Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

A Night on the Piste

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

A Night on the Piste

Article excerpt


I HAD a little local difficulty on my first day of skiing at Hemsedal.

The breakfast buffet had included some corrugated brown stuff (caramelised goat's cheese, it turned out) which I'd rather taken a fancy to, and which seemed to take a shine to me. So I spent the first few runs of the morning a) trying to remember how to ski and b) trying to lick this stuff off the roof of my mouth. In the end, it took strong drink to dislodge it - not the temptingly named gloog, FAT or Teezer Power (gluhwein, shandy, or beer respectively) all on the cafe menu; a coffee did the job.

There's something relaxed about skiing in Norway. The Norwegians are so used to snow that they don't need to test their machismo against it whenever it appears.

They don't shoulder you out of the way on the lift queues, nor are they particularly concerned with the labels they wear, which was fortunate, given that my ski gear is Man at C&A circa 1985.

They also tend to ski with a packed lunch,

which would be the depths of uncool in Switzerland, France or Italy. I'd noticed them plundering the breakfast buffet during my close encounter with the brown stuff, and assumed it was barefaced cheek until someone pointed out that the hotel itself actually provided the greaseproof paper bags.

There's something relaxed about the topography, too. From the highest point in Hemsedal - Totten - the mountain tops stretch away like a gentle ocean swell. Below, the river slips in and out of ice caves along the smiling valley floor, past turf-roofed cabins and waterfalls frozen into giant candelabra.

Totten, at 1,497 metres, is around 1,000 metres lower than most alpine slopes. In the Alps, where reaching the resorts can seem like a tortured ascent to the roof of the world, the peaks are jagged and the slopes shaggy with dismal pine. Norway gets its snow by virtue of being north, it doesn't need to be high as well.

Overall, there are 14 lifts and 28 pistes at Hemsedal, most of which are red or blue, carving down broad, beamy slopes, penetrating through a beard of filigree-fingered birch trees and passing the occasional tree-shrouded wood cabin. At times it was like skiing through a painting by Brueghel. But for relaxed, don't read easy. Just before lunch on that first morning, while I was fighting off the brown stuff, one of our party tried a black run on the white stuff, lost her skis and eventually had to be rescued by the Ski Patrol with a skidoo. …

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