Hemsedal – the premium ski resort in Norway

SimenBerg-Hemsedal-0217
Text/pics/video: Simen Berg

Hemsedal has it all. Predictable snow conditions, a central location, amazing offpiste, great variety in the slopes, in addition to nice restaurants and awesome night life. No other Norwegian resort can tick off as many boxes. Oh, and by the way, you have direct access to backcountry touring from “downtown” Hemsedal. Lifts normally run from the first weekend of November to May. The longest run is more than 6 kilometers (see video below), and you can do offpist runs with a 800 vertical meter drop. You can ski in all aspects of the mountain, and the variety in the groomers section is the best in Norway. 10 to 15 minutes on foot will give you runs with all the challenges you need. And way less tracks.

BUT
Skistar Hemsedal is (proudly) the most expensive resort in Norway, and snow conditions and the quality of the slopes may not necessarily reflect that. A two day lift pass will set you back 860 NOK, about a hundred euros (Oct. 2016). Unfortunately it is only the price that is premium.
A lot of young people go there to party, and if you’re not paying attention to where you book your stay, you could be sorry.
On Saturdays and holidays, the slopes to get crowded, so do the lift lines.
If you are good skier who goes there for off piste skiing or on not so busy days, you’ll normally be fine.

Variation in slopes
My favorite slope is Hemsedalsløypa. It’s just a shame it isn’t four times as long with an express chairlift next to it. This is why Hemsedal can’t get the top rating for the slopes. The good sections are too short, and require too much traversing. The exception is if you’re into green slopes. Then you’ll be doing great all the way from the very top (1450 masl) down to the base area of the resort, or along Sentrumsløypa to the centre of Hemsedal (new for the ’15 season, requires you to catch the ski bus back to the lifts). For experienced skiers, the best run is from the top of Hamaren and down Såhaugløypa or Hemsedalsløypa. On Fridays you can ski until 10 pm (some other nights until 7 pm), and in the high season you can go skiing from 7:30 am and have breakfast by the slopes some mornings.

Watch Lodgen Spiseri boss Iren Halbjørhus go to work from Totten (1450 – 610 masl)

Offpist skiing in Hemsedal – straight from the lift
When conditions are right, the options off the slopes are countless. Especially if you master (dense) forest skiing. Straight from the Totten II lift and Tinden lift everyone can get a taste of offpiste skiing in easy conditions above the tree line. (Super)Breidalen and Skaanebollen are legendary runs. Experienced skiers and snowboarders enjoy classics like Reidarskaret and Gummiskogen. And everything in between. I’m sorry that I’m not giving away the best runs. Powder snow is too precious for that. Hemsedal used to be one of the stops for the Norwegian Freeride Tour, actually the first place to host a freeride comp i Norway. Nowadays they just host the junior tour in Mortenskaret.

Skiing with kids in Hemsedal
The kids love Hemsedal. The children’s slopes by the Lodge has a lot of great things going on. And the easy runs on the rest of the mountain gives access to the next level of riding alongside mum and dad. There’s also a nursery (barnehage), Valles Barnepass, for the babies and when the older ones want to stay in while the parents get a few runs on their own.
Ski lessons aren’t that common among Norwegians, but all of us would have a lot more fun if we just would hire a ski instructor every now and then. Just ask my dad who relearned alpine skiing at the age of 70…

Hemsedal terrain park
Thanks to Burton snowboards’ yearly May photo shoot, Hemsedal gained massive attention in the terrain park segment in the late 90’s and early ’00s. After a decade or so of fading, it seems like the resorts interest in park riders is picking up. But the pros tend to go elsewhere to ride big features. Mikkel Bang and Mads Jonsson are among the stars who consider Hemsedal their “Home Mountain”. Obviously the skiers outnumber the boarders. Jon Olsson and Henrik Windstedt did one of their first big jump competitions abroad here. Now the rising star Øystein Bråten from nearby Torpo can be spotted on a regular basis, so can his brother Gjermund Bråten.

Backcountry ski touring in Hemsedal
Over the past ten years, touring has exploded in Hemsedal. Along the road over Hemsedalsfjellet, you see tracks all over the place. Skogshorn, Nibbi, Skurvefjell are all nice mountains with easy access. The latter you can get to from the Hemsedal village without a car.

