Dancing on ice in Norway
As a downhill skier, I’ve often made fun of the dancing action – think: Michael Jackson’s ‘moonwalk’ – required by these unstable, skinny skies, and yet here I am, years later, struggling to get to grips with the heel-raise-and-push movement required to master ‘Nordic classic’ style cross country skiing.
Despite how isolated it feels out here (so far in two hours we’ve passed only 4 other humans and one rather curious Elk), Voss and neighbouring ski resort, Myrkdalen, have seen a 56% increase in ski tourism in the last five years. And whilst those more proficient in the sport tend to descend on Lillehammer this month, where the annual Birkebeiner cross-country 54km ski marathon (founded in 1932) takes place, it’s just 90-minutes’ drive from Bergen, in Voss, that beginners are arguably best catered for.
Firstly it’s hard to become bored with the pisted, signposted trails of Voss and nearby Bermoen (36km in total), whilst traversing through history (Norweigans have been cross-country skiing and hiding away in cabins here during holiday time for years) across these bleak, majestic mountains. Then there are the financial and environmental motivators to consider too – no ski lifts required and use of the trails is entirely free (as is parking in designated areas).
But this type of skiing is also far kinder on your body, explains my instructor, Einar, who’s been teaching here for thirty years.
“Cross-country is a very low key, low-impact sport, great for beginners, those with joint issues and older people,” he says.
And I nod; our session is over and – he’s right – I don’t really feel sore at all. Not that it’s a doddle, I might add, though I’m told it takes a few days to become proficient enough in your technique to ‘run’ (moving forward continually on skis), and thus be able to fully appreciate the lung-busting and muscle-burning demands of the sport. But once you have, the benefits are many: a stronger core, a quieter mind, calmer joints and the best Michael Jackson ‘moonwalk’ on the dancefloor.
– By Lucy Fry
First appeared in Easy Jet Traveller magazine.