it. The wild boar we both chose was delicious and generous. The streets, bitterly cold, were as dead as ever.

And I wondered where people went in Geilo of an evening for the fabled apres ski of the mountains.