OverviewIn a country not generally blessed with huge mountains, Hemsedal ski resort is the nearest you'll get to a familiar Alpine area, with an impressive 800m of vertical descent. Best suited to families and intermediates, it does also offer extensive off-piste terrain. Accommodation is mostly divided between the village and the lift base where much of it is ski-in, ski-out.
Quiet during the week, it livens up considerably at the weekends when the very outdoorsy Norwegians come out to play. Scenically, it's stunning - from the top lift the huge panoramic views take in rugged peaks, endless snow-covered fells, forested slopes and huge powder bowls.
Ski areaHemsedal is actually made up of two ski areas - the main resort and, 8km further up the valley, the Solheisen ski centre in Groondalen - linked by a ski-bus. On-piste, Solheisen is more sedate - its quieter slopes allow novices to build confidence without being intimidated by faster skiers. But it's also the jump-off point for some superb off-piste terrain that's wonderfully quiet, especially midweek.
In the main ski area, fast lifts serve most of the slopes, but a few slower drags remain. During the week queues are unheard of and the slopes are unbelievably empty, but expect some lines to lengthen and some runs to fill at weekends. Beginners will be quickly at ease, even able to access the resort's high point at Totten, from where a gentle long green winds all the way to the base. Although there are a few beautifully groomed reds and blues to carve down, intermediates used to clocking up the miles in the Alps will find Hemsedal's runs a bit limited, though the floodlit skiing on nine slopes several nights a week will offer a different challenge.
Experts will find more to enjoy - several black pistes and a lot of off-piste. And with a good snowfall record and no crowds, that means plenty of fresh tracks to make.
Off the slopes and apres-skiApres-ski starts at the Skistua (ski centre), with live music at weekends. Hemsedal's handful of bars and four nightclubs can get rowdy at weekends and holidays, but are quiet during the week. The resort has a few small hotels, with the pick being the Skogstad in the centre (Sentrum), which has its own bar and nightclub; and the new and ultra modern Skarsnuten, which is on the hill; but most of the accommodation is in cabins and apartments, including the chalet-style Alpin Lodge by the nursery slopes.
Alcohol is scarily expensive, but to make up for it, the Scandinavian cuisine is delicious. For the best local food, try Fossheim or Kjokken Kroken.
Norway is the home of cross-country skiing and Hemsedal has 120km of prepared trails in the valley and another 90km at altitude. There are plenty of non-skiing activities, including horse-drawn sleigh rides, snowmobiling, snowshoeing and husky dog sled rides - you can even try your own hand at 'mushing'. The more energetic can go ice-climbing or hang out on the winter via ferrata routes.
FamiliesNorway is incredibly family-friendly and just about everyone speaks English. The children's area at Hemsedal Skicenter is the largest in Norway and includes an activity park, Gaupeland, where young ones can just play in the snow, go tobogganing and ride the carousel.
There's a terrain park for beginners, while the main snowpark will keep older kids amused, as it's considered one of Europe's finest, with big jumps, fun boxes, half and quarter-pipes and rails and kickers galore.
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