Shed Those Winter Blues

Even with minimal amounts of natural light during the day, Norway offers liberation from the winter blues by constantly inviting all to get outside and ski off the weight of the day. Norway’s 2,500 machine-groomed ski trails, cared for by the national government, are open to everyone. And best of all, when the sun goes down—sometimes as early as 3:00 pm during the winter—the trails are lit with miles and miles of brilliant lampposts. 

After a long day at the office, Gundersen, 60, arrives at his home in Drammen, straps on his cross-country skis, and hits the trail. In Drammen alone, there are 35 miles of ski trails beckoning winter-weary souls to escape the restraints of the indoors. Skiing on the trail is “very liberating,” he says.  Most of the trails in Drammen stay lit until 11:00 pm, with some remaining lit until as late as 1:00 am, allowing for indulgence of even the slightest active whim.  

Get Acquainted with Nature

Gundersen has skied on the trails by his house since he was 4 years old. With a lineage in Drammen dating back to 1600, Gundersen followed his parents’ and grandparents’ examples. From the time he could walk, he was on skis, exploring the forests of Drammen and listening to the sounds of the trail. He chooses not to listen to music as he skis the trails because he prefers a genuine experience with nature, which for him includes spotting animals like birds, foxes, and even moose. 

The trails present the perfect opportunity to not only appreciate nature but also spend time with friends and family. Protected as they are by spruce and pine trees, and since the prospect of the sun going down isn’t an issue, the well-groomed trails are perfect for parents out for a ski with their children. Karen and Kjell Tore, longtime residents of Bergen, Norway, say that while their kids were growing up, they skied as a family two to three times a week. Now that their children are grown, the Tores still enjoy nature and each other’s company on the trails. 

The trail experience is heightened by its universal accessibility: unlike downhill ski resorts, there are no lifts to bother with on these Norwegian trails, and unlike costly gym facilities, there is no user fee. 

Gundersen describes why using the trails is a better solution than working out at a gym: “To me, the benefits are many. I have never seen a reason for doing aerobic training inside when you have nature. Why pay for something that you can do for free? The air is much better outside. You don’t get the experience of nature inside. You can’t cross-country ski inside!”

Follow the Crowd

Around 40,000 people flock to Drammen every February to witness the annual World Cup Cross Country ski sprint competition. Even though he could easily watch the event on TV, Gundersen attends every year. “The spectators are fantastic,” he says. “There is a lot of noise and cheering.” At the height of winter’s doldrums, sharing in the energy at the sprint competition and seeing the pros perform may be exactly the motivation you need to get out there on the trails yourself. February is the perfect time to get excited about cross-country skiing, to watch the best compete, and to experience the magic for yourself on the trails. 

When the sun goes down, remember Norway’s trails are lighting up in preparation for the lucky ones gearing up to ski. Refuse to let winter rob your vivacious spirit: step out into the night and breathe in the fresh air.

Haley Frame