The Norwegian Trekking Association

Text: Sindre Thoresen Lønnes/Julie Maske                                                Photo: Sindre Thoresen Lønnes

In midwinter you often hear English, German or Dutch at the cabins in Rondane or the mountains around Ringebu. This is where most of the Norwegian Trekking Association’s (DNT) foreign members travel to ski from cabin to cabin.

Winter has laid its white cape over Rondvassbu. The cabin is colored in blue by the night and in yellow by the light from the windows. A cold wind creeps around the walls and swirls up snow from meters-deep snow banks. Inside in the dining room you here laughter.

Rondane is smaller than and not as wild as Jotunheimen National Park. Nevertheless, with its range of peaks, valleys and mountain areas, it offers a challenge for those who love the feeling of untamed nature combined with the possibility to explore the peaceful areas.

“I haven’t cross country skied a lot before, so this trip is a kickstart”, says Rachel Alete from England. Along with nine others and a guide, she takes part in the trip “Highlights of Rondane,” offered by DNT. The trip is marked with three ski poles in DNT’s winter catalogue, indicating medium difficulty. Some skiing experience is necessary in order to finish the trip, as mentioned in the description: Experience from mountain skiing is required. The trips are in rugged terrain and up to 25 kilometers per day, often without ski tracks.

“Rondane has just what I was looking for”, says Rachel, who resides in Switzerland close to the towering Alps. “I am in Norway to find peace and challenge myself.”

Want to See the Mountains
There is a line at the desk at DNT’s information office in Storgata in Oslo.

“Many Europeans have heard about the Norwegian mountain experience, and they prefer coming in January, February and March. They don’t realize how harsh the weather can be up there, as it is very cold and windy, at this time of year. Often they also lack skiing experience,” says Espen Opaker Moreite. For several years he worked as both tour guide and as a source of information about DNT, the cabins and the mountains.

“Some of the foreign tourists are experienced. Many of them have taken part in several of DNT’s trips and have gained knowledge about clothing, mountain skis, and navigation. Others are helpless. They have seen photos in tour guides and think the cabins are serviced all year, that all trails have ski tracks and that they need to carry heavy randonee equipment,” says Moreite. Those who come are normally middle aged, highly educated, and from England, Germany, Denmark and Holland.

On several occasions foreigners have been involved in accidents while skiing in the mountains.

“Poor research, bad or lack of equipment, or those who are well equipped but don’t know how to properly use it,” explains Moreite as the cause of frequent problems. “White plains and cozy cabins look alluring in photographs, but to navigate in unknown terrain is demanding. The weather changes quickly, from sun and calm to high wind in just seconds. Norwegians in the mountains usually have long experience and know when they have to stop to put on more clothes, can read weather signals and know the Norwegian mountain code (fjellvettreglene).”

Bente Skogsaas, foto Sindre Thoresen Lønnes DNT_09Bente Skogsaas. Photo:  Sindre Thoresen Lønnes

Bente Skogsaas, a guide for many years, smiles and nods when Rachel talks while eating meat patties (kjøttkaker) at Rondvassbu. Today she has taught Rachel how to glide and how to find her balance on cross country skis.

“Rachel has the most challenges, but does not slow down the group, which keeps a steady pace all day,” Skogsaas explains. “The others have to be patient and think about what they are wearing. When one keeps the pace down, the others have to redress to stay warm. All in all there is a lot to think about when we have a group with varied experience, but people are for the most part very adaptable and realize that we are on a trip together.” After dinner it is time for coffee and to plan the next day’s stage in front of the fireplace. When tour guide Skogsaas is looking for the correct wording in English, she is helped by Richard Meinold from Washington. He is on his fifth guided tour with DNT, and has been in Norway for two weeks every winter for the past 21 years.

“When you are in a different country I think it is practical be able to do some small talk, read road signs and newspapers. That’s why I have learned Norwegian. It enriches the traveling experience when you know the language, Richard says in steady Norwegian-American. As member of a ski club in Washington he heard about the cabin-to-cabin trips in Norway while attending a presentation in the early 1990’s. The first time I was in Norway was 1993. Then I was in Jotunheimen and I have kept coming back. It has become a tradition,” he says with a smile.

On Natures Terms
After a short night in bunk beds the group is ready for a new trip. Generous packed lunches are made with bread and toppings from the breakfast buffet, thermoses are filled and bodies disappear under layers of warm winter clothes. Wool mittens with wind stoppers on the outside protect their hands against the biting cold. Rachel Alete is about to conquer the Norwegian nature and finally master Nordic skiing. Tour guide Bente straightens her hat and hang the map around her neck.

“If the wind increases, several of them get a bit scared. It is nice to have control of everything before we start” says Skogsaas, who checks that everyone has the necessary equipment for a daytrip. “Make sure you write down that it is nice up here in the mountains during winter, she adds. It is indeed very nice, and not dangerous –just as long as you are well prepared, properly dressed and understand that you are out here on nature’s terms.”
You can join DNT no matter where in the world you live, and you can easily sign up on their website