Skis, check. Poles, check. Boots, ski clothes and wax, check. For two avid skiers to visit the home of Nordic skiing in winter, the allure of plying the trails is irresistible. Never mind all the extra baggage required, we're going cross-country skiing in Norway!
There are plenty of trails to choose from around Tromso, and I select a loop based on the grooming reports – this one has fresh tracks laid just hours ago. Despite the old, dirty snow on the streets of Tromso, just a few kilometers away we find fresh powder. The lane where we park is pure ice – something we have learned is typical here, and we are thankful for the studded tires on our rental car. The sun tries to break through the clouds as Rich waxes our skis, and I feel the excitement build. We are really here, about to ski alongside a fjord.
I hadn't given it much thought, but if you ski away from the water, you're going to go up. Those mountains in the distance are beautiful, but they start right here. So we climb. And climb. The bonus is that we instantly have a wonderful view. The snow gets deeper and the grooming is excellent. At times it is wide enough for skate skiing, in other areas it narrows to a more modest woodland trail. But the firm tracks are a constant. They certainly know their skiing here.
This isn't a workout, it's an “experiencial ski” Rich keeps reminding me. I don't need to be told, I have no inclination to hurry. No desire to push. I want to take it all in.
The trail skirts a lake with cabins alongside. We suspect we are skiing on a small road used to access the cabins in summer. However, it is clear that they are used in winter as well – perhaps reached by skis. That becomes my favorite part of the trail, winding through the trees. Scattered modest cabins on one side, lake on the other. Oddly enough, it feels very like Minnesota if I ignore the magnificent mountains.
Off trail the snow is deep and pristine. I am surprised to see numerous deep ski tracks criss-cross its surface, carving out their own back-country ski trails. It looks inviting and adventuresome, but I have no desire to leave the groomer's domain.
Here I can appreciate the silence of this sport. Swishing along the smooth tracks, we see only a couple of other skiers and a few walkers. At first I cringe to see those on foot, but clearly it is accepted here. They know enough to stay off the tracks and their boots barely break the firm surface of the snow.
The temperature is close to freezing, colder as we move inland. It is mild enough to get hot when we climb, cool enough to be chilly on our rapid descent. Our return trip is completed in a fraction of the time it took on the outbound leg. We now have a true Nordic ski experience in the bag. I can't wait to do it again tomorrow.