Norway may still be considered an unusual choice for UK downhill ski enthusiasts. But when I visited Myrkdalen, a ski resort in Voss, two hours north of Bergen, I could see why the country’s resorts are growing in popularity among non-Norwegians.
Myrkdalen is the largest ski resort in western Norway, and one of the most snow-sure places in Europe. Its season extends right out to the beginning of May. A quick check of the resort website when I wrote this post (21 April) showed a temperature of -3°. It was snowing, with 100% of the trails open, and seven of the nine lifts.
Despite its size, Myrkdalen felt quite small and cosy. It’s a ski-in, ski-out resort, with wide, open slopes and no chance of children getting lost on a distant range of mountains. It offers skiing for a range of abilities, from complete beginners, up to experts (Myrkdalen has just hosted the freestyle ski world cup). There’s a variety of ski activities for children, including lessons and gala competitions. The ‘Fox club’ childcare sessions include movie nights, face painting and a play area next to Myrkdalen Hotel’s restaurants, so children can take themselves off if they get bored of sitting at the dinner table.
When we ate at the hotel restaurant, at about 7pm, we could still see children through our panoramic window, happily playing around on skis and sledges at the bottom of the mountain.
If you whizzed too quickly down the slopes at Myrkdalen, you might possibly find yourself careering into hotel’s pizza restaurant – it’s that close to the base of the mountain. In the modern Myrkdalen Hotel the floor-to-ceiling windows in the bedrooms overlooking the slopes give the impression that you could just roll out of bed and onto the mountain. Here’s a video tour of my room:
I was given a spacious double. Families can opt for inter-connecting rooms, and they vary in size up to 100m2. Although the clean, modern room was similar to plenty of others you find across Europe, I was pleased to see it had some typically Norwegian quirks. As with all the double beds I slept in on this trip, there were two separate duvets on the bed (to conserve energy for skiing?). The room didn’t have a kettle, but there was a fridge and a large SMART TV, as well as pictures of Norwegian sporting heroes above the bed. The room’s under-floor heating was blissfully toasty, especially in the generously sized bathroom, where the shower included a huge picture of one of Norway’s celebrated waterfalls.
There are three restaurants at Myrkdalen, two of which look out onto the piste. So, when you stop at lunchtime for a pizza and beer (Newcastle Brown Ale is on offer, as well as the local Hansa), this is the sort of view you can expect:
For breakfast you can expect a typical range of breads – including the dark, seeded variety – eggs, pancakes, cured fish and sweet cheese.
We ate one main meal at Restaurant Nuten, and it was exquisite. We had pumpkin soup to start, followed by tender lamb with lentils, crunchy parsnip batons and a beetroot jus. The waiter suggested a wine pairing for each course. Our chocolate dessert was half-way between a cake and a mousse, and enveloped in crunchy chocolate layers. Lunch the next day took place at the less formal Restaurant Tunet, where I tucked into a four-cheese pizza as large as a giantess’s head. One of my colleagues chose a pizza with local cured meats. None of the pizzas, though, featured the local delicacy: meat from a sheep’s head. The country’s most celebrated sheep’s head farm is close to Myrkdalen. You can visit to pick up some eyeballs, cheek, tongue and other tasty morsels.
Despite the presence of two bars, Myrkdalen Hotel had none of the raucous after-dark vibe that you get at some resorts, where the crowd tends to be made up of Millenials. Instead, it was laid-back and friendly; perfect for family visitors. My one regret was that we didn’t have time to try out the Nuten Fondue restaurant. It was a picture of ornate splendour.
Skiing at Myrkdalen
As well as downhill and cross-country skiing, at Myrkdalen you can try your hand at Telemark skiing. This combines elements of both Nordic and Alpine skiing. Also popular is off-piste trekking, where people snowshoe up a mountain, and then ski down.
At Myrkdalen, I took my first ever cross-country lesson, skidding along on skinny skis, and trying to propel myself gracefully across a flat plain. I did think that this type of skiing, which originated in Scandinavia over 5000 years ago, would be easier that the downhill version – but our instructor, Asmund, said cross-country was more difficult for beginners. Sure, you don’t have to launch yourself down a steep slope. Alpine skis are broader, though, so there’s more stability on the slopes. Your ankles are firmly gripped by the hard boots.
With cross-country skiing, your heels move in and out of the ski bindings – and there’s a lot less control. When I hit a shallow incline, it felt as though I was trying to balance precariously on cocktail sticks, wearing slippery trainers. I fell over. A lot. But after two hours, I began to find my balance, and Asmund said I’d almost reached the ‘plateau’, where beginners master the basic techniques, and can move on swiftly to more challenging terrain. Apparently, the intermediate level of Nordic skiing’s much easier than the downhill version.
I’m hoping to go back some time, to find out whether he was right….
The SnowExpress bus connects Myrkdalen with the picturesque fjords at Aurland and Flåm, which are close enough to visit for just one day. I’ve posted about the attractions in and around Flåm, so if you’d like to read about Viking breweries, fjordsafaris, the Flåmsbana railway and more, check out these posts:
Fjord Norway: Flåm, Stegastein, the Fretheim Hotel and Ægir Brewpub
Fjord Norway: Flåm Railway, Fjordsafari and Vatnahalsen Høyfjellshotell
Bergen is the closest city to Myrkdalen, so if you’re travelling to the ski resort and would like to combine it with a city trip, you can find more information here:
What to expect from Bergen, Norway
Bergen: Troldhaugen, the Edvard Grieg Museum
Myrkdalen is located in Voss, Western Norway, 2 hours from Bergen International Airport with direct flights from London, Aberdeen, Copenhagen and Amsterdam. An airport shuttle operates during the winter season. Voss Railway Station is on the Bergensbana Railway between Bergen and Oslo. By train it takes 1.5 hours from Bergen and 5 hours from Oslo. Add another 30 minutes by car (or free shuttle bus during the winter months) and you are in Myrkdalen Mountain Resort.
Ski Safari run trips to from the UK Myrkdalen. Seven nights over February 2018 half-term for a family of four (two adults and two children 11yrs or under) is £4,540.00. This includes return direct flights from Gatwick, transfers, hotel stay on a half-board basis and lift passes for all four.
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