VINTER EVENTYR 1999 - Part 2: Gjøvik

Notes: I use the word "spark" for the Norwegian/Swedish "sparkstötting" which is usually translated as "kick-sled"
For a description of spark see: Spark

"Kommune" is a municipal subdivision of a "Fylk" or county. Corresponds to a "township" in eastern US and Canada.


 Sunday 7-Mar-1999

  I took the 0915 train from Grefsen station to Gjøvik.  It was snowing
most of the trip. This is the "express" train, which doesn't stop at all
of the small stations. However, several skiers got off at Harestua and
Grua.  This train does stop at Eina and Raufoss where there is also easy
access to ski trails.
   
  Gjøvik is still may favorite place to ski in. It is one of the 3
"Mjøsbyene" - the other 2 sister cities are Lillehammer and Hamar.
Gjøvik is perhaps less famous than its sisters. If you are a fisher, you
have probably used Mustad fish-hooks : the world's largest fish-hook
factory is here. The Madshus ski factory is also in Gjøvik Kommune, at
Biri about 20 km north of the city. Gjøvik Kommune (township) has a
population of about 25000, 15000 live in the "city" area. Neighboring
Toten Kommune has about 20000, most live in Raufoss.

   Gjøvik has a smaller version of Oslomarka, maybe it is a little less
rugged. Most of the lower areas are dairy farms- the landscape looks a
lot like Vermont. Gjøvik has its own Skiforeningen with ties to Oslo's.
I think their trail signs are the best; at each major trail junction
there is a trail map (about 200 in all). Skiforeningen sells 4 trail
maps (løypekart) of Gjøvik/Toten area. In addition I bought a "Tur-kart"
(1:50000 topo) of Gjøvik area. It was printed in 1981 and may be out of
print now. But the national map service (Statens Kartverk) is now
publishing new maps in the Tur-kart series so there may be a current map
out soon.    

   One thing about the trail system in Gjøvik is that is not a resort
at all. Only locals (or visiting relatives, friends etc) ski here. So this
is the "real" Norway, not a "made for tourists" ski resort. It's probably
quite typical of towns its size;  Hamar has excellent trails too, although
the good ones are further from the town (a whole 10 km !)

   The train arrived in Gjøvik about 1100. On Sunday morning there is
very little open. I have read that some railway stations rent bicycles
in the summer, so I was hoping, maybe, they also rent sparks
(kick-sleds) in winter. That would have been convenient for carrying my
large  pack, day-pack and ski bags. No such luck here. The tourist
bureau across the street does rent bikes in summer, but they are closed
on Sunday.

   A word about  cash for Canadian (and US) visitors: I stopped at 2
"mini-banks" (ATM) downtown. The first one didn't  accept my cards. The
second one did. Most mini-banks will accept both VISA and bank cards at
some time of the day. I guess the networks to the Canadian banking
system aren't always open. But this is  very convenient, one doesn't
have to carry cash. It might be a good idea for you to bring  some cash
for the first day in Norway, until you find a mini-bank. There are
mini-banks at Gardermoen airport and they did work for me on the first
try.

  So I started walking up the rather steep streets to Hovdetun
Hostel (Vandrerhjem). It was lucky I brought my "ice-walkers" (studded
soles that strap on to my boots) The sidewalks are very icy. But another
way of looking at it is the sidewalks are "groomed" for sparks. I resisted
the temptation to "borrow" any of the many sparks parked along the street.

   If I had my ski boots on I could have skied part of the way. Just before
I got to the hostel, I was passed by two girls skiing on the sidewalk.
They asked me something in Norwegian and then in English:
  "Where does the trail start?"
  "Well I haven't been here in 3 years, but it used to start by the
Tennis Hall, on the left -- I'll be coming up there in a little
while too! -- GOD TUR"

   Hovdetun Vandrerhjem is a nice place. Unfortunately it is usually
full on Friday and Saturday nights with school music and sports teams.
But everybody has checked out now so I get a 4 bunk room all to myself.
I asked the desk lady about renting a spark. She didn't know anywhere
but would ask the manager later.

