Belfast Telegraph

TRAVEL GUIDE: Skiing in Norway

Winter in Norway lasts six months of the year. Relentless gritting and snow ploughing ensures Norwegians keep on the move. The oil rich nation of Vikings and trolls, glaciers and fjords, whale hunters and polar explorers is less than a two hour flight from Dublin. For that reason, it's ideal for a short ski break! There's an old Scandinavian saying that Norwegians are born with skis on their feet. OK, that’s not quite true, but as skiing is the national sport, their children do start learning from a very early age. So, what better place for a ‘Mini Me' (7 year-old Mainie) to hit the slopes for the very first time! I got my first real taste of Norwegian air when we stepped off the ski train in the Olympic village of Lillehammer. It was, quite literally, Baltic! Of course I was expecting Norway to be cold, but this was just like stepping into a deep freezer. In fact, the front page headlines of a local newspaper confirmed what my frozen face and iced over eyelashes already knew. At minus 25 degrees, Lillehammer was actually a bone chilling three degrees colder than my home freezer! Hafjell Alpine Centre is located just 30 minutes north of Lillehammer at the entrance of the Gudbrandsdalen valley. There are 15 lifts and The Olympic trail network is extensive with over 28 trails geared toward the beginner and intermediate. There's also a fun park for boarders and the resort boasts the most extensive flood light system in Norway. The floodlights illuminate seven km of runs prolonging the ski day that would otherwise finish at 3:30pm. All the ski school instructors speak perfect English. My ‘Mini Me' was as eager as myself to hit the slopes so off we trundled to ski school to meet her instructor. I watched from a distance but it was difficult to resist scrambling across the snow when she took her first tumble. After hiding for a few minutes, I high tailed it for a few runs of my own. When I returned at the end of the 90 minute lesson, I was quite simply flabbergasted. Not only was 'mini me' skiing, she was weaving her way, knees together, feet splayed – snow ploughing or “pizza legs” as it's called now – down a slope! By day two, ‘Mini-me' had mastered the drag lifts and to be honest I was feeling pretty pleased with myself too. For some reason this time round, something just clicked and before I knew it I was carving like a downhill skier and that was all that mattered! On the other hand, my seven-year-old looked well on her way to representing us at the Winter Olympics! Don't you just hate the way kids pick things up so easily? Asked if she'd enjoyed herself, she replied, “I had the best time ever and I was only a wee bit cold. When are we coming back?” With its great fjords, frozen lakes and mountains Norway is breathtakingly beautiful. It's also heartstoppingly expensive! Make no mistake; this is not the place to go for a cheap trip. If you're after a heavy night on the tiles – forget it. A pint of beer costs around seven quid. For me though, Norway is all about families. It's about watching my little girl find her ski legs and the realisation that just like her mum; she's becoming positively hooked on an exciting and energetic winter sport. For those reasons, I will always have fond memories of my snow filled, Scandinavian ski break. As for the fact that I actually survived minus 27, you could say, Norway will be forever frozen in my memory!

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