All aboard for winter adventure in Voss, Norway

Fun awaits for the entire family

Photo: Sverre F. Hjørnevik / VisitNorway
Voss, Norway, is known as the country’s “Adventure Capital.” And why wouldn’t it be with its magnificent scenery, a state-of-the-art sports infrastructure, and tourist amenities second to none. At nearby Myrkdalen Ski Resort, a skier can tackle the well-groomed slopes and soak in more breathtaking sights.

Cynthia Elyce Rubin
Travel Editor
The Norwegian American

Skiing, traveling over snow on skis, is said to have a history of, at least, eight millennia. Certainly a utilitarian mode of transport in the mid-1800s, skiing became a popular recreational activity and competitive sport in Norway.

The word ski itself comes from Old Norse meaning “cleft wood” or “stick of wood.” The earliest Scandinavian examples of archaeological evidence date to prehistoric times. Rock drawings in Norway, dated around 4,000 B.C., depict a man on skis holding a stick.

Also, ancient preserved skis found in drained bogs indicate skis were widely used, particularly in northern Norway, since prehistoric times. Skis have also been found in ancient graves.

Photo: Sverre F. Hjørnevik / VisitNorway
A family takes a ski outing in Myrkdalen. In the Voss area, there are options for all levels of skiers, both young and old, with excellent instruction offered.

In 2014, a ski made of birch complete with leather bindings emerged from a glacier in the Reinheimen Mountains. According to the scientific report, the ski is about 1,300 years old. Many organic artifacts have been well-preserved for several thousand years in the glaciers of Oppland and emerge when the glaciers recede.

Then in 2021, a preserved ski was found near a shrinking glacier in Reinheimen on a mountain plateau between Lesjaskogsvatnet and Skjåk. The ski found in 2014 seems to come from the same pair so that the two skis constitute the world’s oldest complete set.

“Born with skis on their feet”

Norwegians are said to be “born with skis on their feet,” and there are many Norwegian “firsts” in winter sports. Skiing as a sport was first recorded in military accounts of Norwegian and Swedish infantries. Military races and exercises included downhill skiing in rough land, target practice while skiing downhill and cross-country skiing with full military backpack.

In the 1800s, skiers in Telemark challenged each other. Some races were on “bumpy courses;” others included “steep jumps.” These early races in Telemark ran along difficult trails usually from a high mountain along timber lines and ended with a sharp turn called the Telemark turn on a field or icy lake.

Photo: Sverre F. Hjørnevik / VisitNorway
A little girl gets ready for a race set up just for children.

The first public skiing competition was held in Tromsø, Norway, in March 1843. The earliest ski clubs were founded in the Trøndelag region of Norway in 1861. The first public ski-jumping competition was held at Trysil, Norway, in 1862.

Ten years later, the oldest continually operating ski club in North America, the Nansen Ski Club, was founded in 1872 by Norwegian immigrants in Berlin, N.H., under the name Skiklubben.

Today, the club provides Nordic ski and snowshoe trails at Milan Hill State Park in northern New Hampshire and is working to restore “The Big Nansen,” a 172-foot ski jump used in the first Olympic jumping trials in 1938.

The national sport

Norway’s love of skiing, however, is not a thing of the past. Skiing is truly the Norwegian national sport, and Voss is the “Adventure Capital” of Norway. It is globally known as the “extreme sports village” with everything from skydiving and rafting in the summer and autumn, various hikes in the mountains, and skiing in the winter.

Located in the middle of the Sognefjord and the Hardangerfjord, Voss is just over an hour from Bergen by train and 1½ hours by car. Three ski resorts are in the vicinity. All give tours.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons
The Voss Gondol takes you to the top of Mount Hanguren in just nine minutes all year round.

In addition, the new gondola, Voss Gondol, opened in 2019. Located by the train station, it takes you to the top of Mount Hanguren in just nine minutes all year round. It is the largest and most modern mountain gondola in northern Europe.

Outdoor activities abound

Voss, the largest ski region in western Norway, has many options for all levels of skiing experience, from the beginner to the diehard athlete. And there is night skiing on many slopes at the various resorts.

Voss Ski Resort is truly a skier’s paradise. With 24 ski slopes and 11 ski lifts with a total capacity of 12,000 people an hour, there is room for everyone! The slopes vary in difficulty, and there are three designated kids’ areas, ensuring that everyone will find a slope for their skill level.

The Voss Resort ski school offers lessons divided into four levels. You can begin your skiing experience from scratch at Voss, or brush up on your skills for the more advanced slopes. This skiing paradise offers something for everyone. With more than six miles of lighted slopes, including the terrain park, the paradise is a day and night experience! If you’ve forgotten any equipment, you are covered at Voss Resort ski rental!

Photo: Sverre F. Hjørnevik / Visit Voss
The Myrkdalen Hotel offers modern accommodations with full amenities and comfort.

