Oslo is a great city – More importantly, it’s a great ski city.
By Patrick Thorne

capital_ideals_shuttleIn a world full of great ski towns there is only a handful of great ski cities: Innsbruck, Vancouver, and Salt Lake City spring immediately to mind. Though they are rarer, there are even a few national capitals that count ski hills among their attractions, including Moscow, Beijing, Tehran, Stockholm, and Chile’s Santiago. But capital cities with truly great downhill skiing are in a class by themselves — a class of one, actually, and fittingly it’s the capital of the country known as the Cradle of Skiing: Oslo, Norway.

The downhill action here centers on Tryvann Vinterpark, the fifth largest ski area in the country, which attracts around 200,000 visits per season. It’s a mere 15-minute car ride from Oslo proper, or 20 minutes via the historic tram from the city center. This, happily, makes it extremely convenient for locals to hit the hill and then return downtown for the world’s most cosmopolitan après-ski party.

Tryvann is a compact center that has benefited from some key investments in recent years, including a stylish new base complex and new lifts, as well as a state-of-the-art snow making system that can produce some 5,000 truckloads’ worth of flakes per day when it’s chilly enough — and in Oslo, it usually is.

In a country obsessed with skiing, it should come as no surprise that the resort stays open until 10 p.m. on weeknights.

It’s common practice for the locals to head up to Tryvann for three or four hours after work and then catch the tram back down to Oslo for serious,Viking-caliber partying in the capital’s many bars and night spots.

In other words, the Norwegians have got life sorted to perfection.

The atmosphere is no less intense on Tryvann’s 14 slopes. The seven lifts include two fast quad chairs, and a recent expansion into a new area, Hyttli, has added four more blue-grade runs, though more advanced skiers will also find red and black runs abundant.For aficionados of the fast and steep, the Wyllerloypa piste is graded to international race standards, and both the Tryvannskleiva and Tarnbakken runs offer challenging high-speed cruisers.

Those who like to catch some air can enjoy the Hyttli terrain park. One of Norway’s largest, it boasts an international-standard half pipe as well as some two dozen other elements designed for riders of different skill levels and ages.

capital_ideals_cross_countryBeyond Tryvann and its downhill, Oslo offers facilities for the full spectrum of winter sports, including the open-air Narvisenice-skating rink across from Parliament; more than 1,500 miles of cross-country trails (50 miles of which are lighted for evening skiing) that extend into the surrounding forests; and the Korketrekkeren toboggan run, which descends 830-plus vertical feet over its 1.2 miles as it retraces the route of the 1952 Olympic bobsled races.

For maximum immersion in Norwegian winter sports, visit during the annual Holmenkollen Ski Festival, which is frequently combined with World Cup finals in several disciplines, drawing crowds of anywhere from 50,000 to 70,000 spectators. (The Holmenkollen area is famous for its ski jump, which has hosted competitions since 1892, including the aforementioned Olympics).

The typical Oslo commute is to the slopes, not just the office; cross-country trails abound just outside the capital city’s limits.

At the end of a rewarding day on and off the slopes, the place to kick off your ski boots is the five-star Grand Hotel Oslo. One of the city’s most prestigious addresses, it is located in the heart of the city by the Royal Palace on the equally grand street of Karl Johans Gate. Since opening in 1874, it has hosted luminaries from Henrik Ibsen(the great Norwegian playwright) to virtually every Nobel Prizewinner since the awards were founded in 1901. The hotel’s Grand Café is still the place to see and be seen in the city — you might spy an A-lister, an international leader, or even a Nobel laureate for yourself. Don’t be surprised if you see them carrying skis.