Norway 1996 The Sequel

They say that "you can't go home again" and that the sequel is never as good as the original movie. So I was a little afraid that my second annual ski trip to Norway would not be as nice as the first. But it was excellent.

I revisited some areas I was in last year (Oslo, Mjösa, etc) but visited a few new places.

The most interesting was Röros. It's a 4 hour train ride from Hamar up Österdalen but worth the trip. One advantage is that the town is only about 150 m below the tree line so one has a short easy climb to get to the "snau fjell" (barren fells) The disadvantage is that it is only 150 m below the tree line so that in windy or snowy weather there are only a few trails that are sheltered. On sunny, windless days the mountains are beautiful skiing. Most mountains in Norway seem to be easier skiing than the wooded trails (like in Oslo Nordmark). One day I made an easy round trip to the DNT hytte Marenvollen. Maybe next time I will take an overnight trip there. There are supposed to be reindeer herds in the area but I didn't see any.

The town itself is a 300 year old copper mining town with many old wooden buildings. The best way to tour around the town and do shopping is to rent (it's actually free - who says everything in Norway is expensive!) a "spark" sled from the tourist bureau. Most of the locals get around on these very practical sleds. More about sparks later.

Unlike last year Lake Mjösa froze completely over. I even skied the 30 km from Gjövik to Hamar on the lake, it took all day but it was a sunny windless day - T-shirt skiing!

I had to miss Birkebeiner Pröven (Mar 17) this year in order to watch the Holmenkollen races. I did ski out from Lillehammer past Sjusjöen on to the vidda on a sunny day. What a difference from last year when I couldn't see a thing. Another day I got to the top of Nevelfjell, the highest hill near Lillehammer (nearly 1000 m above Mjösa). The visibibity was only about 5 km , on a really clear day it's probably 100

I spent some more time in Oslos Nordmarka. In some places it's an exercise in ski-orienteering with trail junctions every 500 m. It's especially challenging to try to read the signs when speeding downhill past the junctions! There are also many unmarked trails and shortcuts that the locals know about. I made 2 longer crossing of Nordmarka via the trains from Harestua and Stryken. On a Sunday hundreds of people got off the train in Stryken.

In the Grefsenkollen/ Lillomarka area of Oslo, (a short walk from Haraldsheim youth hostel) there were elk (moose) tracks and droppings right near the start of the trail!

I still didn't get to Hardanger Vidda. Maybe next time- in the Rjukan or Finse area.

SPARK SLEDS

"Spark(e)", noun/verb is "kick" in Norwegian/Swedish. In Finnish it is "Potkukelkka", literally a kick-sled.

A Spark sled is a simple but very practical "vehicle". It has 2 long (aprox 2m) steel runners with foot-rests, a wooden seat in front, and wooden "handlebars". It is propelled by kicking (hence the name) with one foot. People use them for shopping, going to school, etc., on the snow packed side streets in small towns and country roads in the snowy parts of Scandinavia. Also on lakes for icefishing and skating with children. They are sort of the utility bicycle of winter. Look outside a grocery store and you will see several sparks parked.

Even on flat ground they can go quite fast. I was skiing along a snow-packed road near Gjövik when "a little old lady" went zipping past me, then made a U-turn and came zipping back.

The best town I saw for sparking was Röros, where just about everybody uses them. You can rent them free (with a deposit) from the tourist bureau, do a sight-seeing tour of this very quaint town, and do your shopping. Trouble is the streets of this and many other Norwegian towns are very steep. I kept reaching for the brake levers on the handlebars but there aren't any. You drag you feet.

So has anyone seen these for sale in North America? I vaguely remember an ad in Toronto Globe and Mail a few years ago. A Norwegian lady suggested that I should start making and selling them in Canada and make a fortune! Trouble is the attitude towards snow in most places is "seek and destroy" The favorite means of executing snowflakes around here is burial under tons of salt!

However I have been in a few places, mostly in Alberta, where I have thought "wouldn't it be great to have a spark here"

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When will I'll see you again , Norway?

  Kanskje vil der gå både vinter og vår
  Og neste sommer med, og det hele år
  Men engang vil du komme, det ved jeg visst
   (Solveigs Song, Ibsen/Grieg)

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