A short story by travel and lifestyle writer Emma Lavelle on discovering the perfect winter wonderland in Norway.
I’d never seen that much snow before we stepped off the train at the last stop on the line. Flakes resembling tiny white stars floated down thick and slow from the choked sky, standing out proudly against my red hair. The pine trees groaned with the extra weight, their branches leaning over towards the ground. Crowds of Norwegians pulled their sledges along the platform towards the slope that eagerly beckoned.
We arrived in Oslo with no intention of exploring the city itself. I’d dreamt of Norway for years, imaging kayaking through fjords and scaling mountains, but insanely cheap flights found us in the capital city in the middle of winter, rather than in the wilderness in the height of summer.
Despite our location, we were determined to escape the concrete, opting to stay on the small island, Malmøya south of the city. Here, we embraced hygge in our cosy little Airbnb, before encapsulating the Norwegian tradition of friluftsliv and heading outdoors to explore the nature reserve and the coastline, wandering down onto isolated beaches in the dark of night. Colourful A-frame wooden houses and boat houses were dotted between the trees, yet we barely saw another soul during our stay.
Our first full day in Norway, we hopped on a train up one of the mountains that looms over Oslo with the intention of visiting Holmenkollen and exploring the wilderness area that engulfs the region north of the city. The higher the train climbed, the more snow surrounded us and the more dramatic the view became. The only thing that distracted us from the vistas to the left was the sight of multiple people of all ages flying down a hill to the right. The day’s plans were instantly solidified: we were going sledging.
Some experiences are planned in advance, obsessed over in great detail and hyped up for months beforehand. Others are instantaneous and unexpected, but nevertheless exhilarating. Flying down that steep winding run, the cold snow freezing my nose and cascading down my neck each time I crashed into a tree, I felt pure childhood joy; no inhibitions, no reservations, just living in the moment without caring how ridiculous I looked. Each time we reached the end of the run, we hastily gathered up our sledges and took the train back to the top for more. All too soon darkness fell, and our last run was beneath black skies and lit by lights shimmering between the trees, only adding to the magic.
The next day, we headed back up the mountain to find even more snow than the previous day, mere inches away from spilling over the top of our boots. The branches of the trees bent over even further, leaning so far that it seemed miraculous that they did not snap. The fresh powder was begging to be spoilt, tempting us to leap onto it and stride through thick drifts. In awe of the winter wonderland that surrounded us, we set off through the trees on foot with no real aim; vaguely wandering downhill past cross-country skiers, occasionally dipping off the path to cut through the trees. We spent the entire afternoons slowly plodding down the mountain, in awe of the scenery, finding ourselves unable to resist scooping up handfuls of snow to heave at each other.
Childhood memories of Narnia fused with Game of Thrones scenes from beyond the wall, as I saw with my own eyes the snowy scenery that I had only previously seen from behind an Instagram filter. After only a short weekend in Oslo, I had got the bug for winter wonderlands. There is plenty more snow in my future.