The ski resort of Norefjell is set on a tranquil forested hillside overlooking Lake Kroderen, close to the municipal administrative community of Noresund, a little over 110km drive north-west from Oslo city centre and a similar distance west from the city's Gardermoen international airport.
Norefjell is unusual in having a 'base' village at mid-altitude, with slopes both above and below the level where accommodation is sited, meaning that many guests can simply step into their bindings each morning and glide off either to the nearest ski lift or to warm up with a direct descent to the bottom of the hill.
The resort also boasts one of the greatest vertical drops in Scandinavia and was host to the Downhill and Giant Slalom events during the Oslo 1952 Winter Olympics; the GS event actually made its Olympic debut here. As part of the developments that were required to stage the games, a hotel and dormitories were constructed to house the visiting press, dignitaries, judges, team coaches and athletes, thereby creating the very first purpose-built 'athlete's village' of the modern Olympic Games.
More recent developments at Norefjell include a new luxury spa and apart-hotel complex, voted Norway's Leading Spa Resort in 2011, offering present-day athletes and holidaymakers much more sumptuous accommodation and amenities than those enjoyed by the previous Olympian visitors.
The slopes at Norefjell ski centre rise from the meadows set back from the shore of Lake Kroderen and extend to the nearest peak of Ravnas, topping out at 1,188m. The 1,008m vertical drop is one of Scandinavia's biggest, yet offers a summit-to-base descent manageable by competent novices, with a couple of tougher variants for more advanced visitors too.
There are three beginners' slopes, the one nearest to the ski school office reserved for children only. Norefjell also has a small terrain park, centrally located just below the mid-altitude resort village; equipped with a basic selection of rails, jib modules, and jumps.
All except the uppermost slopes are surrounded by a sheltering forest of pine and birch, the piste-side trees softening the landscape and providing useful points of reference in flat-light conditions. The uppermost Ravnas-Boseter sector is open and above the tree line; the Boseter area offers a couple of the area's longest red runs, but all of the other upper runs are easy. The mid sections of the lower sector runs are the most testing slopes, offering a handful of short red and black pitches, one of them reckoned to be the steepest black piste in Norway.
NB Norefjell ski school offers groups lessons for Alpine skiing only; anyone wanting snowboarding, Telemark, or cross-county skiing tuition has to book private lessons. Helmets are compulsory for all lessons.
Off the slopes and apres ski
With the relatively recent addition of its Quality Spa & Resort complex, Norefjell has become a popular year-round conference and wedding destination as well as a stylish weekend retreat for Oslo urbanites, attracting as many non-skiing winter visitors as it does skiers and snowboarders.
The resort's aqua-leisure facilities include indoor and outdoor heated swimming pools plus a range of hydro-massage pools, complemented with a wide range of wellness and beauty treatments to pummel and pamper. There's also an 18-metre high indoor climbing wall, an outdoor ice skating rink, and way-marked winter walks to cater for any more activity minded guests.
Sleigh rides, dog-sledding, and go-karting or quad-biking on snow circuits are also offered as excursions in the surrounding district. For guests who can't get enough of the slopes on the short northern days, floodlit night skiing sessions are also possible on a couple of evenings each week.
Apres ski at Norefjell is very tame, with just some occasionally animated jolliness at the slope-side Norefjellstua bar as the sun goes down; evenings are very civilised and are focused primarily on the fine-dining restaurants and adjacent lounge bars of the resort's two main hotels.
Bars and clubs