Norway is an appealing alternative for those seeking a change from the Alps, with fine dining, super spas, trendy hotels and a growing après ski scene. Briony Key reports
Fun, friendly, and not too full – that was more first impression of Hemsedal, and it was an impression that lasted.
Hemsedal, and nearby Geilo, are working hard to attract a growing number of international tourists to their slopes, and they both have kudos.
There were few lift queues, people greeted each other as they reached the lift stations, and you certainly heard plenty of laughter, on the slopes, bars and restaurants.
Combine the runs at Hemsedal, Geilo, and Beitostølen (which I’m yet to visit) and you’ll have a ski area of around 100kms. While this might not appeal to the ‘mile hungry’ among us, it certainly has plenty to offer those away with a group of friends with interests on and off the slopes.
You can ski up until 10pm at night, enjoy the cross-country mecca, or hit the adventure button and try ice-rally driving and climbing, or take a gentle – or exhausting – hike.
I opted for dog sledging in the dark on the Harahorn mountain, which felt like travelling at a trillion miles an hour on a sleigh, accompanied by the bars of a husky chorus.
Harahorn, is in the north of Hemsedal, and it’s total escapism for those of us who are usually walled up in the city.
Sitting a top the mountain, the traditionally fashioned houses and cottages ooze with quirky, quality features, from wooden fitments to fine bed linens and authentic drapes
You can do everything from get married (there’s a tiny chapel), to throwing a ball, or just getting away from it all. Our group opted for fine dining and it didn’t disappoint.
We could say we deserved it, as we had ski toured Hemsedal that day, ending up on the new 4.5km blue run, which links the ski area to the town.
It’s one of the resort’s longest runs, with some ‘must have’ shots of the Scandinavian Alps, and a great new way to leave the mountain.
So, what has Hemsedal got to offer? It’s great for mixed level groups, with
narrow, tricky black runs, wide; intermediates-friendly red runs; good nursery slopes and accessible off-piste that takes you deeper into the mountains.
Our slope-side accommodation at the Alpin Lodge also made it easy to ski, with the lift right outside the door, and ski hire, restaurants and a shop all part of the same complex.
Geilo is equally easy to get around, with the ski lift, ski hire and ski school right by the chalets and hotels.
The ski slopes are either side of the town centre, linked by ski bus, and the restaurants and shops are also all central.
We stayed at the trendy Vestlia Resort, a luxury, welcoming lodge-style hotel, with friendly staff and a spa that’s worth missing time on the mountains for.
But it wasn’t all mod cons, as we went out for dinner by alternative transport – a horse-drawn sleigh.
Norwegian TV chef, Froda Aga, uses traditional recipes and local produce to inspire his speciality game food menus, which are served in a restaurant furnished like three local cottages – so a cosy background of rose painting and fire places in which to enjoy your food.
There’s also a famous cellar under this restaurant, with 1,200 different wines and vintages!
Located half way between Bergan and Oslo, Geilo is also an attractive option for those who don’t want to spend all their time on skis. You can pick up the famous Bergan Railway at the local station and be in either major city within three and a half hours.
Norway’s fjords are also close by (best seen from the Flåm Railway).
The high altitude rail link also stops at other ski resorts, for those who simply can’t think beyond the white stuff.
Crystal Ski Holidays – www.crystalski.co.uk;
Offers a week’s half board at the four-star Hotel Vestilla Resort in Geilo
A week’s bed &breakfast at the Hotel Alpin Lodge in Hemsedal