It’s the sauna that clinches it. We’re trying to single out just what it is that makes skiing in Norway so darned civilised. My daughter, Ella, 10, says it’s the traditional, turf-roof wooden cabin we’ve rented for the week. From its wraparound terrace to its steep, carved staircase, these traditional log huts are wooden inside and out, making them feel dolls’ house-cosy.
My dad, meanwhile, is sold on the ski-in/ski-out ease of the place. It’s the end of the season, so there’s not quite enough snow cover to make it right to our door, but Trysil’s tree-lined slopes are flanked by cabin-style, self-catering accommodation and a scattering of hotels set almost entirely on-piste. So, joyfully absent is the arduous schlep home at the end of the day — carrying kids’ skis and poles — that characterises a classic ski holiday in the Alps.
The in-cabin sauna, however, gets a vote from both me and Celia, Ella’s de facto aunty and a regular travel buddy. For Scandinavians (the majority of Trysil’s holidaymakers), saunas are expected, of course. But for the average Brit, returning each evening to warm chilled toes and aching muscles in your own sauna, while you’ve got dinner in the oven and a bottle of wine chilling in the snow outside is pure indulgence.
Extra indulgences we’ve opted for include a grocery delivery to our door. Local bakery Kort & Godt has brought breakfast goodies, so we’re equipped, on arrival, with the basics. “I’m really not sure about that cheese, though,” says Ella on trying brunost, the sweet brown substance that all Norwegian kids are raised on, that’s really more sugary butter than cheese. Paired with a slice of dark, dense walnut bread, however, it improves dramatically — and provides ample fuel for a morning’s skiing.
Thanks to our group’s wildly varied abilities and interests, our first morning sees us scattered to the four corners of the resort. But this being Scandinavia, nothing is more than a couple of runs or a short drag lift away — even if Trysil counts as Norway’s largest downhill area. It’s not that high, either, compared with the Alps, topping out at 3,715ft, but the climate creates a very respectable amount of powder snow. Dad shoots off to the nearest black run, Celia gamely tracking behind on the adjacent reds, while Ella and I opt for a ski lesson.
“Trysil has the world’s oldest ski club,” says Alex, our young Swedish instructor. “I prefer how professional the ski schools are here compared to Sweden. I’ve learnt so much.” At the top of a chairlift, Alex points out some ski runs in the distance — Sälen, one of Sweden’s largest downhill resorts. SkiStar, which manages both resorts, plans to unite them under one ski pass, ahead of an influx of arrivals in 2018 when the new international airport is slated to open, near Sälen.
For now, we have the slopes almost to ourselves. Alex guides me, a rusty skier after a two-decade snowboarding hiatus, and confident beginner, Ella with expert ease, aided by the fact we can, if needed, career across almost empty, extra-wide pistes that recall the best US resorts. Snow parks, with tricks and jumps, are woven into the piste layout, encouraging kids to have fun on the slopes, not just doggedly head downhill.
Ella and I spend mornings at ski school, while Dad and Celia burn around the blacks and reds. We meet to spend afternoons skiing red and blue runs that are so well served by lifts and tracking routes there’s no risk of getting stuck on anything nasty. And this will only improve next season when a flash new chairlift replaces a couple of wind-battered drags. A ski hill set deep in Norway’s farm country, Trysil has come a long way since its original days of tractor-operated lifts.
“I wouldn’t risk this in the Alps,” says my dad, ushering us off a lift at the top of a red run. “But here, I’m happy to take Ella right up the mountain. It’s a real treat to be able to ski side by side with her.” Well, not quite side by side. Confidence boosted by such easily navigable pistes, Ella’s off ahead of us on jumps and ramps, granddad in hot pursuit. This cater-for-all resort means Celia and I can dip our toes into the almost infinite cross-country terrain (magically tranquil trails through silent, snow-shrouded forest), while Ella and her granddad go for a swim in the indoor/outdoor pool at the Park Inn Trysil Mountain Resort.
By infamously pricey Norwegian standards, Trysil’s 30 ski-accessed restaurants are reasonable. Portions are generous and food hearty, often locally grown and produced. The huge moose burger and Cajun fries at Knettsetra, an old wood cabin surrounded by snowy pines — proves our favourite gourmet refuel for lunch. A blowout grown-up dinner at Restaurant Pilegrimen, meanwhile, is a treat prolonged by the kids’ room with games and movies. We linger fireside over smoked duck with lingonberry, fat flakes falling outside the window, happy in the knowledge we’re just a short shush from home.
Sarah, daughter Ella (10), Sarah’s father, Richard, and Ella’s ‘aunty’ Celia.
Snow sports-loving families of all abilities. On-piste creches with snowy activities mean even tots can get involved.
How to do it
UK-Oslo £45 one-way. norwegian.com
Trysil is two-hour drive from Oslo Airport. Five days’ family car hire, from £300. hertz.no
A week self-catering at Trysil Panorama (four bed chalet), £480-£1,500. skistar.com/Trysil
For six days: equipment rental, from 995 NOK (£80); child 395 NOK (£30); adult ski pass, from 1,970 NOK (£160); child/seniors, 1,580 NOK (£130).