Skiing in the City

Sognsvann covered in snow on a sunny winter day.

Oslo offers the best of both worlds: city life and close proximity to Norwegian nature. During the spring, you’ll see half the city working on its tan on a waterside pier, in a park or on a sandy beach. As the days grow longer, the Oslo Fjord start to fill up with people of all ages swimming in the clean, salty water as they watch the sun set over the city.  

Fast-forward to winter and another element in Oslo’s arsenal of natural wonders takes centre stage. While there are still a few hardy souls swimming in the now quite chilly fjord, winter in Oslo for nature enthusiasts is really about one thing: skiing. 

Skiing as a Way of Life

There’s a popular saying that Norwegians are born with skis on their feet. And there’s little question that most adults here have a relationship to skiing and incorporate it into their winter routine.

So, what’s so special about skiing? Locals will tell you that cross-country skiing offers an ideal way to enjoy the outdoors during winter.

Think of your skis as an extension of your own two feet as you navigate the forested hills of Oslo, breathing in the unpolluted air, and catching occasional glimpses of the city lights and the fjord beyond the trees.

Learn How to Ski

Anyone can learn to ski—even you reading this. Oslo is full of foreigners who grew up in warmer climates and had zero skiing experience before they moved here and discovered the subtle joy of gliding through the forest on a sunny winter’s day.

There is no shortage of affordable beginner's courses aimed at newcomers to Norway. Some workplaces, like OsloMet, even offer courses to new international employees free of charge, while international students can choose between a wide range of low-cost course providers.

Another way to get your feet wet (or should we say frozen) is to borrow a pair of skis and ask a Norwegian colleague or friend to teach you the basics of cross-country skiing and give you pointers as you get the hang of things.

Most foreigners agree that learning to ski is easier than they had imagined. Maybe the best way of thinking about learning to ski is to recall what it was like learning to ride a bike. A lot of it comes down to balance and practice, and once you get the hang of it, you never forget it.

Norwegians tend to think that foreigners learn to ski is cute and will jump at the chance to share this aspect of their culture with newcomers. Nor do you have to worry about getting run over by more experienced skiers as you navigate the trails—Norwegians can spot a novice skier a mile away and will simply adjust their course and ski right past you.

Skiiers on Sognsvann lake on a sunny winter day.

Learn how to ski on Sognsvann. Photo: OsloMet

Skiing Is Great Exercise

Not yet ready to strap on a pair of skis and hit the trails? Cross-country skiing is a great way to get or stay in shape. An hour spent on the ski trails is about as effective a cardio workout as an hour spent on the treadmill.

What might be less obvious is the muscles you activate while skiing: your legs, arms and core all get a pretty serious workout.

Luckily for beginners, the trails around Oslo are mostly flat, so you won’t feel like you just completed a triathlon when you pack up your skis for the day. You will, however, feel like you’ve met your daily exercise quota.

Surrounded by Forests

Say you do get the hang of this skiing thing. One of the reasons Oslo is considered such a skiing paradise is that the trails go on for kilometres on end. There are two massive forests for you to choose from, both of which it would take days to cross on skis or on foot.

There’s even a network of cabins where you can break up your trip over a cup of hot chocolate, a bowl of soup, or a big heaping of reindeer stew (vegan or meat versions both available—this is a Nordic capital after all). 

Off the Grid for a Night

If you make it a little deeper into the forest, you can even spend the night with a group of colleagues or friends at a cabin operated by The Norwegian Trekking Association.

Does the idea of getting completely off the grid and waking up in total isolation while still inside the city limits sound tempting?

If you’re nodding your head, you basically have two choices: learn to ski, or opt for the slower version and hike to one of these cabins once the snow melts. Both are fun, but only learning to ski truly qualifies you as a Viking.

Woman and man holding around each other and raising their ski poles in the air.

Learning how to ski for the first time. Photo: Kristin Mehlum

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A metro at the Frognerseteren stop in winter.

The metro at the Frognerseteren stop. Photo: Kristin Mehlum

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