Visit Hoth 2020
A gathering for Star Wars fans in Finse, Norway
In 1979, George Lucas chose Finse, Norway, for the film location for Star Wars Episode V—The Empire Strikes Back, and who does not remember the epic scenes from the ice planet Hoth? This year marks the 40th anniversary of the release of the movie, and the town of Finse is going all out to celebrate the milestone.
Based on a story by George Lucas, set three years after the destruction of the Death Star, the Rebel Alliance has established its base on the ice planet Hoth. The movie in which Master Yoda utters, “Do or do not—there is no ‘try’” became one of the more memorable in the Star Wars saga.
Filming in Norway began on Mar. 5, 1979, on Hardangerjøkulen, Norway’s sixth largest glacier, about 3 miles from the town of Finse. The crew experienced sub-zero temperatures of -29 degress Fahrenheit. in a winter storm that came with 18 feet of snow!
The movie’s premiere took place at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., on May 17, 1980, with a nationwide release on May 21, 1980.
The Empire Strikes Back won an Academy Award for best sound and a Special Achievement Academy Award for best visual effects. In 2010, the film was selected to be preserved by the Library of Congress as part of the National Film Registry.
The Importance of Finse
Finse is a mountain village area on the shore of Finsevatnet in Ulvik municipality in Hordaland County. The village, centered on Finse Station, a railway station on the Bergen line, sits at an elevation of 4,009 feet above sea level, making it the highest station in the entire Norwegian railway system. The village lies in the eastern part of Ulvik municipality, and it is not easily accessible from the rest of the municipality. There is no road access, only the railway station. The long Finse Tunnel lies just west of the village area, replacing a difficult section of rail that frequently was blocked by snow and difficult to clear. According to the BBC, Roald Amundsen, Robert Scott, and Ernest Shackleton used the village for expedition training.
Finse represents the planet Hoth for Star Wars fans worldwide. The movie was partially filmed on the glacier and outside the Finse 1222 Hotel, which was also the production home of the entire film crew. Located at the highest point of the Bergen Railway, Finse 1222 first opened in 1909, at the same time as the Bergen Railway was completed. Since Finse 1222 is over a century old, the architecture has been influenced by various additions and changes over the years. Some rooms have views over Hardangerjøkulen, and other rooms face Finsenut and beautiful natural surroundings.
Believe it or not, there are no roads to Finse, but it is easy to reach the hotel by train from Oslo and Bergen (four hours away from Oslo, and 2 1/2 hours from Bergen with four daily departures.)
Visit Hoth 2020
Star Wars fans will gather in Finse to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the movie from March 6-8. It is the fourth gathering of fans in Finse and is hosted by the Visit Hoth Group, the Finse 1222 Hotel, and the Nordic Film Tourism Association.
During the festival, fans will have access to speakers. Past gatherings have included Peter MacDonald, the second unit director of the movie during the filming in Finse; Craig Miller, former director of fan relations for Lucasfilm and creator of the Official Star Wars Fan Club; Knut Vadseth, the photographer on set back in 1979; and Oscar nominee Alan Tomkins, the art director of the movie.
A two-night stay, with meals and festival pass, starts at $461 per person. The festival pass for non-staying guests is $108.
However, Star Wars fans have been booking the hotel for weeks now, so your best chance to participate in the festival is to stay off property and commute.
Star Wars fans can celebrate close to home
While traveling to Norway would be the best of all worlds, it might not be in the stars for 2020. Fret not. In a galaxy not so far away, you can enjoy Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland Park. This attraction is now complete, as is the one on its sister planet at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Orlando.
Die-hard fans know that Galaxy’s Edge tells the story of the saga about 35 years after the Battle of Yavin, meaning that the scene is set about 32 years after Star Wars Episode V—The Empire Strikes Back, and the scenes filmed at Finse.
Fans will, however, love visiting the park and its epic rides. In addition to the main rides, Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run and Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, the park has several shops, eateries, and Star Wars costumed characters roaming the streets. For all things Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, visit theunofficialguides.com where you can find reviews of both attractions, the rides, food, and, most of all, how to access it all. May the Force be with you!
Many photos are courtesy of Teodor Bjerrang, who has attended all past festivals. He is eagerly looking forward to March when he will be joining fans once more in Finse. Make sure to visit his website, teodor.no, a treasure trove of pictures from past gatherings.
Liliane Opsomer is a freelance writer specializing in theme park reporting and a member of the freelance council of SATW (Society of American Travel Writers). She is also the co-author of The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World with Kids (2019). For her tips on visiting Walt Disney World, follow her on Twitter (@lilianeopsomer) or check out her Facebook page (www.facebook.com/TheUnofficialGuideToWaltDisneyWorldWithKids).
This article originally appeared in the February 7, 2020, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.