    Across the street is a huge hall with indoor tennis courts. On the
other side is a park (FASTLAND) with a small (90 m ) slalom and
snow-board hill. In the summer there is a big swimming pool and outdoor
tennis courts. About 1 km away is the "mountain hall" - a large sports
center dug under a mountain including skating rinks and swimming pools.
Some of the semi-final hockey games during the 1994 Olympics were played
here. 

   I quickly packed a lunch and put on my skis and skied across the
street to the Tennis Hall. Right where I expected there was an old
groomed track covered by about 10 cm of new snow. I didn't see any fresh
tracks, I guess those girls followed the road up to the horse stables.
It was easy breaking trail for about 30 seconds, then the snow-cat came by
and I had a perfectly groomed, double tracked trail.

  Actually not very many people ski the first 2 km to Eiktunet. There is
a 100 m climb in the first km. At Eiktunet there is a large parking lot,
where most people start from. There is a city bus running up there every
30 min., so it is possible to skip this climb. The snow is usually drier
at Eiktunet (elev. 300 m).

  But today it is a fairly easy climb. The trail runs along a residential
area. Quite a nice trail to have in your backyard. Oh, did I mention
that this trail is lighted up at night (lys løype) for the first 10 km?

  At The Eiktunet parking lot I branched off to the Gjøvil Ski Stadium
where the local children's ski races are being held, in conjunction with
the Holmenkollen Children's day in Oslo. There are several hundred
children (barn), aged 3 to 10, proudly skiing around the tracks with
their medals around their necks. 

  Now the main trail is a fairly easy climb, with a few steep
sections. I has been 3 years since I have skied here, but I feel like I
have come "home", every bend in the trail seems familiar. Since this
is Sunday, there are many people out, sometimes 3 generations of 
a family together, many pulling pulks. The trail is usually 3 lanes
(passing lane in middle), but in open fields it is often groomed as
a 4 lane "divided highway".

  Then I come to the very nice Gjøvik Skistua, owned by the Gjøvik
Orienteering Club. It is a more rural version of Kikutstua in Nordmarka.
Too bad it is only open on weekends and school holidays. The two girls I
met earlier had found the way, and were just finishing lunch. I buy the
traditional solbaer drink and vaffel to supplement my lunch, and a few
postcards. They also sell Skiforeningen trail maps and ski wax. Mounted
over the fireplace are some very ancient but elegantly carved skis.

   There was a TV on in the far corner and many people were watching it.
Hey, it's a ski race- the 15 km classic WC from Finland. This is the
only way to watch a ski race on TV: taking a break from a ski tour,
sipping on hot solbaer! I only waited around to watch Erling Jevne
finish at 39:07. He was well ahead so I thought he was a sure winner. It
turned out that Bjørn Daehlie actually won in 38:48, which is unusual in
a classic race.

   Back on the trail it was snowing, sometimes quite thickly. It was
fairly wet and my skis sometimes clogged. I have 10 cm graduations
marked on my ski poles so I measured the snow depth in several places.
It was around 120 cm deep. There are a lot of open fields around Vardal
Kirk, with great views on clear days , but today it is low visibility,
and windy so I quickly move along. I turn off to come back on the "Haug
Rund" through Rødgardsmyra, an open bog. (myr == moor, mire, bog)

   Skistua has closed when I get back, but I have a second lunch in the
sheltered porch. Wet snow is coming down, quite thickly. But the track
has been glazed, and it's mostly downhill so I double pole most of the
way back to Eiktunet. It is interesting to watch the lights come on.
Each light seems to be controlled by a photo-cell, so the lights in the
dark woods come on first, later the lights in the open come on. During
weekday evenings, this is where the local "night-life" is, the trails
are really alive with skiers.