At the heart of the Norwegian fjord country, Voss offers activities for everyone year-round. There are many excellent hiking trails for all levels. If you want to explore the fjords, you can reach the Hardangerfjord and the Sognefjord in less than an hour’s drive. If you are looking for more extreme activities, there are rafting and paragliding possibilities.

The ski slopes are surrounded with modern apartments and self-service cabins that you can rent to acquire the full mountain experience. Enjoy the beautiful views and the warming log fire in the comfort of your own cabin. With the slopes, you are always close to the action, but you can also enjoy the quiet of mountain living.

Photo: Sverre F. Hjørnevik / Visit Voss
For a truly Norwegian experience, some families may enjoy staying in a fully equipped cabin.

Travel green with train or gondola and enjoy the simplicity of a car-free holiday. With nine cabins that hold 34 passengers each, the gondola is a green travel option from Voss station to the ski resort.

The gondola takes you from the resort to the mountaintop in less than nine minutes. At the top, you’ll find Haugartoppen Restaurant, which seats 450 people on two floors. Here you can taste local delicacies and enjoy breath-taking mountain views.

Myrkdalen Ski Resort is considered to be a complete ski resort surrounded by high mountains, deep valleys, spectacular fjords, and a genuine rural culture.

It’s easy to take the entire family skiing here. There is a dedicated children’s area with easy access to parking, cabins, apartments, and the Myrkdalen Hotel. It’s a relatively new destination. Over the past 20 years, Myrkdalen has developed from agriculture to one of western Norway’s most attractive winter destinations.

Photo: Benjamin Hjort/ VisitNorway
Ski touring in Myrkdalen Fjellandsby offers a unique perspective on the surrounding scenery.

Hit the trails and slopes

There are 22 ski trails of varying difficulty levels, from family-friendly alpine slopes to fast-paced cross-country trails. In addition, the resort has nine ski lifts, including two express chair lifts.

The Myrkdalen Ski Center offers ski passes for daily and seasonal use. Here you experience the amazing nature of Fjord Norway while enjoying a day on the slopes.

Myrkdalen is only 30 minutes away from the famous Nærøyfjord. On the other side of the valley is Bjørndalskamben, the highest mountain in Myrkdalen with panoramic views over Vikafjellet. There are many mountains—Solbjørganipa, Vardanosi, Bakkanosi, Fyresnipa—with stunning fjord views to explore.

The ski school offers guided ski tours in Myrkdalen in the winter season. I’ve also read that some days a month, you can explore the winter wilderness by dogsledding along Myrkdalen Lake. The route is perfect for a family activity.

Photo: Sverre F. Hjørnevik / VisitNorway
The famous Flåm Railway will take you from nearby Flåm to Myrkdalen.

Snowshoeing fun

If skiing is not your thing, snowshoeing makes it possible to walk through the deep snow and enjoy the winter landscape. Exit the gondola and you will find yourself in beautiful mountain terrain with an excellent view of Voss and the surrounding mountains.

The snowshoe trip is a good option for those who want a real winter experience in nature without skis. This is a simple and family-friendly trip. It’s something for you if you like to play, make angels in the snow, slide down small slopes, or follow grouse tracks.

Meet your guide outside the tourist office in the center of Voss. The guide will discuss clothing and equipment to make sure that everyone is ready for a snowshoe trip to the mountains. The guides are prepared with extra clothing, if necessary. The gondola takes the tour to its starting point. Your guide explains winter outdoor life in Norway. Do you want to learn to light a fire with one match? Or prepare simple food on the fire?

The guide also points out the natural surroundings and helps to keep you warm along the way. In their backpack, there is local food that will be cooked on a fire. If the weather turns inclement, then everyone works together to build an improvised shelter from rain and wind.

Participants quickly discover that time by the fire gives the opportunity to enjoy the silence of the forest, removed from the anxieties of daily life.

Photo: Foap / VisitNorway
When it’s time for a break after a day of skiing, you can take off your mittens and go inside to enjoy the local fare.

Local specialties

If you want to keep warm without any exertion, try a tour and beer tasting at Voss Fellesbryggeri. The guide is both the founder and manager of the brewery.

You will hear how beer as well as stronger drinks are made. There will be stories about the history of brewing and beer traditions in Norway, particularly with a focus on kveik, brewing yeast that has been used in Norwegian farmhouse brewing for generations. The existence of kveik today is a result of a folk tradition practiced by only a handful of traditional brewers in western Norway.

For a true foodie, this is, indeed, a unique experience. You can email them at voss@fellesbryggeri.no for more information.

Learn more

The Voss tourist information office can answer any questions you might have. You can also buy tickets for the Voss Gondol and arrange all kinds of tours for winter fun for the entire family. To contact them, send an email to info@visitvoss.no, or call them at +47 406 177 00. The office is located in the same building as Voss Gondol and the train station.

This article originally appeared in the January 2023 issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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Cynthia Elyce Rubin

Cynthia Elyce Rubin, PhD., is a visual culture specialist, travel writer, and author of articles and books on decorative arts, folk art, and postcard history. She collects postcards, ephemera, and early photography. See www.cynthiaelycerubin.com.

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