Christmas in Sjusjoen
But finally, just a few days before Christmas the snow came. We immediately took to the skis, but unfortunately the rocks were still poking out and I saw sparks fly off Chris's ski's a few times!
We had a lovely Christmas Eve meal with a colleague and her family, then had a quiet day with some skyping, some ski unwrapping, and a pretty walk up the Gråkallen Domes in the snow.
We had hired a car and spent boxing day morning filling it with stuff for our trip down south for some ski action with Fiona and Stu (Kiwi friend's living in Bristol at the moment). Stu was recovering from just having raced in Abu Dhabi and the World Adventure Race Champs (along with Fiona and Chris) in Portugal.
We had a slow drive down in snowy conditions and arrived in a very chilly, very snowy Lillehammer. We stayed in the hostel that is in the train station, so we peeked out the window and watched Stu and Fi disembark the train beneath us. We were all excited about the trip, so we talked skiing and adventure racing for a fair bit before going to bed.
In the morning we loaded the car with many skis and all our gear and drove up through the very snowy forest to Nordseter, a little ski village just before Sjusjoen. We found our cozy little cabin and jumped in the fluffy white stuff before heading out for our first taste on the ski and some of the hundreds of kilometers of groomed trails.
We all had our bright lights, so we beamed our way round a very fluffy trail that took a bit longer than expected because of the very soft snow. A whizzy descent and we arrived back at the cabin in time to cook up a yummy dinner.
The next day dawned clear and sunny, so we decided on a mission down to Lillehammer. The skiing was much better and Stu was picking up skating ridiculously fast. The general gradient was downhill and as the day wore on we started to get pretty cold. We passed a crazy looking steaming river. A final great downhill led us into Lillehammer and we made a trip to the Kiwi supermarket before we hopped on the bus to get back to Nordseter.
A steaming river on the way in to Lillehammer, it was freezing!
After two days on the skate skis we decided it was time to have a 'classic' day. It was wonderful and sunny again, so this time we took off on a more sedate loop round a very big lake. The trail wound up and down gently through beautiful snowy forest. After a couple of hours we decided to take a short-cut straight across the lake and then as we headed back to our cabin the huge moon rose up against a pink and purple sky.
Out on the classic skis in the sun
We wanted to make it down to Lillehammer again to try and get hold of the DNT key for the hytte (which we have already in Trondheim) but had forgotten to take with us. Chris and I skated ahead and had an exhilarating trip along the best trail yet. Unfortunately the office in Lillehammer was shut, but we stumbled across the Visitors Center and managed to get a key from there instead.
We caught the bus back to Sjusjoen and skied back over a hill to Nordseter. The sun was just set and it was a very crispy cool night, once again we could ski in the bright moonlight with the stars twinkling above us.
Our last day at Nordseter had arrived, and it was the 31st. After another fun ski involving rather a lot of off track skiing through deep powder (and a lot of falling over!) we created a delicious feast for ourselves and brewed up plenty of mulled wine. As midnight approached the fireworks began, the whole valley seemed to be filled with people letting off very elaborate fireworks.
There was a steep path beside or cabin and some kids who were having way too much fun tobogganing down it - consequently we all saw the New Year in zooming down the hill on the toboggan too!
New Year's day was very cold, around -20, so we wrapped up warm and packed our things for the final part of our trip. We drove about an hour North to a place high in the hillside called Høvringen. Their we had organised to hire some touring skis from a man, who also (given the late hour of our arrival) let us stay in his apartment which had a great big window opening out onto the mountains and a sauna!
Chris, Stu and I went for a short ski in the freezing cold while Fi cooked us a delicious dinner. It was wonderful to get back for some hot food, then jump in the sauna to warm up! Especially given all our bodies were feeling pretty tired after heaps of skiing.
In the morning we made an early start to give us plenty of time to get into the Rondvassbu were we planned to stay the night. It was still around -19 so we couldn't really stop very much. But it was a beautiful clear day and the mountains were high and snowy around us. After about 5 hours, just as the sun was setting and the mountains were turning pink we arrived at Rondvassbu and immediately lit the fire and made hot soup.
Em and Fi trying to catch up to the boys
Descending carefully to the hut
It wasn't long before the hut was a pleasant 18 degrees and we could enjoy ourselves in the cozy hut. The following day Fi and Stu had to get back to Oslo for their return flight to the UK, and we realised we were in for a really early start the next day. We woke and 6 and were heading out from the hut in the cold wind and dark at about 7 o'clock with our headlamps beaming out across the snowy hillside. The snow was blustering around us, and we all felt as if we were arctic explorers.
Looking up valley from Rondvassbu
We made good time and stormed along the last bit of the route, arriving back at the car with plenty of time, but also feeling pretty pooped. We drove down to the bus station in Otta and parted ways with Stu and Fi after a fantastic snowy ski week.