Skistua Hospitality Year Round
Løvlia is a cabin in the woods near Oslo with a lot to offer it’s customers
By John Erik Stacy 6 October 2011
The Bakken family own and run a business in the backwoods near Oslo: they are the hosts of Løvlia Skistua. Although the stua model is in some ways unique to Norway (the basic concept is a public-house at a remote location) visitors to Løvlia will recognize the universal elements of welcoming and service-minded proprietors. And Løvlia is special in its expression of the skistua. It is a year-round establishment with sport activities and event facilities that include both bed and board.
“It is more a lifestyle than a job,” says Rita Bakken, the senior female in the Bakken family enterprise. She and her husband Vidar have been at it now for more than 10 years. Their kids Betina and Brage are also cheerful helpers and reinforce the impression that Løvlia is not just a place to get a snack but part a cultural experience. On weekends in the ski season, about 600 people visit Løvlia each day for waffles and other goodies as part of their cross-country ski adventure. Skiers normally set one of the ski-cabins as their destination. This is true for skiers of all types – including those bent on a new personal record as well as families with small children in tow.
Løvlia occupies a strategic point at a major intersection of trails and is a very popular destination. Skiers and summer mountain-bike-riders find their way to Løvlia from start points near and far. Trail-heads with parking or public transport options are plentiful. And Krokskogen, the forest where Asbjørnsen and Moe collected some of the stories that are the canon of Norwegian fairy-tales, is deep and beautiful with hidden valleys interspersed with open vistas.
Keeping a skistua open year-round is viable through the extra activities that the Bakkens offer. These include event hosting – parties and conferences – as well as lessons in skiing and mountain-biking. Activities like these form a good synergy for the family and draw on their experience and strengths: Vidar and Rita are both part of the competitive ski environment, and their daughter Betina is now well into the junior program. Biking in the forest is a good summer activity for competition skiers. “It has the same intensity as skate-skiing,” says Vidar. Low pulse, high VOmax mountain-bike-mud-monsters (with equipment straight out of “Transformers”) are seen all along the trails near Løvlia. There are plenty of hills to climb and side trails that offer roots, rocks and mud for the technical biker. Vidar, with good help from Rita, also runs winter and summer lessons for ski technique, making good use of the conference facilities as well as the trails that surround Løvlia.
The Bakkens own their business, but lease the property from Skiforeningen (the official name translates to the “Association for the Promotion of Skiing”). In this way they are like the few other year-round stua that create a business from their enthusiasm for a lifestyle in the woods near Oslo. The others offering overnight facilities are Kikkutstua, also owned by Skiforening, and Kobberhaughytten which is similarly the property of Turistforeningen (the Norwegian Trekking Association).
Enthusiasm shines through in everything Vidar and Rita do – especially when they prepare delicious food! Fresh baked bread is part of the morning and noon-time meal and in the evening Vidar dons his chef’s hat and pulls out all the stops with delicacies balancing local flavors with exotic influences. No doubt, Løvlia is the premier establishments catering to the tradition and happening-scene that is the “Oslomarka” sport crowd. But the reputation of this place has flowed beyond the borders of Norway and guests from round the world experience Løvlia as an entry point into a lifestyle so typical of the Norwegian character.
This article originally appeared in the Nov. 4, 2011 issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (800) 305-0271.