From what I saw, Norway is most certainly an exceptional place for ski touring, especially that of the springtime variety. Just like the Alps, lodge and hut options abound — but unlike the Alps you’ll experience a peaceful less frantic culture (at least unless a Michael Jackson video is on the screen). Problem is, peace comes at a price.
(Disclaimer: Much of Lisa’s and my Norway ski touring trip was sponsored by Norwegian Tourism boards as well as by Marker-Volkl, so I’m not claiming any expertise on dirtbagging the Norge. Perhaps next spring? But here is a little something about Skiing on a budget in Norway, from a couple of guys who are experts in the field.)
For visitors from nearly any other country, Norway is expensive. After observing how things work, it appears that the best way to go on a budget would be to tent camp, while avoiding restaurants by shopping grocery stores and cooking your own food. Regarding beer, it’s amazingly pricey. A Norwegian brew can cost about $10 USD if you’re in a restaurant, and don’t even think about buying something imported! Good time to cut back on your alcohol consumption (and also a good time to thank Stian for the Aass I quaffed at Spiterstulen.)
Transportation is the budget challenge. If you plan on moving around much and reaching trailheads you’ll probably need a car — a rental can cost upwards of $200/day! Adding to the problem, fuel prices could put the clamp on using a rental: during our trip even the slightly cheaper diesel was going for about $7.00 USD a gallon! You could still swing that if you didn’t do too much long distance driving and shared cost among a group, but yikes.
Using public transportation and could work if you don’t have complex goals. Yet bear in mind that costs of train and bus travel could ratchet up as well, and bus travel can be frustratingly inefficient if you’re trying to time things for morning starts.
Several individuals have told me that if you’re less inclined to adventure travel and more into having things laid out, a package trip from a guide (including van transportation) could be the best way to go. You’ll know the price up-front, and you may spend less money than you would think due to economies of scale.
Beyond all the above, I’d say it’s likely that anyone who immerses in the Norway ski touring culture will make friends with locals who might help out in various ways, if nothing more than a free shower at their home.
TRAVEL AND PACKING IDEAS
Norwegian GPS smartphone app is clean and robust for backcoutnry. For road nav we found Google Maps worked fine (provided we could get a data connection). A stand-alone automobile GPS would have saved us money in data charges.
Swings in temperature combined with lengthy spring days can result in icy snow you could take a nasty fall on. If you’re comfortable skiing with self arrest ski pole grips (e.g., Whippet), I’d recommend using them for all but the most mellow touring. That said, I’d bring two pairs of poles in case I’m doing tours where Whippets would be ridiculous overkill. As in the Alps, you see very few people with self arrest grips.
I was told that temperatures can be as cold as the high Alps in March, but can also be quite warm. Bring layering systems that allow you to work comfortably in a wide range of temperatures. The weather can be moist and rainy; be sure you have a shell that’ll keep you dry in a downpour and perhaps bring a travel umbrella in case you get shut down by weather and spend time hiking or doing city streets.
I was surprised at how much English is spoken in Norway. Nonetheless you’ll encounter folks who don’t speak your tongue. As with any international travel it’s a good idea to have some sort of phrase book on your smartphone, so you can bring up text and show it to someone (or play audio) as pronouncing Norwegian correctly is near impossible for a non-speaker. Does such an app exist for Norwegian? Anyone got the info, let us know through the comments on this post. I just used Google Translate and it was all I seemed to need, though required a data connection.
I have no idea what’s best for a functional traveler’s handy in Norway (comments appreciated). My phone on expensive Verizon international plan did do texts but did not work for voice calls in Norway or the EU. I found myself doing most communication using email and wifi hotspots. If you need a voice capable phone I’d recommend either using one you own that you’re sure will work with a Norwegian purchased sim card, or buy a burner in Norway. Myself, if we return and do much self guided travel, I’ll put more effort into getting something voice capable so it’ll work for emergency commo.
Polite and friendly about sums it up. I didn’t catch one “dum Amerikaner” comment, though I deserved plenty.
Nothing too strange, you could even stay gluten free if you worked at it. Going vegetarian would be ridiculous unless absolutely necessary. For me, when doing this kind of travel I forego almost all dietary restrictions, as the stress (and potentially impolite niggling) of worrying about food is way worse than an occasionally uncomfortable stomach.
Jeans and plaids in the city, the usual lack of bright colors. Dresses or pants, seemed like female clothing ran the gamut. At the huts and lodges you might want something other than your baselayers for casual wear. In the hills I noticed a wide variety of colors, everything from bright red to earth tones. Essentially, the clothing you’re comfortable using for travel in Europe is what you’ll want for Norway.
Thanks to Erlend Sande and his father we borrowed a car and did a few days of driving on our own. Casual, but the roads are narrow so you do need to be attentive. Speeding laws are uber strict; watch the signs and drive at the speed limit. Driver’s licences are reciprocal but insurance is always the question when borrowing cars from friends in foreign lands.
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.