Are you a ski nerd?
I’m not asking because I want to harass you, I’m asking because I want to share the ultimate ski nerd experience I had in Norway, you know the country that invented skiing thousands of years ago. And by the way, some of my best friends are ski nerds, and they tear up World Cup race courses at 140 kph across the globe all winter long.
Jealous of all the fun my Star Wars and Star Trek geek friends have at their fan expos and Comic Con-type outings, I decided to create my own ski convention of sorts … one for lovers of all things related to ripping down mountains on two planks. My do-it-yourself ski expo was held in Oslo, Norway’s bustling capital city at the innermost tip of the Oslofjord this winter. Oslo is a magnificent, walkable city, rich with ancient buildings (like the Royal Palace right in the heart of town) and modern architectural masterpieces (like the Oslo Opera House), but it’s also packed with museums and other cool places full of one of a kind memorabilia skiers will flip their lids over.
Here is a list of places to put on your DIY ski expo itinerary if you nerd out and visit Oslo like I did:
Holmenkollen Ski Jump and Ski Museum
Have you ever seen a 1500-year-old ski? It doesn’t look anything like your Rossignols or Heads but trust me it is BADASS! One of the oldest known skis on earth, this single piece of wood was a cutting edge powder plank around 600 AD under the boot of the spear-wielding Viking carving on it. This ski and the myriad of other skis, bindings, poles, clothing and even spears (yes spears were the original ski poles) tell the 4000-year history of the sport, and are a must-see for anyone interested in an up close and personal glimpse at the roots of skiing. Race fans interested in modern hardware will find a large selection of skis once used by legends like Stein Eriksen, Kjetil Andre Aamodt and Aksel Lund Svindal.
The Ski Museum, which is the oldest in ski museum in the world, also has a vast collection of artifacts from the polar expeditions of Fridtjof Nansen and Roald Amundsen, the first man to reach the South Pole in 1911. The museum is housed in the breathtaking Holmenkollen Ski Jump, one of the world’s most famous sporting arenas. Don’t miss taking the elevator up to the tippy top of the jump tower for an unbelievable panorama view of Oslo.
I don’t know about you, but the winters of my youth, when I wasn’t playing hockey or sliding down mountains, were spent building polar exploration dioramas in my snowy backyard for my GI Joe Snow Patrol action figure. Being a lifelong fan of the daring explorers who chased their dreams to the top and bottom points of our globe, I was thrilled when I heard there was a museum in Oslo where you could actually get on board The Fram, the world’s most famous wooden arctic exploration ship. This is THE very same ship used by Nansen and Amundsen on their journeys to the North and South Poles in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and is an unbelievable piece of history you can touch and feel.
A very short bus or ferry ride takes you to The Fram Museum located on Oslo’s Bygdøy Peninsula. You can spend your time perusing the incredible collection of polar exploration gear used by Amundsen and Nansen or you can walk through history yourself strolling through the lounges, cabins, cargo hold and engine room used by some of the world’s most famous explorers. Kids and adults will also love the spooky, sub-zero polar simulator, which is kind of like a carnival haunted house ride, only it’s supposed to be a ship being pounded by howling winds, snow and icebergs!
Viking Ship Museum
You won’t see any skis at the Viking Ship Museum which is a 10-minute walk from The Fram Museum, but you will see the kind of ships Vikings used to travel around Europe and North America 1100-years ago. The ships at this museum are the real thing, and were used as Viking boat graves in and around the Oslo fjord until they were unearthed in the early 20th century. Those little Viking logos on the sleeves of the Phenix, Norrona and Bergans of Norway ski jackets we’ve all owned at one time or another will take on a whole new meaning when you see the rudimentary wooden crafts the Vikings used to travel around the seas!
Norwegian Olympic Museum
A two-hour train ride from Oslo, the Norwegian Olympic Museum is jammed with jaw-dropping Olympic memorabilia gathered from the country’s best and brightest snow sport athletes. This modern, state-of-the-art museum is also home to the ultimate Viking treasure hoard of gold, silver and bronze – Kjetil Andre Aamodt’s entire collection of Olympic and World Championship medals – that’s 20 shiny medals folks, all together in one place!
Heidi’s Bier Bar
Warning this is not a museum … unless you’re in search of a museum made up to look like an Austrian après ski chalet with barmaids in dirndls serving beer and cocktails. Located in downtown Oslo, Heidi’s Bier Bar is part bar and part night club depending on which day of the week you roll in (feel free to wear lederhosen if you have them, they love that kind of stuff at Heidi’s). If you are into hanging out with young, hip Norwegians and want to party like you just ended a day on the slopes of St. Anton or Ischgl, this is the place for you!
IF YOU GO: Try to book into the Thon Hotel Slottsparken in downtown Oslo, a beautiful suite-style hotel directly across the Norwegian Royal Palace. My wife loved it and now considers Norway’s royal family her one-time neighbours. Also, invest in an Oslo Pass which gets you into 30 museums and all the public transport you can ride for one very, very reasonable price, and you can download it onto your phone and use it offline.
– Story and photos by Michael Mastarciyan