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EXPLAINED: Norway’s alpine ski culture

Frazer Norwell
Frazer Norwell - [email protected] • 19 Jan, 2023 Updated Thu 19 Jan 2023 14:11 CEST
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Here's what you need to know about ski culture in Norway. Pictured is a skier in Norway. Photo by Vidar Nordli-Mathisen on Unsplash

Many say Norwegians are born with skis on their feet. But what should you know about downhill ski culture and etiquette before you strap on your boots and take to the slopes?

Skiing has been around in Norway for centuries now, with experts dating skis back thousands of years.

Norwegians themselves take great pride in their ability when strapped to two planks of wood and pushed down a hill. They will frequently bring up the saying that they were born with skis on their feet.

While this claim may sound like hyperbole, you’ll soon start buying into it when you see a toddler bomb past you on a red or black slope without a care in the world, while your own run feels like a frantic fight for survival.

But there’s a lot more to skiing than knowing where the slopes are, the gear you need and how much it’ll cost.

Sometimes the most valuable information is knowing the culture and social etiquette of the slopes, so you know what to expect from your fellow skiers before you arrive.

Skiing is a rich man’s game in Norway

Between the cost of equipment, ski pass and accommodation- skiing in Norway can be incredibly expensive.

While some smaller and local resorts will be much more reasonably priced, the best resorts can easily charge between 600-700 kroner for a day pass. Rental can also run back those without gear around 300-500 kroner, depending on what you need.

There are some ways to cut down these costs. If you go to your local BUA and register, many will stock ski gear that you can rent for free.

If you want to ski but want to try something cheaper- then cross-country is much more affordable to get into.

READ MORE: What you should know about Norway's cross-country skiing culture

Norwegians are very good at skiing, but perhaps not as good as they think

Many Norwegians will begin skiing from a young age, meaning the winter sport feels incredibly natural to them.

This means many Norwegians, especially those who grew up with the sport, are incredibly proficient at downhill skiing.

The majority also know their limits and will ski within them and behave safely on the slopes.

However, some can be overconfident which can lead to some taking on more than they can chew, in the form of going too fast, taking on slopes that push their skills to the limit and skiing with reckless abandon in the hope that they are “too good” to be involved in an accident.

If you are an experienced skier or with other skiers- these skiers can usually be picked out to be avoided.

If you are a beginner, then they may not pose too much of a hazard as the slopes you’ll be on may not be enough of a challenge for them.

If there are accidents, Danish tourists will get the blame

This is slightly tongue in cheek, but any talk of accidents may lead to locals shifting the blame on hapless Danish tourists.

Danish tourists make up for what they (may) lack in skill, generally, make up for in safe and considerate skiing.

There isn’t any evidence to suggest that Danes cause more accidents than other skiers. Instead, it may be an example of a friendly rivalry between Danes and Norwegians.

After all, taking visitors from a country as flat as Denmark and plopping them on a mountain may be similar to taking a fish out of water and teaching it to run.
Expect crowds

Despite being a nation of 5 million, slopes in Norway can feel incredibly busy. The worst time for crowds is Christmas, the winter holidays and most weekends in spring. Crowds will peak during Easter when the sun is expected to be out, and people can enjoy the long weekend.

If you are a beginner or haven’t skied in a while, seeing so many people may be a daunting prospect, seeing each head in the queue as a potential obstacle once at the top of the mountain.

If you want to avoid crowds, then the best time to ski would be mid-week, mainly for locals skiing.

One downside to skiing midweek is that you miss out in other areas, the after-ski will be much quieter (if it is even on), and many ski town restaurants may close their doors during the week.

The after-ski experience

Norway does have a decent after-ski scene. The best time for after-ski is the spring when some venues will have live music or DJ sets on the slopes.

Some parts of the country are more known for their after-ski than others. While Hemsedal has tried to position itself as a more family-friendly resort, it is still known for having the hottest after-ski in Norway.

You can expect what many believe to be the best after-ski in Norway to come at a premium. With tickets on the door at venues coming in at eye-watering prices.

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Frazer Norwell 2023/01/19 14:11

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