And when you step onto a ski slope in Norway one thing you can be sure of – it’s nothing like the Alps. Norway not only looks different, it ‘feels’ different. Bathed in an ethereal light, Norway’s effortlessly panoramic landscapes have an epic, other-worldly quality you will never get in Méribel.
If you’ve spent many a winter skiing in the Alps, you’ll know there’s a certain similarity about most alpine resorts. From the architecture to shops and après-ski bars, alpine Europe has an almost international feel. And if your palate is just a tiny bit jaded, Norway can spark it back into life.
It not only has great vertical but also endless swathes of startlingly different horizontal. Exploring its unspoilt snowy fells and forests, by ski, snowshoe, snowmobile and husky sled, visitors can really experience nature... the land feels bigger, wider, the air feels fresher.
Back on piste, the slopes are less crowded and queues almost unheard of. Wherever you go, you seem to have more room to breathe. It’s like skiing backcountry without the need to go looking for it.
That may have something to do with the fact that winters in Norway last up to six months from November through to early May. Norwegians don’t all rush at once when the snow comes. There’s plenty of time to go skiing – and the abundant snowfall more than makes up for the lack of altitude.
With that length of season it’s easy to understand why skiing is a way of life for Norwegians. It is certainly one of the most cherished of all Norwegian traditions, for this is where modern skiing was born more than 150 years ago – where we get the words telemark and slalom, where the first ‘stem christie’ was turned.
The actual word ski itself is Norwegian, from skio, meaning ‘split piece of wood’. There’s even a town called Ski!
We shouldn’t be surprised to learn, then, that Norway has more than 200 alpine resorts. It’s a delight, too, to discover that the main ones are incredibly family-friendly, with excellent childcare facilities and friendly ski schools (top ten family activities in Norway feature here). And anyone tired of spag bol in identikit self-service mountain cafeterias will have their taste buds revived by the delicious, healthy Scandinavian cuisine. Off the hills, the accommodation is good and varied (we love the log cabins!) and on them, the skiing ranges from gentle nursery slopes, through fantastic open cruising blues and reds, to testing blacks and some of the most thrilling off-piste to be found pretty much anywhere.
All this, just two hours away from the UK. Fancy a change?
To read more about Norway visit our Norway section