   Past Eiktunet it is raining lightly. The lower part of the trail has
also has some horse traffic on it (or maybe it was elk?). It is a little
wild coming down the big hill to the tennis hall. So there's a really
good snow base here, and fresh snow coming down. If it would only clear
up and cool off, things would be perfect!

   I didn't see any TV shots of Vasaloppet, which was today, about 200
km to the east. Later there was a big spread in the local paper (Oppland
daily). A local skier did quite well, he said that conditions were
slippery and his arms did a lot of work. "Smirre" had entered the race
for the first time. It also mentioned that 30000 people had taken part
in Vasalopp week events and that they expect that the quota for the 2000
Vasa will be full by April  1999!

 Todays ski distance 25 km
 
 Mon 8-Mar
  
    Wet snow fell during the night. I spent the morning downtown
shopping. The streets were rather slushy, but  a few people were using
their sparks. I noticed th price on new sparks was about 600-700 Kr
(about $120-150 Can), I paid 250 and 300 for my 2 sparks so some things
are cheaper in Norway!

  I looked in a few ski shops and found out that most Madshus skis
(including the Voss, which looks good) are actually made in the Czech
republic! Only the high end Madshus are made at the Biri factory. I
found some new topo maps for skiers and hikers (the Tur Kart series).
There are now maps for Birkebeiner Løype and  Hedmarks Vidda (area to the
south of Birkebeiner) 

   Browsing through a bookstore I was lucky to find a copy of a recent
edition of Roald Amundsen's "Sydpolen", on sale (88 Kr  down from 248
Kr).I kept looking  for "Den Evige Sne" (the eternal snow) a ski history
of Norway by Tor Bomann-Larsen. No bookstore  in Norway seemed to have
it. I browsed through a copy of it in the library and it looked like I
should be able to read it, with a help from a dictionary. 

   So it was after 1230 before I got my skis on and headed back up to
hill. I put on a thick layer of violet extra since the snow was wet and
slippery. I was breaking trail in about 5 cm of new snow and there was
light snow falling and fog. Of course once I got above 300 m, the snow
was drier and I had to scrape most of my climbing wax off. I ate my
lunch outside in the woods near Eiktunet.

   Just past Eiktunet there were lots of fresh elk (elg) (Alces alces,
called moose in Canada) footprints and other "things" on the trail. They
had been eating on the bushes along the trail. Another common animal
here is the goat-sized roe deer (rådyr) (Capreolus capreolus).

   At Skistua (elev 460m) I was in dense fog. I stopped for a snack and
to plan a route from here. There are not too many people on the trail
today, but the main trail has be recently trackset.  I decided to turn
north a trail towards  Gubberud, which drops down over 100 m. I was
breaking trail in about 10 cm of new snow.  I turned around at the road
crossing at the bottom. The climb back up wasn't very hard since I still
had on very good climbing wax. My glide on the flats was very poor.

   Back on the main trail there were more people but I still didn't have
much glide on the gentle downhill to Eiktunet. Lots of people glided
past me on the downhills. 

   	I only did about 18 km this afternoon. I was quite wet when
I got back.

   Tues 9-Mar

  In the morning it was about -5 C, and the sky was clearing. It looks
like a great day coming! I could see across Mjøsa (lake); it is only
about 3 km wide here. In the middle there were open patches and to the
south it was all open water. In 1996 I skied all the way to Hamar, but I
can't do that this year.

   The conditions going up the big hill were crust with a little
powder, but it was very easy climbing with my violet extra. After about 1
km I got to excellent dry snow. Just before Eiktunet, the snow-cat
groomer passed and there was then an excellent track.

   I noticed the fresh grooming turned off towards the Gjøvik
Skistadion, so I followed them. There were tents, campfires etc. set up
in the fields, and they were putting up flags at the finish line
(Mål). It was a school ski day. These outdoor activities seem to be an
important part of school. Just about every weekday I would meet school
groups skiing, learning "snow lore", orienteering etc. This group seemed
to be about age 10.

