Skiing in Lillehammer/Svingvoll

The next day started out looking a bit bleak, but before we knew it the sun had come up and cleared away the worst of the fog. It also gave me an excellent view from my balcony. The life of a Fulbrighter is truly a hard one. (Yes, that was sarcasm).

IMG_9697  IMG_9700  IMG_9704After a hearty breakfast, the downhill crew made our way over to the ski lift. We consisted of four downhill skiers and one snowboarder. Now all of us have lived in some of the best ski states in the U.S. and are used to long lift lines, so in order to beat the crowds, we set off early hoping that we could beat a line at the lifts. We were actually astonished to find that we were pretty much the only people on the mountain. We only saw about four other people on our first few runs down the mountain, but the slopes were pretty much ours until about noon.

IMG_2748  IMG_2761  IMG_2750IMG_2762  IMG_2767  IMG_2768 IMG_2782Now the one modern ski lift happened to be connected to a black diamond slope (difficult slope) and a red slope (somewhere between difficult and intermediate). Now because we wanted a bit more variety and a few of us wanted some easier slopes, it rapidly became clear that we would have to explore the rest of the mountain. The only problem was that the other slopes had an older form of ski lift, namely a T-bar lift. Out of the five of us, only one of us had any idea of how to use the T-bar lift. So after a lot of encouragement and a brief explanation of how everything worked, the five of us tried out the T-bar lifts and managed quite successfully! We quickly transformed from being intimidated by the ski lift to feeling confident enough to Snapchat our friends and take selfies on the lift.

One thing that did make me laugh was looking at the color coding on the mountain. In the US we operate on a color scale (green, blue, red, and black) going from easy to difficult. I was expecting to see a good mix of all of the colors on the mountain, but the only green, or easy, trails that I noticed were on the paths between the ski lifts. In practice, this meant that the incline was either nonexistent or uphill. Clearly Norwegians believe in going big or going home when it comes to their skiing. It was blue or red slopes for me almost the entire weekend.

Most of us were a bit rusty at skiing or snowboarding, but after a while we soon found a rhythm and grew more confident. Skiing was also pretty successful the next day. We even got a small amount of fresh powder that helped make the slopes less icy, though the cloudy weather severely affected our depth of perception. I admit that I fell a few times on the second day, BUT I was assisted by a story that Abby told me. Abby hasn’t skied for a few years and was talking to her brother, who happens to be a ski patroller. He proceeded to comfort her by telling her about a woman who had died by running into a tree. Obviously his comfort strategy backfired a bit, but his piece of advice was that when losing control to just sit down or fall over. So when that happened to me, I simply sat down or fell on my side. Overall it worked quite well.

But all good things must come to an end. After a wonderful seminar and three days at the ski resort, we once again bundled onto the bus to return to our respective cities, but not before we took a group picture. After all, if there aren’t any pictures it didn’t happen.

Ski Trip Group Shot

Off on Our “Lillehammer” Retreat

The next day we were off to Lillehammer! We got up early in the morning to climb aboard what is probably the nicest bus I have ever been on. It had plush leather seats, huge windows with skylights, and a bathroom. It was lovely. The view from the bus was also really nice. Having now lived in Norway for about seven months and having travelled up and down the country, I feel somewhat qualified to say that I don’t think an ugly area exists in Norway.

IMG_9530  IMG_9533  IMG_9536IMG_9547  IMG_9552  IMG_9557Now you may know of Lillehammer from Netflix’s “Lilyhammer,” or from the 1994 Olympics, but in case you don’t, Lillehammer is a town a few hours outside of Oslo that is renowned for its ski jump. Considering that Lillehammer hosted the winter Olympics, you are also probably thinking that it has quite a number of downhill slopes. Well, that isn’t actually the case. The mountains that they used for the downhill Olympic events actually lie outside of the city. The downhill slopes have also been reduced over time since they don’t get that much traffic. In case you don’t follow winter sports, Norwegians excel at cross country and tend to prefer it to alpine skiing. So while we did get to pass through Lillehammer and catch a glimpse of the iconic ski jump, we were soon driving past the town and on to our final destination, Svingvoll. Don’t worry if you’re confused. I was also initially confused to as to why our so called Lillehammer retreat wasn’t actually in Lillehammer, but upon reflection I probably would have been a bit less excited if it had been called the Svingvoll retreat.

Lucky for us we arrived just before lunch was about to start. All of our meals at the retreat were covered by the Fulbright Commission, which also meant that everyone was quite happy to take full advantage of the buffet. Most of us never eat out due to how expensive it is in Norway, so it was nice to be treated to a good (and seemingly endless) meal.* In fact, Rena, the organizer, warned us to not get too excited by the buffet because last year’s Fulbrighters managed to eat so much food that they got sick. I didn’t really know that was possible, but I admit that I’m actually a bit impressed with their commitment to food.

After a hearty lunch and a quick stop at the ski rental place, I decided to take a walk with two other Fulbrighters, Abby and Shay. The Fulbright Commission had agreed to cover a two day lift ticket, and the three of us had decided to use our first day to explore the surrounding area and our last two days to tear up the slopes.

IMG_9560  IMG_9564  IMG_9574IMG_9570  IMG_9567  IMG_9597IMG_9612  IMG_9602  IMG_9615IMG_9622  IMG_9643  IMG_9624IMG_9654  IMG_9678  IMG_9682We had an excellent time simply walking around and enjoying the views. After about an hour or two we returned back to the Thon hotel, which I was recently told is actually pronounced “Toon” instead of “Thon.” Mind blown. I clearly wasn’t paying enough attention to pronunciation rules in Norwegian class and have been mispronouncing the name of this hotel chain since I arrived in Norway.

Lucky for us, the hotel had jacuzzis, saunas, and steam rooms so it was very easy to simply relax and enjoy our time together. Other than that, the rest of the day was spent eating an excellent dinner and whiling the time away in interesting conversations.

*It’s actually quite funny to visit other Norwegian Fulbrighters since we all tend to have limited suggestions when it comes to eating out. Most of us cook since it’s so pricy to eat out, but we do tend to have plenty of coffee shop recommendations. The need for caffeine runs strong in academics.