As our time in Norway winds down rapidly, we spent much of last weekend celebrating the conclusion of yet another season and saying fond farewells to the friends we have made here. Those friends thought it would only be appropriate to take us on a truly Norwegian outing for our last hurrah, so up we went to the Holmenkollen ski area to partake in a cultural event.
The name Holmenkollen might be most widely known for the famous ski jump situated overlooking Oslo and the fjord. And while a ski jumping competition was going on to test out the new revamped structure, our Norwegian friends didn’t see that as the highlight of the local sporting weekend. While to you and I it may sound more exciting to watch skiers flying through the air at amazing speeds only to land gracefully on the hill below, they told us we’d instead be a few kilometers further up the road sitting in the forest watching cross-country skiing. Trust us, they said. It will be much more exciting. Riiiiiiiiight.
The first thing I noticed when we arrived was how many people were themselves strapped into or holding cross-country skis. Why, I asked myself, would you wear skis to watching skiing? Blair later astutely determined that perhaps it is something like throwing a football when tailgating for a football game. I think she’s on to something.
After we arrived, we followed our friends into the woods to find a clearing full of typical Norwegian teepee-style tents, fires built into pits dug in the snow, and happy Norwegians basking in the sun of a joyous race day. Even though the racers would only pass our portion of the race route about 5 times (I lost count, ok?), it looked like everyone had been there for days and had no intention of ever leaving. Wieners were being roasted, the novel one-time-use barbeques were fully functional, chairs were set deep in the snow. I realized that neither my borrowed winter clothes nor the candy bar in my pocket were going to be sufficient for the long haul. Sidenote: at least the candy bar in my pocket was a Kvikk Lunsj, essentially the Norwegian version of a Kit Kat, and is considered the quintessential energy bar while skiing. I don’t know why Kit Kat’s never got such a good recommendation, I would have used that to my advantage.
The race itself was exciting and fast paced. We were positioned to see the racers come flying down a steep hill, take a corner and then push themselves down the straight-away before disappearing around another corner. A group of hockey players fresh off the season enjoying some beer in the sun make for a very excited bunch of spectators. Depending on the nationality of the skier passing by, they shouted ‘Kom igien!’ or ‘Rapido!’ or ‘Auf geht’s’ or ‘Let’s go Canada, don’t shame us!’ (that last one might have only been Dave). When the nationality of a skier was ambiguous, they just shouted random phrases and used a cowbell liberally. As the race ended, two of Dave’s teammates strapped on their own skis, hijacked the course, and fell into the pack with the last of the racers, much to the annoyance of those skiers. A stunt that would probably have had you tackled by security in the U.S. had the crowd laughing and Norwegian flags waved furiously.
After four hours of merrymaking in the snow and witnessing the athletic prowess of so many, I was truly exhausted. God only knows how I would have felt if we had ourselves strapped on some skis. I came home with flushed cheeks like we had as children spending winter days outside, and a stomach full of Kit Kats that kept my energy levels high enough to get me down off that mountain. It was a beautiful Norwegian day, spent in a very Norwegian way, with our wonderful Norwegian friends.