    Back on the main trail it is is excellent +++ conditions -
"silk conditions" is a common metafor they use here. To bad I don't have
any glide. I stopped at Skistua (closed today) for a snack and to scrape
off the violet wax, hoping to get down to the blue was underneath. It
helped a little.

   There were excellent views across the open fields at Vardal Kirk as
the sun came out. To the east one sees Mjøsa and across the dale to the
south the hills of Vardalåsen rise to about 600 m.   I turned off at
Haug to Rødgardsmyra (elev. 500m), and down to Glaestad (460m). Now
there is a huge steep hill up across farm fields. They call it
Solbakken, because it is a sunny hill. There is a little kaffee at the
top, but it is only open on weekends. The trail then goes into the woods
and climbs more to a junction. The  trail to the right
(Håkenstad 4.8 km) is new to me, so I take it.

   The trail climbs to 600 m , then comes out of the woods for a
spectacular view across Snertingdalen, a deep valley to the north. The
opposite  slope or "li" is dotted with farms, but the hills beyond rise
to about 800 m. There is a separate map for trails on the north side
(Biri- Stertingdal) which extends almost to Lillehammer. Some other time
I hope to  explore that region. 
  
   The trail descends nearly 100 m through open areas then starts
climbing again through the woods. Then there is a fast long downhill
back to the road crossing at Gubberud (380 m) where I was yesterday. I
stopped for a second lunch in a sunny spot. There is a 100 m climb in
the next 2 km, back to the main trail but conditions are excellent and
my grip is good.  There are a lot more people on the main trail past
Skistua. Again I double pole on the gradual downhill, but still have
poor glide, people pass me, but I catch up on the few uphill sections.

   It 's so good up here I'm was reluctant to head back immediately so I
did another loop to the ski stadium. The tents were still there, but the
children had left. There hadn't re-groomed the last  1 km of trail and it
was a bit crusty, and a bit torn up. At one point I 'm looking down at
the top of the slalom hill and lift, and the trail ends at at the bottom
of the slalom hill, so that gives an idea of the height of this last
downhill.  Snowplowing is required, especially when approaching a few road
crossings.  The big field down to the Tennis Hall is almost firm enough
for "telemarking".

   I wanted to get back in time for a "spark" tour before the stores and
library closed. The hostel manager had brought his old spark in for me. 
The only sparking I have done in Canada has been on lakes ie. flat. The
road downtown is very steep. My first reflex going downhill is to reach
for the break levels on the handlebars- but there aren't any! The best
breaking method is to dig your heels in. This is where wearing "ice
walkers" comes in handy. Some of the downtown streets are slushy, and
others are bare. One has to carry the spark over bear patches. I did my
shopping and visited the library.

   The climb uphill was quite easy. Except of the very steepest hills I
could kick uphill, much faster than walking. Back near the hostel
conditions are  better, so I do a little tour up the road to the horse
stables. This is the best way to get around small Norwegian towns
(Gjøvik is getting a bit big for good sparking). In many neighborhoods,
nearly everybody one sees is riding a spark.

 Distance 31 km

Wed 10-Mar
   It was clear and cool this morning, looks like a great day ahead! I
decided to visit the trails on the south side of the town- there on the
Gjøvik S/Toten N map. The best way to get there is to take a city
bus (#053- Østbyhøgda) to Vind Idrettsplass (sports field). I walked
downtown to the main bus terminal, and missed the bus by 5 minutes and
had to wait 30 min for the next bus. Reading the bus schedule, I found
out that I should have got on the #057 one block from the hostel and
transfered to #053 downtown- if fact I think it actually the same bus.

  Anyways I got off at Vind Idrettsplass (elev 350m). This area is a
moderately rolling plateau with average elevation 400 m. The snow is
usually much drier and colder than downtown, today conditions are just
excellent - Swix blue works great. The area is a mixture of open farm
fields (mostly dairy farms) and woods, with a few open bogs (myra) and
small lakes (tjern). But the most remarkable thing is that almost the
entire trail system is lighted (lys-løype) at night. From the map I
calculate 43 km of continuous lysløype, with arms reaching out to the
towns of Raufoss, Reinsvoll, Bøverbru, Lena, and Kapp. The openness  of
the area means this would be great night skiing, especially with a full
moon.
 