Cross country skiing in Hemsedal
Holdeskaret: Past the lifts you find groomed tracks to the south, including Flævasshytta by Flævassdammen. Some even take you to Bergsjøstølen and Ål.
Gravset: The cross country arena with partly lighted groomed tracks – for as long as you want to go. The network of tracks in the area connects with Golsfjellet and Lykkja/Vaset towards Valdres.
Follow the tracks: There are also tracks on the valley floor. Check where the run and when they got groomed on Skisporet.no

– Read my story on fatbiking in Hemsedal in winter

Night life and restaurants in Hemsedal
The party scene in Hemsedal is only matched by a few resorts when it comes to the apres ski (afterski). On weekends and during holidays, late night clubbing is only matched by Oslo (if you ride Tryvann/Oslo Vinterpark).
15 years ago it all happened at Hemsedal Café when the lifts closed. Now it’s more spread out. My favorite recipe is an offpist run from Roni to Skarsnuten Hotel. By far the best view, and normally my kind of music. If it gets to low key, you just ski down to Stavkroa for the club feeling and dancing on the tables. Skistua normally offers live cover bands. The more mellow options are Hollvin and Lodgen. In the centre of Hemsedal, Hemsedal Café will probably cater to the ones who finish the day with “Sentrumsløypa”. Some will go to T-kroken or Champagneria. Through this first season with “ski in” access “downtown”, the crowd will decide where the action is. Late at night, Hemsen offers DJ gigs and concerts. Downtown, Bar(t) is the place, unfortunately unpredictable when it comes to DJ bookings.

Where to eat on the slopes: Hemsedal has evolved a lot when it comes to food over the last few years. My favorite is Fjellkaféen (outside peak hours). When Skigaarden opens, Bølgen & Moi will grant excellent food experiences. Lodgen Spiseri has changed A LOT for the better for the ’15 season, and Hollvin and Skistua are nice as well. I haven’t tried Skarsnuten lately, hopefully they have improved like the rest of the restaurants in Hemsedal. (I’ll update this post as soon as I know.)

Where to eat at night: The best places to eat tend to change with the chefs in the kitchen. For a long time Kjøkkenkroken has been the safest bet for Hemsedal. At Skogstad Hotel you now have both a sushi restaurant, plus tapas at Champagneria. If you’re into pizza, Peppe’s is found downtown. Steaks are presumably good at Big Horn Steak House by Stavkroa at the resort base area. Lodgen Spiseri is probably the best stop for dinner. And nothing beats the view at Skarsnuten, but until I try it again, I can’t vouch for the food there. At Skigaarden, Bølgen & Moi opened around New Year’s 2014.

Where to stay in Hemsedal
There are lots of rental cabins and apartments available. You need to decide whether you want lodging to be ski in/ski out, if you can do with access to the ski bus or if you’re fine about relying on the car to get to the slopes. Skarsnuten Hotel and Skarsnuten Panorama is my favorite place to stay. Sunny and nice, ski in/ski out, and the greatest view.
Accommodation booking: Skistar | GoHemsedal

How to get to Hemsedal
From Oslo: By car the drive is up to 3 hours, depending on traffic (roads E16, RV7, RV52). You can go by bus or train+bus.

How to get around in Hemsedal
In high season, the ski buss service is really good. Unfortunately the taxi service in Hemsedal normally is a disaster.

How to get out of Hemsedal
Hemsedal doesn’t always get massive snow falls. But often the West Coast resorts Sogndal (2 hrs) and Myrkdalen/Voss (2:15) pick up snow from low pressures coming from Iceland. In Hemsedal, they need the low pressure to come from the UK/Denmark. Wind directions east and southeast mean nice snow falls and powder conditions.

What to do in Hemsedal in summer?
Downhill biking:
Lifts run all summer, and the bike park is worth a visit. The area also offers gravel roads and singletrack trails for mountain biking.
Hiking: Trails are marked and all over the place.

