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Travel Guide: Get Piste

12th Oct 2011 1:53am | By Editor

Snuggle up in Geilo's blanket of snow in the spectacular heartland of Norway. WORDS: Anna Maria Esps

There's something comforting about a snow-covered town, like it's been tucked up in a blanket and put to sleep. At least, this is how Geilo looked from the ski train. But as I stepped onto the platform after a four-hour trip from Oslo, the icy temperature was far from cosy.

Even with only some 2500 souls to its name, Geilo still manages to be one of the Norway's key ski centres. So, while it might have looked sleepy under its doona of white stuff there was plenty of life in this 100-year-old resort, cushioned in stunning mountain scenery alongside the Ustedals fjord. And the chill in the air meant nigh perfect skiing.

During my stay spells of glorious sunshine, interrupted only by the odd dump of snow, meant there was definitely little need for artificial snow. The town was covered in two metres of powder, with the nearby fjord frozen solid in most places.

As a resort, Geilo is particularly good for the beginner to the intermediate skier, but it's far from boring if you're an expert. With 39 slopes to hit there's plenty to keep you busy, and that's before you get to the back country. Best of all, though, you'll struggle to find a queue at any of the 20 lifts.

Despite the resort's popularity there's a blissful sense of space, with nobody jostling to get on the lifts, and nobody cutting you up or slowing you down.

Downhill skiing is undoubtedly the most popular activity here but it is just one of the many things on offer. Cross-country skiing is easier on your knees and thighs, with far fewer broken limbs on average, but is still good exercise, if in a gentler fashion. Gliding along the 220km of well-made-up tracks can take you all around the Ustedals fjord and beyond. With so many tracks to choose from you could easily spend the whole week exploring in the pristine scenery. Many Norwegians prefer cross-country to downhill and often take enormous picnics for, as they put it, 'going on tour'.

Snowboarders are also in for a treat as Geilo has one of Norway's biggest terrain parks and Northern Europe's largest halfpipe - the Super Pipe at Fugleleiken. There are three snowboarding areas to choose from and this sport has recently been the focus of big investment in Geilo.

If you need a break from the action you can opt for a snowy, leisurely walk around the Ustedals fjord, crossing the frozen, icy waters from one side to the other. Be careful where you tread, though. As I was crossing I strayed from the marked path to see if the snow would carry me. Two seconds later I was waist-deep in fresh powder: a break from the action indeed.

After such an exhausting interlude there was nothing for it but to spend time recovering in the resort's bars. There are plenty to choose from in Geilo, and some are up the mountains, although these aren't allowed to serve alcohol until after 3pm, presumably to avoid nasty accidents on the slopes.

The ultimate bar, though, has to be Dr Holms Hotel. Look for the elegant, white manor house towering over the town, it's elevation giving you the best views of the mountains. Yes, alcohol can break the bank in Norway, but with views
like that who cares? Plus it's a sure-fire way to keep out that winter chill.