OverviewLillehammer in Norway is synonymous with the Winter Olympics, having hosted the Games in 1994, so it comes as a bit of surprise to find that the town itself only has one tiny hill, with one ski lift. Lillehammer ski resort is, in fact, made up of five alpine centres, which means that while you can access 92 runs over 117km of varied terrain, you really need a car to make the most of the Lillehammer experience.
Ski areaHafjell and Kvitfjell both offer a wide range of terrain, from family slopes to more extreme runs of World cup standard and Olympic quality, whereas Skeikampen, Gala and Sjusjoen are ideal for families and beginners. The centres are all between a 10-minute and a one-hour drive from Lillehammer town centre.
Hafjell is the main ski area. Just 15km north of Lillehammer, and served by a free ski bus, it has 17 lifts, a very passable 835m of vertical and 31 runs totalling 40.5km (the longest being an impressive 7.5km) making it the third biggest 'resort' in Norway in its own right. Two-thirds of these are beginner, seven are red and there are just three blacks. At the gondola's top station 300km of cross-country trails lead into the mountain.
Kvitfjell is 45 minutes north of Lillehammer and its 29km of runs with a summit to base vertical of 854m include an Olympic downhill run. Peace and quiet are the watchwords here, with the slopes blissfully crowd-free during the week. Easy runs account for 60% here, 27% are red and 13% black.
Skeikampen, 38km to the north, is more modest, with just 17 runs totalling 21km and just 350 vertical; Gala, 89km to the north-east has a combination of downhill and cross-country (but boasts the highest summit of the five at 1,148m); and Susjoen, 20km north, opened in 2003, and its six-seater express lift serves a network of downhill runs and trails.
Off the slopes and apres-skiLillehammer is unique as a ski resort in Norway, in that it can offer the thrills of the hills by day and, if you're staying in central Lillehammer itself, a full-blown urban cultural experience in the evening, with many award-winning restaurants, plenty of lively bars and clubs, as well as a cinema and even an art museum. All the five centres have their own accommodation, with much of it being ski-in, ski-out, and their own apres spots.
Off-slope activities include husky dog sled rides, tobogganing, snowshoeing, ice-fishing and sleigh rides and endless miles of cross-country trails. but the main off-slope buzz in Lillehammer is the Olympic bobsleigh ride, which clocks up speeds of up to 120kph and 5G of gravitational pull - a bit like having an elephant sit on your head.
FamiliesAs elsewhere in Norway, Lillehammer's resorts are very family-focussed, with excellent childcare all round and English-speaking instructors at the ski schools. And the quiet midweek nature of the slopes is perfect for those looking to help their children build confidence. Kids will especially love the Hunderfossen Winter Park in Lillehammer with its fairtale theme, ice sculptures, outdoor firepits and Troll Walks. It almost cannot be overstated just how good Norway is for families - as long as you can cope with the transfers which are invariably long, despite the easy air access from the UK.
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