I'm in Norway!
I arrived in Oslo on a cloudless Sunday afternoon with blue skies, moderate temps, and fresh snow on the ground. Unfortunately, due to an oversold flight, it was a day later than I had originally planned, so I was not able to catch the World Cup races at Holmenkollen. However, it was a perfect day for cross country skiing, so I took advantage of the great weather and headed to the Marka (along with what seemed seemed like everyone in the city). The Marka is the forest that surrounds Oslo with several thousand kilometers of trails open to the everyone, and the trail systems there are well connected to central Oslo by public transit. The TI recommended a place called Sognsvann as a good place for my first ski in Norway, so I put my extra luggage in a locker, grabbed my skis, and jumped on the #5 train for a quick trip up the hill.
When I boarded the train at Central Station, there were about 10 xc skiers already in the car. As we continued up the hill, we picked up a few more skiers at each stop until there were about 100 skiers on the train with me by the time we reached Sognsvann. Trains ladened with skiers continued to roll into Sognsvann all afternoon, arriving every 10 minutes or so. Can’t beat that for convenience!
The trails at Sognsvann were packed with thousands of skiers of all types, but universally, the skill level was impressive. There were families with kids and babies in Chariots, senior citizens and high schoolers, a lady carrying a huge dog while flying down a hill, ski clubs, campers toting their gear, and picnickers. It was an international crowd (I could pick out Norwegians, Germans, Americans, and Brits), and everyone clearly loved being out on the snow.
The trails were set with a pair of side-by-side classic tracks, and all trails were two-directional. This made for some interesting situations where skiers were passing each other in both directions on hilly terrain all while carrying on conversations, pulling sleds, and dodging little kids. In some places, the skiers were 4 or 5 across skiing shoulder-to-shoulder, but their general skill level is so high and they are so comfortable on their skis that there didn’t seem to be any accidents (anyways, none that I saw). All this congestion and chaos just added to the atmosphere, and it was fun to go with the flow as I explored this new trail system.
As I ventured deeper into the forest, the crowds thinned out and there was some beautiful scenery of trees laden with snow, a peaceful frozen lake, and intermittent vistas down toward the fjords. The Marka itself looks a lot like the north woods of Minnesota, but the occasional views of the coast let me know that I really am in Norway!
After a couple hours on the trails and a break at Ullevåseter cabin, I hopped back on the train and made it back to central Oslo in time to see a few sights as the sun was setting. Then, I picked up my bags on found my private compartment on the overnight train to Trondheim, where I’ll spend the next couple of nights. Overall, I call day one on this journey a success!