2015/02/21-26: Ski Touring in Huldreheimen with a DNT Tour
With our daughter putting down roots in Oslo, it only made sense to take advantage of the ski touring in Norway again this winter. Skiing from hut-to-hut across a snowy landscape has a satisfaction similar to that of bike touring, hiking, or paddling. It’s about scenes unfolding at a human pace, as one moves self-propelled across the terrain.
Our experience last year in Jotunheimen had bred in us a healthy respect for Norwegian mountain weather, and for the challenges of navigating accurately in whiteout conditions. We signed on for two more tours organized by the DNT – Norwegian Trekking Association – where we would have the security and sociability of a group of like-minded skiers.
Although this Huldreheimen tour was graded at the same level of difficulty as our last year’s tour, the skiing days were shorter and the terrain less challenging. It made for quite a different trip.
After a train ride to Lillehammer and several hours by bus to our trailhead, we climbed gently through birch forest to an undulating plateau. Over the next days, we dipped in and out of the gnarled trees as we moved from one self-service hut to another. We spotted a few ptarmigan, but not once did we glimpse a huldra, the mythical creature for whom this park area is named.
We were eleven skiers: nine participants led by sturdy and experienced leaders Espen and Helge. The other participants were Norwegians, Dutch, and Brits. Last year we were at the older end of the group’s age spectrum, but this year our grey hair was more or less the norm. Upon arrival at each hut we would set about lighting the stove and melting snow for water. A few of us would forage in the lager for canned goods and packaged food, and we made simple suppers that we wolfed down. The breakfast staple was havregrøt, enjoyed by everyone except Chris who ate Wasa crackers with jam, forever put off porridge by boarding school days.
Our final night was one of luxury in a fjellstue or mountain hotel where we feasted on reindeer meat in green curry, and salmon salmon fillets in coconut milk. The woman who prepared our dinner was Thai, married to a local Norwegian; she’d developed Thai dishes based on local ingredients. We understand many young Norwegian women shun rural life, so marriages like this are not uncommon. We watched her blond husband, who had been both our minivan driver and our waiter, as he dropped Vitamin D into his daughters’ morning orange juice. Deficiencies are very common at this latitude, especially among people of darker complexion.
Returning to the train station in Lillehammer, backpacks and skis were everywhere. Passenger train cars are equipped with ski racks. On transit in Central Oslo as we returned, many passengers carried skinny skis as they commuted to or from the marka – the forest that surrounds the city which is laced with prepared cross-country tracks. In a country where skiing is central to the national psyche, we cannot help but feel at home.
We leave again on Sunday for another ski tour. The task before then is to rid ourselves of the worst flu either of us has had in at least ten years.