Setting off for the slopes in Geilo in a relaxed atmosphere opened an additional wing with an indoor pool long enough to allow a serious work out. PACKAGE: : Crystal Ski offers packages at Dr Holms Hotel. Prices for seven nights half board start from £415 or £539 (for two sharing — departing from Gatwick on January 17 or 24) — discounts of £384 and £260 respectively. Forest cabins available on the same dates for £238 for each of 4 sharing (down £280). For those seeking slightly more demanding skiing Crystal also offers packages in Hemsedal (about one hour from Geilo). Seven night half board at the Hotel Skogstad, departing on January 24 from £525 for each of two sharing crystalski.com
There’s also interesting art here, from the wealthy owner’s sizeable collection, including a sketch by Edvard Munch for his best known work, The Scream.
Out among the trees, surrounded by snow, there are also some beautifully appointed self catering cabins.
If you harbour the notion that Norwegian cooking is by and large boring — boiled fish and potatoes maybe — prepare to be surprised. The culinary revolution that has swept Scandinavia has reached here, too.
While both the previously described hotels have fine chefs, in the centre of Geilo is the Restaurant Hallingstuene.
There I ate a superb dinner of mountain trout fillet with lemon herb butter, and cloudberries with ice cream.
The pound may have strengthened significantly against the krone but Norway still isn’t cheap.
This meal would set you back around £60 a head before you’ve had a drink. The restaurant has a wine cel- lar with prices starting at around £25. It also has a couple of bottles of 1990 Romanée-Conti at around £6,550.
It’s perhaps a statement of the obvious that, as a viable alternative to downhill skiing, Geilo has Norway’s equivalent of Premiership football: cross country.
Asked which she liked better, a hotel receptionist shot back: “Are you asking me if I’m Norwegian? Besides the magnificent, floodlit World Cup stadium, where serious competitors share the circuit with skiers simply out for exercise and a lung full of fresh air, there are 220 peaceful kilometres of tracks within a 5km radius of the resort. But take heed, if you haven’t tried it — it’s trickier than it looks. Those skinny skis have minds of their own, particularly on downward stretches.”
Best of all, perhaps, though this is by no means exclusive to Geilo, there are the Norwegians themselves.
I’m sure there are grumpy locals, as there are everywhere, but so far, while skiing in Norway, I haven’t encountered one.
Most speak good English and have no difficulties with British humour. An example writ large was Elisabeth Andreassen, born in Sweden to Norwegian parents and a huge star hereabouts, best known for winning the Eurovison Song Contest in 1985 with the group Bobbysox.
With unflagging courtesy and humour she signed CDs and posed for photos with fans who had just heard her perform songs, including a somewhat surreal 12 days of Christmas (in Norwegian) at a festive concert at the resort’s ultra-modern Cultural Church.
The Trois Vallées this most certainly isn’t but, like Knut-Arne’s pizzas, that kind of warmth makes a little skiing go a long way.