Resources:
Ski Resort: Skistar.com/Hemsedal | facebook.com/Hemsedal
Booking: Skistar | GoHemsedal
Travel: Bus – Nor-Way.no | Train – NSB.no
Weather: YR.no

About me and Hemsedal: I’ve skied there for twenty years, worked there as a PR and communications manager one winter and write stories about it and shoot pictures there on a regular basis. As a skier I’m into easy access offpist skiing.

More on Norway’s best skiing and ski resorts (work in progress):
Narvik skisenter ski resort
Bjorli skisenter ski resort
Stryn Sommerskisenter Glacier summer skiing
Turtagrø Hotel Hurrungane Jotunheimen topptur backcountry touring skiing
Some forest pow skiing:

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Heliskiing Sestriere

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Text/vid/pics: Simen Berg

Early March 2014, we did three runs with Pure Ski Company in Sestriere.

The soft snow was getting scarce in Monetier. It was a week after snowfall in Serre Chevalier, with some heavy winds destroying what was not protected by the trees. We called Mike at Pure Ski, and they had room for the two of us the following day.

Our guides were Filippo Armand and Denis Boudoin. We did three runs in Valle Argentera, and they were:
– Monti Della Luna (800 vertical meters)
– Telegraphe (600 vertical meters)
– Punta Rognosa, ending in the Sestriere ski resort (1000 vertical meters)

All runs were north facing, protected from the sun. However, the first had parts of it ruined by wind. The second and third were all untracked, fresh snow.

The runs were not particularly steep, but we felt that the guides gave us the liberty to ski the steep sections we could get to, and the only thing holding us back was my need for stopping to shoot pictures.

The first lift costs 200 euros, the following cost 150 euros per person.

We had a fantastic Borgata lunch at  Da Casse (Lou Brachettes) to finish off the day. We spent a couple of nights at Chalet Edelweiss, with an amazing view of the tracks from our last run from Punta Rognosa. A week after snowfall, we found dry, untracked pow in the steep forest, and were really impressed with the resort. As well as the Pure Ski heliskiing, of course.

More info:
Pure Ski  |  Sestriere / Vialattea  |  Chalet Edelweiss

Stryn Sommerski/summer skiing back on track

SimenBerg-Stryn-5382Baksida: Kathrine cruising on May 18th.

Text/photo: Simen Berg

With an impressive 540 meter vertical drop, Stryn Sommerski summer skiing offers better freeride terrain than a lot of winter resorts.

Read stories in Norwegian: May 2013 and June 2005

This year, I returned for the first time since biking took over as the number one spring activity seven years ago. And MAN, how great it was to be back. We lucked out with warm summer temperatures already 17th to 20th of May, with both lifts running from the very start on the pre-opening weekend.

After quite a few years with issues concerning the running of the resort, it now seems to be solved with new owners and an experienced and dedicated crew.

As long as Stryn didn’t live up to it’s potential for a period of time, both Juvass and Folgefonna have gained ground lately. Especially when it comes to the terrain park and photo sessions at Folgefonna.

The freeriders know what they get here, and are certainly on their way back. Because Folgefonna/Juvass can’t match the terrain. And with Stryn hosting the Snowboard national championships the second weekend of June in a killer park, they will work their way back to the top.

Facts below the pics

Facts

Season:
Mid May – July (or whenever the snow melts)

Stryn and Folven Accommodation, Eating, Night Life
If you come here to go skiing and hang out with skiers, you need to be in the Hjelle and Folven area. Stryn is another 20 minutes by car further away from the skiing at Tystigen. With Folven camping as the happening place, it might be a bit loud on weekends. So if you admit to be too old, check out Nygård Camping or Hjelle Hotel. If you’re not into happy people at a bar, you should stay at Grotli, Strynevatnet or “downtown” Stryn.

Stryn Travel
For a hassle-free life at Stryn you would like to go by car. Nor-Way buses pass Folven Camping that has a ski bus service on weekends this summer.

What else to do
Ski touring, Glacier walking at Olden, Mountain biking, Beach volley at Hjelle, Surfing at Stad.

Resources:
Stryn sommerski
Folven
Tourist office

Folven rando-festival by Tommy Aslaksen

Why go to Juvass (Galdhøpiggen sommarskisenter) instead?
Fresh snow and long season. They normally run from May until the winter resorts open. Amazing early season skiing down to the valley.