   But today I have to deal with bright sunshine, no wind, temperature 
about -5C, and dry powder snow. At the sports field there is a ski
stadium, and a separate network of competition  trails, both classic and
skating. In some places the trail will be about 8 lanes wide as the
touring trail runs along the competition trail. I meet the usual school
groups and occasion week-day skiers. There is a small kaffee at Utsikt
but it is only open on weekends. The maps shows  some "severing": a
restaurant or kaffee at Sillongen. I was there in 1995,  so I decide to
head for it.

   At the first turn off for Raufoss there is a view down to that town,
about 150 m down at the bottom of the dale. One can see the big
"hoppbakke" ski-jump on the other side of town. Raufoss ski-jump
is one of the best in Norway. 

  This perfectly groomed trail is almost too easy for I decide to take
an alternate trail across Malterudmyra. This is narrow and twisty in
places and leads to Eriksrudtjern (small lake or tarn). There is a
quarry (limestone?) across the lake and the trail climbs along a cliff
at the edge of the quarry- there's no guardrail!. But then the trail
comes into an open field and down to Sillongen lake on the main trail

   Now I remember! This is not a little kaffee! It is a big elegant and
tasteful Toten Hotel, out in the middle of the woods beside this small
lake. There is a group having lunch in the elegant dining hall, complete
with candles on the tables etc. But they also cater to passing skiers. I
had a vaffel, solbaer toddy and cup of coffee in the bar room. There was
a map on the wall about activities in Toten and it showed another bunch
of trails in Toten Åsen, the high hills (800 m), about 10 km to the
south. As usual when one reaches the edge of the trail map, one finds a
whole new set of trails beyond.

   Then I head across the lake and back on the main trail to the south
exit for Raufoss. This branch (still lysløype) descends about 50 m in 3
km, mostly through open fields of dairy farms. Then   suddenly around a
corner I'm in a residential area of Raufoss. Ski tracks continue on the
street, it might be possible to ski all the way downtown -about 1 km. I
could go downtown and catch a bus or train back to Gjøvik - but it's
too early in the day to quit. If I had got an earlier start, I could
have walked across to the west side of Raufoss and picked up the trails
on that side, and circled back to Gjøvik. I decided to head back the way
I came.

   I had a second lunch at the junction. It was an easy trip back to
Vind. I met a few people of the trail. I guess there will be quite a
crowd out in the evening on these trails. Crossing the field at Vind, I
saw the bus go by; it's 30 min to the next bus so I continue on the
trail towards downtown. This section drops about 100 m in 2 km, and is
in a residential area so the trail is a bit bumpy. It ends at Holmbo. I
walked down the street a way to the #053 bus stop. Then I found out I
could also have caught a #054 on the other side of the street.

   I got off the bus downtown, rather than take a transfer back to
Hovdetun, because I wanted to visit the bookstore again. It was already
closed, so I guess I'll have to come here tomorrow morning.

   When I got back to the hostel, I borrowed the spark again, and
took a little trip around the back streets in the area, stopping
at the small grocery store (RIMI)

   About 32 km of skiing.

 Thurs 11-Mar

   It was another sunny morning but I wasn't organized and wasted a lot of time.
First I rode the spark downtown to the bookstore, and ending browsing for much too long.
Then after I got back I decided I would take the buss to Raufoss, so I walked downtown again.
There is a bus to Raufoss very hour, it takes about 15 min. There are also 
several trains a day.

   It was 1230 before I got to Raufoss (elev 300m). I walked up a side
street to the west, I could see the big ski jump ahead. I ended up at
the Raufoss ski stadium, although this wasn't the real start of the
touring trails. This is a first class competition area- I think many
national level races are held here, at least in Nordic combined. The
posted map showed how to get to the touring trail. When I got to that I backtracked
back to the start. There is a parking lot next to the soccer stadium, a few blocks closer to downtown.

