'Hyttefolk': Why Norwegians are so passionate about cabin retreats
There are few things Norwegians are as passionate about as their cabins. In recent years this passion has only intensified further with record sales in 2020. How many cabins are there, where are they, and why do Norwegians love them so much?
Originally cabins, or hytter, were a place to host travellers who crossed the mountains on foot or to house fishermen along the coast. They were also living quarters for farmers who lived and worked on mountain farms.
These mountain farms became popular tourist destinations in the mid 1800s and thus marked the beginning of Norwegian cabin culture, also known as hyttekultur.
The first recreational cabins started to appear in Norway after the First World War with a lot of these cabins being hand built by their original owners.
There are over 440,000 cabins and holiday homes in Norway today. An average cabin in the mountain’s costs 2.1 million kroner according to Statistics Norway, while the average price of a modern newly built cabin is 4.1 million kroner.
A total of 15,800 cabins were sold on the open market in Norway in 2020, over 30 percent more than the year before.
Trysil and Hol were the municipalities with the most cabins sold last year, home to two of Norways most popular ski resorts.
The most expensive mountain cabins are found in Hemsedal and Øyer where the average price is 4.4 million and 4.5 million kroner respectively.
Cabins by the sea are also incredibly popular in Norway, and also more expensive than those found in the mountains. A cabin in Færder, for example, costs on average 8.7 million kroner. That is a considerably more than the average price of a property in Oslo, which is around 5.9 million kroner.
Many in Norway dream of one day owning their own cabin and for many it’s a dream that isn't realised until later life.
Those under 30 only accounted for three percent of new cabin owners. Additionally, those in their 30’s only made-up 18 percent, while the majority, 61 percent, were people between 40-60 years old.
Where are the cabins?
Cabins are normally found in rural areas, in the mountains or by the coast. On this map you can see how many cabins there are in each municipality in Norway.
Why do Norwegians love their cabins so much?
Kristin Lein and her husband have owned a cabin in the mountain village of Hemsedal, southern Norway, for five years now. After living in Oslo for many years they decided they wanted a cabin so they could feel closer to nature.
Lein says that one of the main benefits of owning a cabin is the freedom to go on a hyttetur, cabin trip, whenever she likes.
“We can travel to the cabin spontaneously without fuss or lots of planning as we have everything we need there already,” she explains.
She also explains why cabins are such an important part of Norwegian culture
“The cabin has had a cultural value to Norwegians for generations now. It is for many where bonds are created and family values such as empathy, caring and loving one another are learned. You find that you have more time for things, for each other and you enjoy and appreciate the days much more than at home,” she says.
Why are they so important?
It’s not just the people staying in these cabins that appreciate their importance. Many cabin municipalities, areas where there are a large number of cabins, rely on hyttefolk or cabin people, for the local economy to thrive.
Richard Taraldsen, managing director of the tourist board in Hemsedal, one of Norway’s most popular ski resorts and cabin destinations, says that 'cabin people' make up around 45 percent of all commercial revenue in the municipality.
“It’s a huge impact on the local economy. Cabin owners contribute 900 million kroner and those renting cabins contribute 950 million kroner in Hemsedal,” Taraldsen told The Local.
The tourist board executive doesn’t expect demand for cabins to slow down either.
“The last five years there has been an explosion in demand for cabins. That’s because there has been a good economy and demand has of course increased because of Covid of course. In Hemsedal alone there have been over 1,000 cabins built in the last five years,” he says.
With cabin people generating so much money for local economies, competition to attract cabin owners is tough.
“It so important for Hemsedal to take its fair share of the market because to move people away from the mountains where they already have cabins is so difficult because you have traditions and you have always brought your friends and family there, so you are quite settled. With the population growing and the economy doing well then, we need to fight for a fair share,” he says.
"The whole point of a cabin is to gather family and friends together and to get up into the mountains to escape everyday life. This has always been very important to Norwegians and that's something that's going to continue into the future," Taraldsen adds.