The quiet Norwegian

There’s a quiet, almost unseen, revolution going on in the Norwegian mountains. However if you look close enough, in wintertime, you’ll see traces of it in the S-shaped tracks just visible on the snow covered flanks of great mountains.

There is evidence of skiing in Norway dating back 5,000 years. For at least most of recorded history, Norwegians have used skis as a means of transport over a landscape covered in snow for six months of the year. The endless mountain plateaus (“vidda” in Norwegian) lend themselves perfectly to cross-country skiing with light narrow skis and boots fastened only at the toe. With skiing being so much a part of life, not to mention the national identity, it’s no wonder that little Norway, a nation of only 5 million, out guns sporting giants like the USA , Russia and Germany when it comes to most golds ever at the winter Olympics. (118 vs USA in second on 96)

However there’s change in the cold dry winter air. Twenty years ago or so groups of intrepid Italians and Germans heard rumours of incredible off-piste skiing from remote mountain summits to the shores of inky black fjords in the “mythical” land at the top of Europe. They began exploring these peaks, staying on boats and possibly laying claim to many a “first descent”.  It seems perhaps fitting of the humble, understated Norwegian character that it was foreigners who first began to appreciate just how special these landscapes were.

Now all that is changing. From skiing on narrow skis over plateaus and in valley bottoms, more and more Norwegians are now seeking out the summits of the myriad of mountain ranges using the latest lightweight randonee equipment. Sales of randonee skis have increased c 40% the last few years, amounting to approx. 35,000 pairs sold each year, compare that with 41,000 in the US! Norwegians it seems have finally gotten the ski- touring bug.

Not such a quiet, unseen revolution you might say but when you consider that almost the entire length of this land, stretching 1,800km over 13 degrees of latitude is one unbroken mountain chain offering endless ski touring possibilities you’ll have to look pretty hard to find those tell-tale S-shaped tracks on that beautiful mountain flank.