   There were a fair number of skiers out for a week-day. I stopped and
a sunny spot for lunch. The weather and snow conditions are perfect
today. The trail climbs for about 4 km to 500 m, then descends again to 
Skumsjøen lake (430m). I stop at the Osbakken guesthouse and restaurant
for coffee and wienerbrød. There are a few other skiers eating here too.
One of the trail signs indicates that this is on the Oslo-Gjøvik trail
(130 km). In 1996 I skied as far as Eina (40 km). I have heard that
people skied all the way in one day!

  Today I follow one of the several ski tracks across the lake. The one
in the north-west direction is the direction I want to go. Some of the
tracks just seem to be going to peoples cottages along the shore. The
track I follow quickly leads to a wide trail that looks like it was just
groomed minutes ago. This is the Vardalåsen area. It is a more
"backcountry" area , woods and open moors up to 700 m elevation

   There is a plowed road into a parking area at Veset. The groomed
trail continues north to Torvmyra, then west towards Stangstua. But I
turn off on the untracked snow to the east towards Bybrua. It had been
groomed several days ago so there's only about 10 cm  of fresh snow on
it. It's easy breaking trail and I like the muffled sound of my skis
going through powder. When I stop the only sound I can hear is my heart
beating. Some of the area goes into open myr, almost like some of the
vidda one sees around Sjusjøen. 

   Then I get a view across Vardal, the bottom is about 200 m below. On
the north side I can see Vardal Kirk and the farms I was skiing past 2
days ago, to where I'm heading now. There are some fast downhills, but
there are very controlled in the nice powder snow. 
I come out of the woods at Rv (highway) 33. I see a bus stop with the
sign Foss, but just then bus #055 goes by and there won't be another for
an hour. But it's too early to head back yet anyways (1630).
The highway has 2 m high banks along it and heavy traffic, so there's no
chance of skiing along it. 

  I was looking for the Bybrua Samfunnhus (community hall). It was right
across the road but I didn't see it because the snowbanks were so high!
There is a parking lot and a trail leading up to the local lys-løype
loop. Just about every rural school, community hall, sports field, etc.
in Norway has a 1 or 2 km lysløype. The topo map I have was printed in
1981, so I'm hoping it is still accurate. I find the path leading to a
field, then to a back road heading north. There is enough snow on the
road to ski. No traffic and it appears that most of the traffic on it
has been sparks.
   
   Ahead of me there is a very steep cliff but there is a road to the
east before that. I'm now sure I'm on the right road to Grande Skole. I
ski along the back road for about 2 km, gradually rising , passing
several farms. At Grande Skole (school), I found the start of a
double-trackset trail, Skiing along the road has rubbed off my wax, so I
stopped for a snack and to put on a little more blue Swix. It is a easy
climb through open fields to Skistua. I look back across the dale to
Vardalåsen. Shadows are getting long, but of course there's no problem
with skiing after dark, since it's all on a lysløype now. The local
nightlife is coming out- There are lots of people on the trail back to
Eiktunet. The last hill down is very fast, but the snow on the big field
is now firm enough, so I take some long, slow traverses back down to the
tennis hall. I really don't want this day's trip to end. I wish I had
started earlier in the day.

  I would like to stay in Gjøvik longer. The skiing possibilities are
almost endless. The hostel will be full with a school music group on
Friday and Saturday, and I should sample some other places in Norway,
So I've decided to go to Hamar, then Lillehammer-Sjusjøen and maybe up
north to Tynset.

   Todays distance- only 26 km

Newly groomed trail through Vardal
Trail through Vardal
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David Dermott , Wolfville Ridge, Nova Scotia, Canada
email: dermott@ns.sympatico.ca
WWW pages: http://www3.ns.sympatico.ca/dermott/