Norway: Downhill in Geilo

Approaching the chairlift

On our last day in Geilo it was time for me to do some alpine skiing. And I couldn’t have chosen a better day. After the snow of the previous day, the skies were a deep blue and the valley looked gorgeous in its new clothes, sparkling in the sunshine.

I hired my gear, jumped on that Geilo rarity, the ski bus, and took the most circuitous route to the lifts at Geilolia, crammed into it with half the population of the village. By the time we arrived, I’d pretty much forgotten why I’d boarded it in the first place. Still, on the way round I at least got to see more of Geilo and it’s peculiar mixture of ancient and modern buildings all jumbled together.

A dreaded T-bar took me to the top of the mountain and an easy green run, to help me recover the ski legs that hadn’t seen action for a couple of years. And a bit of a punishment the run was too – far too narrow to really get the turns in.

Mountain views
Mountain views

Still, I soon discovered the six-man chairlift that leads up to Kikuttoppen, which in turn feeds the blue 68. This proved to be a wonderful, simple motorway of a piste that allowed me to dust off those rusty turns and build my confidence. All morning I rode the lift, skied down the blue, eyes watering in the cold. It was great and the snow couldn’t have been better.

The pistes were reasonably busy but the queues at the lifts moved swiftly.

At lunchtime, Graham met me at the Toppen Kafe having made his way up on the chairlift. With his loathing of anything as risky as alpine skiing, he’d entertained himself during the morning and popped up for a spot of lunch and to take some photos of the enchanting landscapes.

A selfie
A selfie

The views up top were splendid but the mountains lacked the jagged peaks and drama of the Alps. In and around Geilo they’re more rounded, topped by immense plateaus that are vast sheets of snow in winter. I was surprised that even at the top there were plenty of homes and farms in a way you’d never see on the peaks of Austria or France. They looked terribly remote.

The lakes below us, meanwhile, were hidden by further large expanses of snow, ringed by cross-country tracks.

I went back to the skiing, perfecting my turns on the blue motorway, my dodgy knee beginning to suffer from the punishment. I was enjoying myself but missing the fun of skiing with friends and the confidence it brings.

The slopes
The slopes

In the evening we found life in Geilo, in a shock, horror moment. Perhaps we shouldn’t have been surprised as it was a Friday. We dined at the top-rated Hallingstuene restaurant, where the prices made our eyes water and our wallets sweat. The venison was superb, the service great.

The ski bar at the hotel was buzzing too. Is it the case that Norwegians can only afford to go out drinking and eating at weekends or were holidaymakers celebrating their last night in town? Either way, it allowed us to indulge one of our favourite holiday activities, people watching.

And that was it. The next morning we caught the 11.57 back to Bergen in dreary weather, the train packed. Once again the cloud, snow and low cloud conspired to prevent us seeing the best of the Norwegian landscape as we made our way through the icy wastelands, past mountains and fjords. It was pouring with rain as we arrived in the city, just as it had been when we’d left for the interior.

It had been a holiday of different experiences, some good, some less so. Bergen was great for a short break, the walks in its mountains and historic Bryggen being so memorable. Geilo and the Dr Holms Hotel hadn’t lived up to my expectations. My last day of skiing had, however, been a real highlight.

I do want to return to Norway, to see the fjords in summer, and that’s despite the prices…