Norway in winter

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Travelling to Norway in Winter: The Viking Season


In Norway, winter is dubbed the Viking season: those who venture during this chilly period savour the beauty of the fjords without the summer crowds (and the accompanying prices). It’s also the season for skiing and treks across pristine snowscapes, and the mesmerising Northern Lights.

What winter adventure in Norway captivates your dreams? A journey with sled dogs (or reindeer!) in the Arctic, lit by a polar aurora? Freestyle skiing amidst the splendid backdrop of the Lyngen Alps? Accompanying fishermen in the Lofoten islands, exploring snow-laden fjords, then unwinding in a delightful over-water sauna followed by a brisk icy dip?

Sailing like a Viking, opting for urban sightseeing and cultural visits in Oslo, Bergen, or Trondheim interspersed with Nordic skiing days… All this – and much more – is attainable during a Norwegian winter. Rocking Trip crafts a bespoke journey brimming with activities and enchantment, and guides you in your hotel bookings…


How to Dress for Norway in Winter?


It’s hardly a revelation: if you’re embarking on a winter trip to Norway, warm clothing is essential! Fleece jumpers and jackets, ski trousers, down jackets, thermal leggings, under-gloves and gloves, hats, and so forth, should all find their way into your suitcase.

Especially if your Norwegian escapades take you to the Far North, in Lapland, where temperatures can plummet to -40°C. You’d best adopt the three-layer system, also known as the onion technique:

  1. A comfortable base layer to keep your body dry and warm, using synthetic fibres or merino wool – but definitely not cotton, which retains moisture rather than wicking it away.
  2. An insulating layer to retain body heat, typically a fleece jacket or a down jacket.
  3. A waterproof layer to shield you from snow and wind, such as ski trousers, a Gore-Tex® parka, and so on.

Combined with a snug hat, a neck warmer, woollen sock pairs, and waterproof footwear, you’re all set to confront Norway’s bitter cold, even venturing to Spitsbergen and the Svalbard archipelago. Here, in Norway’s northernmost regions, a stern winter climate awaits, with average temperatures of -20°C in February.

Surprisingly, not all parts of Norway demand the famed three-layer approach. For instance, the west coast and even the Lofoten archipelago, despite being well up north, benefit from the Gulf Stream, resulting in fairly mild winters with temperatures ranging from 0°C to 8°C during the day – rather agreeable for these latitudes! The climate of the west coast, particularly around Bergen, the country’s second-largest city, remains a bit damp in winter. The sole exception is the southern coast near the Skagerrak strait (separating Norway from Denmark), which is less rainy but a tad cooler.

Inland, brace yourself for a cold and snowy winter, which naturally delights skiing and other snow sport enthusiasts. The capital, Oslo, experiences temperatures hovering around freezing from November to March, but snow is certainly a regular feature. A waterproof layer of clothing is imperative!

Norway’s fascinating range of climates – from oceanic to continental to Baltic – means visitors need to adjust their attire depending on the regions they explore during their stay. But, whatever you do, don’t forget to pack your… swimsuit! Yes, winter is also the season of steaming, comforting saunas, even outdoors. Picture yourself in a toasty jacuzzi at night under the Northern Lights…

A swimsuit and swim cap tucked into your luggage will also let you partake in a cherished Norwegian tradition: the icy baths.



When to See the Northern Lights in Norway?


A winter journey to Norway promises intense emotion coupled with the comforting embrace of the famed Kos sentiment. It’s also the optimal time to witness the celestial dance of the Northern Lights.

Even in Lapland, Santa’s homeland, one can’t have it all: summer is the season of the midnight sun with endless days, while winter, specifically between November and March, heralds the time for the polar auroras. And as implied by the term “polar”, this phenomenon is best observed in the country’s north.


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The Sky Dances in Northern Norway


A natural phenomenon resulting from the collision of electrically charged particles from solar explosions with Earth’s magnetic field, the Northern Lights manifest during cold, dry weather. They then unveil their majestic dance of lights – green, blue, yellow, red, or pink – the colour being determined by the altitude of the light and the involved atoms.

