Every trail junction in the Trøndelag forest has a name. Some crossings consist of little more than a signpost and a picnic table, and others have unused cabins with snow piled up over the doors and windows. As I skied through the Bymarka near Trondeheim yesterday, I had already passed several of these nondescript junctions shown on the map when I came to a fork in the trail. Without breaking stride, I randomly chose the direction of "Grønlia" since going right looked just as good as left, and I had the entire day to explore the park with no real destination in mind. I skied a few more kilometers through pine trees laden with new snow then climbed a steep hill before coming into a clearing with a small hut overlooking a frozen lake.
I knew immediately I had found a hidden gem in the middle of the woods. There were four trails approaching the hut, and although the park as a whole was not crowded on this weekday, skiers were coming into the clearing from all directions at a steady rate. Those who had already arrived at Grønnlia were sitting at outdoor benches drinking coffee and hot chocolate while eating from plates piled high with Norwegian pastry that looked and smelled amazing. I stuck my skis in the snow bank alongside many other pairs and took my place in the queue of hungry skiers that extended out the door.
Once I made it up the front steps, I ducked under the 5’-6” door frame and stepped inside a small, dimly lit cabin with sloping floors, thick wooden beams, and tables occupied by skiers laughing and speaking Norwegian. There was a buffet boasting many types of rolls and cakes, and the baker was coming out of the kitchen with fresh pastries as quickly as the skiers could take them away. Everything looked delicious, so I selected a twisted cinnamon roll I had just watched the baker take out of the oven (after searching for this roll later on Google, I learned it was a classic Norwegian pastry called the Kanelsnurrer). I took my coffee and roll outside and sat down next to a friendly old-timer at a picnic table to watch skiers come and go. He didn’t speak much English, but we chatted for a while in broken Norwegian/English about the nice view and the perfect trail conditions.
Then, feeling full and rested, I continued on down the trail. After a couple more hours of skiing through the Bymarka, I made my way back to the tram to return to Trøndheim, reluctant to leave the nice weather and beautiful scenery on the trails but glad to sit for a while to give my legs a rest.
This morning, I took the train a couple hours south of Trøndheim for a day trip to a village in the mountains called Røros. The route followed a river valley, and houses painted in the classic red, white, blue, and yellow colors dotted the lower hillsides. The mountains here are not as tall or rugged as those in the western US, but they are still plenty steep and contain a mix of pine and birch with the occasional rocky outcropping. (I have to admit, I’m feeling a bit nervous after seeing this terrain--which looks formidable--because these are the same mountains I will race across in just a few days in the Birken).
Røros has been designated as an UNESCO World Heritage site for its old buildings and history of copper mining, but it is also a modern and fully functioning community. This juxtaposition is evident as you walk around town and see family homes, grocery stores, and new construction mingling with the historic tourist center. As soon as I got off the train in Røros, I followed my map to a ski trail that was just a 10 minute walk up the hill past the town's historic church.
The trail had been recently groomed and even had lights for night skiing. It was a nice, wide multi-purpose trail spanning a vast open plateau in the mountains. Although it was a bit overcast, cold, and windy--not unlike a typical winter day back home in MN--there were still several people using the trails. I passed a skate skier (a less common sight here than on trails back in the US), several classic skiers, two skijorers, a dogsled team, and a guy pushing a baby on a traditional sled with steel runners.
When I came back to town after my ski, I strolled through the historic streets past the old smelting building, then had a nice lunch at a cafe where the seats were layered with reindeer furs to help customers stay warm. (I learned this area is used for traditional reindeer herding, but unfortunately I did not see any reindeer on this visit). After lunch, it was time to return to the station to catch the train back to my hotel in Trøndheim.
After what has been a great visit, I leave Trøndelag tomorrow morning and travel south to Lillehammer. I’ll meet my friends Matt, Dave, and Ben (who are currently on a plane from Minnesota), and we’ll join the crowd of thousands of skiers descending on central Norway to participate in one of the biggest cross-country ski races in the world, the 54km Birkebeinerrennett!
Before traveling to Norway, I couldn’t see why the Norwegians were so intent on preserving the classic style of skiing when the rest of the world seemed happy to embrace the quicker skating style. Now that I have spent a little time skiing here, I suspect this deference to classic skiing shares similar motivation to their continued use of rustic ski huts rather than replacing them with new modern chalets and their efforts to keep tourism low-impact. They are trying to save the uniquely Nordic traditions that are woven into their culture. After being here for a just few days, I can already see it is a worthy cause.