Why go to Folgefonna instead?
Snowboard and ski camps and a great terrain park. Opens early May.

More on Norway’s best skiing and ski resorts (work in progress):
Narvik skisenter ski resort
Bjorli skisenter ski resort
Hemsedal skisenter ski resort
Turtagrø Hotel Hurrungane Jotunheimen topptur backcountry touring skiing

Bjorli Skisenter early season powder skiing


Text/Photo/Film: Simen Berg

According to the rumours, Bjorli Skisenter isn’t steep enough for proper skiing. That’s wrong.

Snow conditions
My two visits were both on a search for early season powder skiing. Bjorli is known to be among the first ski resorts in Norway to open every season. And as you see, the last weekends of October and November respectively, can provide powder snow in line with January dumps. Low pressure hitting from northwest is your cue to plan your trip to Bjorli.

Read Bjorli stories in Norwegian: October 2012 and November 2008

The Bjorli Resort
The back bone of the lift system is the chair lift that takes you right above the tree line. From there, you can go further up, but I never tried this terrain because of early/pre season visits. The top lift goes to 1250 meters above sea level, and leaves you with a decent 675 vertical meters.
The slopes are popular among ski racers, and before Christmas there’s normally quite a few crews there to practice, including national teams.
The off pist skiing from the tree line and down is a bit dense, but if you’re used to tree skiing, you’ll be fine. Have a look at the video below. Above the tree line there’s wide open areas, though you won’t find steep skiing here without bringing your skins for touring in the area. The nearby Romsdalen area got ranked among the five top places for touring in Norway. The home of Romsdalshorn, Trollveggen, Trollstigen, Kirketaket and Vengetind is a must if you like a sea view with your touring.

My “Best of”-pics from Norwegian ski resorts

Bjorli Eating/Night Life
Normally there isn’t much going on after the lifts close. You can eat dinner at Bjorligard Hotel, where they also have a bar. Fem Stuer is a nice little café/restaurant.

Bjorli Travel/Accommodation
The train stops at Bjorli, just pay attention to distances and logistics when you book a place to stay.

Resources:
Ski Resort: BjorliSkisenter.no
Booking: Accomodation, etc.
Snow conditions: skiinfo.no/ostlandet/bjorli

Facts:
Bjorligard: For my first visit, I stayed at Bjorligard Hotel. A nice place, with nice food and an outdoor jacuzzi.
Gear testing: During my last visit, we tested the new Rottefella NTN Freedom Binding, mounted on Völkl Mantra and Katana. For reference, we had both skis with NTN Freeride on them as well. On top of that, we spent some time on Shiro and Kuro, too. A true Völkl convention, so to speak. I’ll return with my take on the NTN Freedom binding. In short, I like it a lot.

October 27/28th 2012

Pics from November 2008 and October 2012

More on Norway’s best skiing and ski resorts (work in progress):
Hemsedal skisenter ski resort
Narvik skisenter ski resort
Stryn Sommerskisenter Glacier summer skiing
Turtagrø Hotel Hurrungane Jotunheimen topptur backcountry touring skiing

Narvik offers Norway’s best freeride skiing – diving into the fjord

Text/pics: Simen Berg/Kathrine Duun Moen

The best lift-served skiing in Norway is by far Narvikfjellet. The 1832 meter long gondola ride itself is worth the trip to Narvik.

2013 Links and video added below

Unfortunately it is far to travel, also for most of us Norwegians. But if you leave Oslo Thursday evening, and return Monday morning in time for work, anyone can do it without wrecking the relationship to your boss, smashing your budget or planning months ahead. Because you do want to know that the conditions are right. And in late April, you might very well encounter 30 cms of fresh snow that stays dry for the top 800 vertical meters.

The reasons why I rate it the best skiing in Norway (ahead of Hemsedal) is:
– The vast freeride terrain facing three directions right off a fairly effective lift system.
– The view of the fjord and the surrounding mountains.
– The runs from Mørkholla/Tredjetoppen that you reach after a 25 min hike.
– The fact that you’re in an actual city.
– The easy access by plane/bus (Widerøe to local Fagernes airport, Norwegian/SAS to Evenes)
– The short distance to epic touring in Lofoten or guaranteed snow at Riksgränsen.

