When I think about winter sports, I think about skiing and snowboarding. However, when I think skiing it’s actually alpine/slalom skiing. If a Norwegian talks about skiing, it’s cross country skiing.
During winter, when there is enough snow, there are many, many cross country skiing trails to be found around Oslo. As this sport is very popular, many of these trails are signed and even groomed! This makes it very convenient and so I set out to go on my first ever cross country skiing trip in Lommedalen. But first, why is it so popular? And is it hard to do?
The Norwegian history on cross country skiing
When you ask anyone in Norway why skiing is popular, the Norwegians will tell you they are born with skis on their feet. It makes sense. With snow all over the place for months during the winter, it’s an easy way for transportation. This also explains it’s popularity. In the past, it was purely a way to get from A to B the easiest and most convenient way.
Nowadays it transformed into to a fun and social sport. From recreational to fitness purpose, many Norwegians spend their spare time on skis. And it shows. During the winter Olympics Norway is a country that dominates in any sport that relates to cross country skiing. From marathons to biathlons, the Norwegians are always high in the ranks.
What you need for cross country skiing
You don’t need too much for cross country skiing. As long as you keep moving, even clothing stays rather limited as you quite quickly find yourself sweating when going a little uphill. Some good thermal clothing at it’s base is required. Other than that you want clothing that is not too wide and fluffy, but not too tight either as you require the freedom to move. Be sure to bring some additional dry clothing in a backpack for when you are done or take a brake, you cool down quickly when you are not moving.
The skis itself are rather different from your slalom/alpine skis. The are much thinner and allow your heel to come off the ski itself. The boots are also far less rigid compared to alpine boots. This is to allow you the freedom to move. Don’t forget to bring ski poles! Cross country skiing requires a lot of balance. You will definitely need them to get started. You will find some Norwegians going about without them, but these are most likely very experienced and actually training their balance to improve their technique.
My experience in Lommedalen
As usual, I felt completely out of my comfort zone in my cycling gear between all the experienced Norwegians. It must have looked foolish, and the Norwegians have a name for that. “A Dane on skis” is what they call somebody like me. Goofy but miraculously moving. And that’s exactly what I did!
It took some initial practice but then I was going places. It sure didn’t look elegant, but it was for sure a nice workout. Lommedalen is a very peaceful place which feels as if you are far away from the big city. Everything is white, the track wonderfully groomed and the sun peaking trough once in a while.
I was lucky to be surrounded by two real Norwegians that were able to assist me getting the grips of this fun sport. It’s highly recommended you bring yours if you set out on your first trip.
How to get started?
You don’t need to much experience to get started. In the beginning it might feel a little uncomfortable and it seems like you are not moving anywhere. The trick is, when setting of with one feet, to almost make a forward jump on one feet while not letting the skies leave to snow. In this way you get maximum grip to push yourself forward.
Start out slowly, technique is more important than speed. When going downhill, if there is a groomed track, just stay in it while bending a little trough your knees. You can slow down a little by placing one of the skies a little sideways in the snow.
While you can use your poles to push you forward, it’s not meant for that purpose. With a good technique, all you need them for is balancing. You will probably use them a lot to start with, but quite soon you’ll find out this is extremely heavy on the arms! If you use them, try slowing down and focus on technique!
Finding a groomed trail
Finding a groomed trail is very easy in the surroundings of Oslo. As it’s such a popular sport, there’s the Norwegian Ski Association that maintains a website with the current status of many of the tracks. Have a look on this map and plan your trip!