Norway's ski resorts open in November - about a month earlier than most alpine resorts - with powder conditions and empty slopes.
While leading resorts in The Alps offer skiing up to nearly 10,000 feet, the highest skiing in Norway is 4911 feet, but when you're this far north, altitude isn't a problem as almost all precipitation falls as snow. In fact there's no shortage of the white stuff in Norway—last winter 10 feet of powder fell on the slopes.
Norway's ski areas are not as developed as the The Alps; there is miles of untamed wilderness with lakes and mountains as far as the eyes can see.
The resorts offer a lively aprés-ski scene on weekends and a more chilled out atmosphere during the week. There's plenty to do off the slopes, including dog sledding, torch-lit snowshoe safaris, tobogganing and horse-drawn sleigh rides.
Norway's ski resorts
Hemsedal is set in the Hallingdal Valley and has established a reputation as Norway's premier ski and snowboard resort. It offers one of the highest snowfall levels in Europe and is snowsure from early November until May. Hemsedal village has an apline charm and a natural, unspoiled setting. The 26 miles of terrain offer a good range of runs for all levels and five snowparks. You'll also find 136 miles of cross-country trails.
Skiing in Hemsedal
Trysil is home to one of the largest ski areas in Norway (40 miles) with 64 runs suited to all levels. Families are particularly fond of the resort for its children's areas and abundance of activities. Trysil also has a snowpark with two half-pipes and 62 miles of cross-country terrain. Be aware that most lifts here are drags.
Lunch in Trysil
Hafjell/Lillehammer played host to the 1994 Winter Olympics. The ski centre of Hafjell is 25 minutes away from Lillehammer town by bus. Lillehammer offers a range of amenities and is lined with shops and award-winning restaurants. The ski area features 19 miles of pistes for all levels and 279 miles of cross-country trails.
Taking the lift in Lillehammer
Voss has an pretty lakeside location amidst the Sogne and Hardanger Fjords on the West cost of Norway. The 25 miles of pistes are best suited to beginners and intermediates. Skiers will find uncrowded slopes and a snowpark with half-pipe, big jump and a boardercross.
Geilo is a traditional village dating back to 1890 set in the scenic Winterland region. Its 20 miles of slopes are best suited to beginners and intermediates. There's also a snowpark with big hits, rails, a quarter-pipe, fun boxes and kickers as well as 137 miles of cross-country trails. Away from the slopes, hop on the mountain railway into the scenic Fjords. A good choice of cafes and restaurants are found in the center of Geilo.
Evening in Geilo
Skeikampen has a very family-friendly reputation both on and off the slopes. Set in a snowbowl, the resort's 12 miles of pistes have snowsure conditions and are best suited to beginners and intermediates. You'll also find a snowpark and 137 miles of cross-country trails.
Family skiing in Skeikampen
Beitostolen is known for its empty slopes located just 25 miles from Fagernes Airport. The center of the resort has a good selection of hotels, apartments, shops and restaurants. The 12 miles of pistes are best suited for beginners with one of the best nursery areas in Norway and plenty of English-speaking instructors. It also has 137 miles of cross-country trails.
If you thought France was expensive, try eating/drinking on the mountain in Norway where a simple burger costs $24. An easy way round this is to take your own packed lunch up the mountain.
Ski areas are also noticably smaller than the huge lift-linked resorts of The Alps. Norway's largest ski area has 40 miles of pistes found in Trysil.
Norway's winter visitors are on the increase: close to one million passengers flew with Norwegian in December 2010, which is an 18-percent increase compared to the same month the previous year.
The airline offers 80 weekly direct flights from the UK to eight destinations across Scandinavia. Norway is just two hours from the UK by air, with flight departures every day.
Flights from London Gatwick start from $45 one way, including taxes. Oslo Airport is within two hours of Hafjell/Lillehammer and Trysil; three hours of Hemsedal and Skeikampen; and four hours of Geilo and Beitostoelen. Bergen Airport is 75 minutes from Voss.