Riders: Kathrine Duun Moen/Simen Berg

Obviously it’s an awesome place for freeride/downhill biking. This is Emil Carlson bombing. In 2011, locals started working on the not-so-downhill “Black kids” track, that will attract more normal riders. As opposed to the old and more hard core downhill track. Also Rallarveien from Bjørnfjell to Rombaksbotn is totally awesome on a FS or HT mountain bike.

Check out a full run, top to bottom, 888 vertical meters:

FACTS
To go to Narvik, you catch a plane to Evenes/Harstad airport, and catch a bus transfer. Or go via Bodø to catch a Widerøe flight directly to Narvik.
narvikfjellet.no | facebook.com/Narvikfjellet
destinasjonnarvik.com | facebook.com/DestinationNarvik

ACCOMMODATION
On the main street, you can stay at Quality Hotel Grand Royal (redecorated in 2012) or the new landmark Rica Hotel Narvik from 2012. They both have nice rooms, great food and awesome sky bars.

MORE PICS
April 2013 pics on Fri Flyt
More powder freeride pics in my “Best of Norwegian Ski Resorts” gallery
(featuring skiing/snowboarding in Hemsedal, Narvik, Stranda, Fjellsetra and Norefjell)

MORE ON APRIL SKIING IN NARVIK
2013 Fri Flyt story | 2010 Fri Flyt story

More on Norway’s best skiing and ski resorts (work in progress):
Hemsedal skisenter ski resort
Bjorli skisenter ski resort
Stryn Sommerskisenter Glacier summer skiing
Turtagrø Hotel Hurrungane Jotunheimen topptur backcountry touring skiing

Turtagrø – design hotel in the mountains

At 884 meters above sea level, you find one of Norway’s  architectural gems. Turtagrø Hotel has it’s origin back to 1880’s, when the Drægni family established their hotel business.

REOPENED 2002
Unfortunately the original hotel burned to the ground in 2001, but the late Ole Drægni decided to have a new hotel built. He hired the amazing architects Jarmund/Vigsnæs Arkitekter (jva.no), and from day one, the new hotel became a landmark. The pictures will have to speak for themselves. The interior and furniture is specifically designed, piece by piece.

Turtagrø Hotel. Photos: Bergphoto.net

HIKING and CLIMBING
The hotel is the natural starting point for many of the most stunning hikes in Norway. With the third highest peak in Norway, Store Skagastølstind (“Storen”, at 2405 meters), as the most attractive for climbers, there are still handfulls of of other peaks to be reached without the use of ropes. Fannaråken has a DNT-hut at 2067 meters, and it’s just a three hour walk from the hotel.
– Some pics from Fannaråken and Skogadalsbøen (also DNT)
– Read my story from Fannaråken sunrise (pdf, in Norwegian, English, German)

SKIING
In April, May and June conditions are excellent for spring skiing and snowboarding. But there are no lifts, though. Still High Camp, the ski/snowboard touring festival organized by Fri Flyt, gathers more than 700 participants the second weekend of May.
The road up to the hotel is open all year. The road across Sognefjellet to Lom normally opens around 1st of May, and the road to Øvre Årdal opens mid to late May.
Story on skiing in Hurrungane + Sogndal (Sogn + Sogndal Skisenter) 2014
Skiing Soleiebotntind + Fannaråken 2012
– Skiing pics from the area,
– Some more from Nordre Skagastølstind

Turtagrø Hotell, with Skagastølstindane in the background

Turtagrø Hotell, with Skagastølstindane in the background. Photo: Bergphoto.net

Anne Marit Lia skiing Dyrhaugstind with Riingstind and Austabotntind in the back. Photo: Bergphoto.net

LINKS

Turtagrø Hotel + Wikipedia article in Norwegian
High Camp
(touring/backcountry ski/snowboard festival in May) by Fri Flyt Magazine

More on Norway’s best skiing and ski resorts (work in progress):
Narvik Skisenter ski resort
Bjorli Skisenter ski resort
Stryn Sommerskisenter Glacier summer skiing resort
Hemsedal Skisenter ski resort