To be fortunate enough to admire the Northern Lights between Helgeland and the North Cape, specific conditions are necessary: a clear night and no light pollution. This means straying from cities if you’re staying in Tromsø, Varanger or Bodø, or in the Lofoten islands or Vesterålen. Be aware that while the Northern Lights are a significant draw to the Arctic Circle in winter, they can also be elusive.

A top tip: download the Norway Lights app, available on Android and iOS. It provides a three-day forecast for the Northern Lights.

Dreaming of Northern Lights and the blue hour? Rocking Trip’s guides offer personalised advice to experience these unique moments.

Winter Activities While Awaiting the Polar Aurora


Firstly, both in the north and south of the country, the spectacular Norwegian fjords can be explored in winter as well as summer, especially during cruises. And if indeed you’re waiting for the Northern Lights in the Arctic Circle region, other breathtaking experiences lie in store.

Winter, for instance, is the season for whale watching, spotting humpbacks and orcas from the Vesterålen archipelago. Throughout the northern parts, a winter journey in Norway sets the stage for exhilarating treks across snow-covered vast landscapes. Snowmobiles are all the rage, but perhaps more enchanting are the sled dogs. They’re your companions for a jaunt in the tundra or for multi-day expeditions.


Where to Ski in Norway in Winter?


Let’s keep it simple: 47% of Norwegian land is covered in mountains. The land that hosted the Lillehammer Winter Olympics in 1994 is also a skier’s paradise.

Alpine skiing, Nordic skiing, snowboarding, sledging, snowshoeing: winter sports reign supreme in Norway, in resorts scattered across the country – even near Oslo – and on countless cross-country ski trails, the nation’s favourite pastime.



Nordic Skiing: A 200% Natural Pursuit


Forests, valleys, fjords, the Arctic Circle: all of Norway’s landscapes glide past beneath the astonished gaze of cross-country skiers. The entire country boasts nature-immersed Nordic ski trails. The mountain ranges in Eastern Norway, also known as the Scandinavian Alps, rank among the most coveted. The Gudbrandsdalen valley alone is home to eleven Nordic domains, and Hallingdal boasts over 2,000 km of trails. From Lillehammer, the Trollyøpa trail extends for 170 km.

Picture yourself skiing across the Folgefonna glacier, located in the national park of the same name, and then taking a break for a spectacular experience: a kayak excursion on a glacial lake.

You might just as well choose the majestic backdrop of the Norwegian fjords and UNESCO World Heritage sites for your skiing. Night skiing on illuminated trails is even possible there.

As for Northern Norway, it’s quite simple: in winter, even the smallest town has its groomed trails.

Norway’s Finest Alpine Ski Resorts


While Nordic skiing is king in Norway, downhill skiing is certainly its prestigious prince. Expansive ski areas, family-friendly resorts with their snow parks, sledding slopes, and entertainment: Norway has over 200 ski resorts, open from October to May. Here are a few of the most renowned:

  • Trysil, the country’s largest resort, boasting 32 ski lifts and 78 km of slopes set on a volcanic mountain for a 360° view.
  • Hemsedal in the south, if you’re not too fussed about the prices; it offers vast terrains (including off-piste) and lively evenings.
  • Hafjell, a resort for all ages near Lillehammer, and its sister resort Kvitfjell with the World Cup downhill slope (an 800-meter drop!).
  • Myrkdalen and Voss, the westernmost resorts (in the Bergen region), from Super G slopes to carving.
  • Hovden, the largest resort in Southern Norway, known for its family-friendly atmosphere and quaint village.

As you might have noticed, the most famed ski resorts are not in Northern Norway. Fear not, you can still combine the polar night, Northern Lights, and alpine skiing, especially in Narvikfjellet.


Ski Touring: Endless Spaces Amidst Breathtaking Surroundings


In reality, both Northern Norway and the Norwegian fjords are ideal playgrounds for ski touring enthusiasts. Norway is also one of the few countries where this discipline can be practised on islands like Lofoten, Vesterålen, or Senja. “Sail to ski”: reach your snow-covered peaks by boat!

Touring in pristine powder snow requires certain precautions and adherence to safety guidelines. It’s best to be accompanied by a local mountain guide, even for experienced skiers.


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