The previous night ended late, around 1:00 AM and a cold walk from the jazz joint. Fun, warm glow and a “definite plan” for the next day to get up around 8 and be skiing by 9:30 for a long day of easy skiing and picture taking at the Holmenkollen. Problem #1: waking up at 11. I already had my train tickets to Lillehammer to leave Oslo by 5:30. I still had to figure out what to do with my luggage while I skied (the answer for all you American tourists is the luggage room where the hotel will watch your stuff after you check out). I still had to figure out exactly what train to take, where to change my clothes when I got there and how long I could ski before I started back. And I had to eat. I got the eating part right, I found a bakery with what appeared to me to be more traditional Norwegian food. Actually, it was one of the only places with names I didn’t recognize, like Burger King, pizza joints, tex-mex, Irish Pub and so on. But with a loaf of Grodsbrov (that’s gotta be good) that weighed about 10 pounds, and some strong coffee, I was on my way.
I just winged it for the train. Everybody is pretty helpful, so I just wandered, asked someone and next thing I know, I’m on a train platform with lots of people in ski boots. There was this American, me, standing out. I had this big brown ski tube and a duffel bag with my clothes and everybody else was dressed to ski already. Stares and polite smiles. Oh well, I was headed the right direction. The train climbed and climbed and as I was getting near the end of the line, it stops and about 30 kids pile on. They were carrying these sleds that looked somewhere between a runner sled with wide runners and a toboggan with a curled front. Talking to an American student who was with them, it turned out you could take the train to the top, get right on the sled run, and sled nearly unstopped for 4 train stops. And then do it all over again. Fun.
Well, my own adventure was just getting started. I got off train with everybody else. The sledders took off. the skiers took off. OK where do I change? Where’s the shelter? Hmmm, some buildings over there. I took a walk down the trail and asked a couple of skiers where to change and they thought I could use either of two buildings, but weren’t sure. So I go to the closest one. Open the door. Walk in.. to a classroom full of little kids. They were, well surprised to see me. Even more so when I looked surprised to see them. Even more so when I spoke in English. The teacher, being used to seeing confused faces, identified right away what was happening and laughed, and then told me that this place was a kindergarten, but used to be the trail shelter. She said I could go to the other building.
The other building was a cafe, so I just had to use the bathroom, but now I had a second problem. In the US midwest, we usually have a shelter where we change, and leave our stuff while we ski. I couldn’t leave my stuff in the cafe. After scratching my head a little, I thought about the Holmenkollen train station, down hill from where I was at and figured I could carry my stuff there and then just ski. So, I took off with a duffel bag and my ski tube down the trail. By Wisconsin terms, these hills were mountains, and a duffel bag and ski tube doesn’t exactly make you a sleek downhill machine. I found a cutoff and saw a little building and figured I was home free, and better yet some skiers to ask where the train station was. You can’t get there from here easily they said, better to go to the train station at the end of the line. Oh boy.
Forget it, I just threw it all in the woods and went skiing. It was a misty day, fresh cold snow with all the trees deeply covered. Absolutely beautiful. The trails were double classic with a skate lane in the middle, perfectly groomed. I skied down hill awhile, took some pictures, skied up to the top again, skied down the other side. I just sort of played around like that until I figured I better start heading for the centre to get my train to Lillehammer. I saw quite a few skiers, not one skating. Not one of them seemed as gassed by the hills as me, but I decided that the night before, combined with the cold snow was responsible. Didn’t matter, it was too great to care about trivial things like my heart leaping from my rib cage.
The downside was now having to climb those same hills carrying my duffel bag and ski tube. Ugh. Poles weren’t possible, so eventually I just took off my skis and walked up.
Well, I made my train and headed to Lillehammer. At the hotel, there was a small bar where I just had to sample some of the local beer. Again I got into a conversation with locals, who as it turned out were mostly not local at all. There was a meeting of a Scandinavian business there. I got into a great conversation about the world with the Swedish businessman, about politics, culture, business and other high minded stuff that sounded better and better as more beer flowed. Ah, life is good.
Next day, was to be meeting with Wisconsin friend and WINN co-founder Charlie Dee and Anne for an outing near the Olympic garden north of town. I needed some sleep and couldn’t wait.
So, in the end poor planning and oversleeping shorted me of a few hours of skiing. But in the end, it was still a great day.