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Norway’s answer to the scenic ski trains of the Alps

Norway ski train
Forget Switzerland – skiers can enjoy a spectacular train journey around three of Norway’s resorts - Sverre Hjornevik

An hour after taking the 8.15am train out of Bergen I was hopping onto the platform at Voss, my train carriage equidistant from the Scandic Hotel, where I would be spending the night, and the cable car that would whisk me up to the resort’s slopes.

The lift didn’t open until 9.30am so I had time to hastily drop my bags at the Scandic, squeeze into my ski boots (I had travelled from Bergen in my ski clothes, like several other passengers alighting here) and clump a couple of hundred metres back along the platform to Voss’s new Ferrari-designed cable car. A few minutes later I was schussing down the snow-plastered fjells.

This was the first leg in a spectacular train journey around three of Norway’s ski resorts. Easily compared with the better-known scenic railways of Switzerland, which transport tens of thousands of skiers to internationally famous resorts like Zermatt and Arosa each winter, the Norwegian railways offer a lesser-known, far quieter and more remote experience.

Escaping the city

Within minutes of pulling out of Bergen station, the train click-clacked along the shore of wind-whipped lakes, past rustic farms edging up against deep green forests with the occasional waterfall tumbling between the trees. High above rose snowy peaks and crags, the faces of which, with a little imagination, resemble the gargoyle-like features of the trolls which, as all Norwegians know, live amongst these mountains.

Voss Resort, Norway
Voss resort offers a mix of uncrowded, fun blue and red cruisers and steep, fast blacks

The skiing at Voss, the first stop, is a winning mix of uncrowded, fun blue and red cruisers and steep, fast blacks – my favourite was the Utforløype, a thrilling black run which takes you from the resort’s high point of 964m Horgaletten all the way to the cafes, restaurants and mountain cabins at Bavallen, almost 700m below.

Kids and beginners are well catered for by a rash of long, winding greens and the resort’s renowned English-speaking ski school. Should you wish to indulge in freeriding, there’s no end of wide-open terrain between the pistes along with some seriously steep challenges above Bavallen.

A world-class winter wonderland

The next day I took a detour from the train track to Myrkdalen, on the free 30-minute ski bus service from Voss railway station. The resort is renowned for having some of the world’s heaviest snowfalls.

The round-shouldered, snowbound mountains are reached by a mix of chair and drag lifts and despite Myrkdalen offering a relatively modest 600m of vertical, these lifts provide access to invitingly wide and rolling pistes, mainly of the red and blue variety. If you like to carve wide turns, this is heaven.

Skiing in Norway
Myrkdalen has some of the world’s heaviest snowfalls

The scenic journey back to Voss was followed by dinner at the Park Hotel in the centre of town, which is home to one of the world’s finest wine cellars, with over 40,000 bottles and some 6,000 labels from all over the world. If you have a spare £30,000 to blow on a bottle of red, this is the place to do it; I spent approximately 1,500 times less on my evening tipple.

Untouched wilderness

My original plan had been to continue on from Voss to go ski touring from the nearby Vatnahalsen Hotell, which is only accessible by train, but seeing a lousy local weather forecast and knowing there were better snow conditions in the east of the country I decided to forego my original route and take the train to Norefjell, north-west of Oslo, after which I could continue on to the Norwegian capital for my return flight to the UK.

The journey from Voss took me over the Hardangevidda, the largest alpine plateau in Europe, as the train climbed gradually from 54m altitude at Voss to a high point of 1,237m. The carriages crossed the plateau as dusk – and snow – was falling onto a primeval winter landscape; not so much the steep, craggy mountains of the Swiss Alps as huge, remote and desolate whaleback peaks that reminded me of oversized versions of the Yorkshire fells where I grew up; indeed, the word ‘fell’ is derived from the Norwegian word ‘fjell’.

Snowy landscape in Norefjell, Norway
Norefjell ski resort is located to the north-west of Oslo

Avalanche barriers and tunnels provide protection from the relentless snowfalls, and I was glad to be in the snug warmth of the train carriage, from where even the least adventurous of travellers have the chance to experience the white wilderness of Norway’s winter mountains.

The journey took me past the floodlit slopes of Geilo, one of Norway’s most popular ski resorts (and another stop on the journey for those with more time to spare) before eventually rolling into Hønefoss, from where I took a cheap bus transfer to Norefjell.

Classic descents

Over the following two days, I was able to enjoy the biggest vertical drop in Norway, from the resort’s high point of Ravnäs Mountain (1,188m) down to the base of the Norefjellheisen chair at 178m. A thousand metres of ‘vert’ may not quite be in the same league as Switzerland (Verbier, for instance, boasts 1,830m of vertical) but if you do it all without stopping it’s plenty enough to have your quads begging for mercy.

The descent is Norwegian skiing in a nutshell. Starting on expansive, open fells with gentle blue slopes I carved my way down to the resort’s mid-mountain assortment of traditional accommodation cabins, modern Scandi-style apartments and the recently opened, ûber-cool Olympique restaurant (named after the 1952 Olympic giant slalom run situated on Norefjell’s slopes).

Ski holiday in Norway
Pick from an assortment of traditional accommodation cabins and modern Scandi-style apartments

I then dropped into the ever steeper second half of the descent, where wide red pistes wind between thick forest, before being catapulted onto the black number 9 run (there’s a gentler, blue option too). I was able to get up to full speed before, quads burning and cheeks tingling, I screeched to a halt just above the shores of the frozen white Krøderen Lake.

Two days of that kind of tomfoolery and I revelled in my final train journey to Oslo simply for the chance to let my aching legs recover as I gazed vacantly at Norway’s glorious snowy landscapes drifting serenely by.

Need to know

Ski Solutions (0203 7970575; skisolutions.com) offers the following four-star options at each of the resorts mentioned: Seven nights B&B at the Hotel Scandic in Voss from £1,185; Seven nights at the Myrkdalen Hotel in Myrkdalen from £1,185; Seven nights at the Norefjell Ski & Spa from £1,145. All include flights and private transfers.

You can fly from Gatwick to Bergen from £51 one-way and Oslo to Gatwick from £24 one-way, both with Norwegian Air Shuttle (norwegian.com)

Essentials

Alf was a guest of Norway Home of Skiing. For more information on all the resorts visit: norwayhomeofskiing.com