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Return to Norway: the Snow in Hovden
I am not a skiier. But I have fallen in love with #Norway, especially outside of #Oslo, so I wanted to join my new #active friends and go #skiing. And while you might think this would be the only thing to do in a winter wonderland of a town, it's not the case. Plenty of bars and restaurants draw a rowdy crowd, and the spa is the perfect place for some après-ski #relaxation.
Man, I love Norway. Like, really love it. As in, I-could-live-there love it. This January was my 3rd time there and never cease to be amazed at the gorgeous landscapes, the lovely people, the amazing food, the whole thing. It just never gets old, even when I’m visiting a place that is really just made of snow and a few wooden houses.
After spending parts of my last two winters in Hemsedal and Geilo, this year was all about Hovden, once again a ski destination not too far from Oslo. My friend and trusted Norway-buddy Frank and I flew into the Norwegian Capital and from there hopped on a bus to Hovden. I won’t lie, the road there gets a bit windy at times so you may want to save that chocolate cheese cake for the arrival, but the good news is that taking long distance buses in Norway is jolly good fun.
taking long distance buses in Norway is jolly good fun
Why is that? Well, first of all there is a decent chance the bus won’t be full, so you get to have 2 seats to yourself. There is usually free wifi on the buses and electricity – amazing, for someone like me who uses every opportunity to work on photos, texts and presentations! Plug in that laptop and your road office is good to go. Make sure you get a bus ride during daylight, so you won’t miss out on these awesome views.
When arriving in any ski destination in Norway (or anywhere really) you usually have the option of either staying at a holiday apartment/house or a hotel. Quite often hotels in such places will offer rooms that are designed like small apartments, complete with a kitchen, living room and dining area as well as several bedrooms. Some of the higher priced apartments come with swanky extras such as a fireplace or an inbuilt sauna in the bathroom.
Where to Stay
In Hovden we stayed at the charming Hovden Resort, a wonderfully laid-back place representing a solid mid-range option. Our rooms were apartments with 3 bedrooms (2 of which were equipped with bunk beds) and complete with a thoughtful wooden and stone finish. No fireplace here, but a Playstation! In the evenings, after an eventful day out in the snow you can rent movies from reception, snuggle up on the sofa with a hot cup of cocoa and let the day unwind.
after an eventful day out in the snow you can rent movies from reception, snuggle up on the sofa with a hot cup of cocoa and let the day unwind
Another good option is Hovden Fjellstoge which doubles as the most popular (and award-winning!) restaurant in town. We came here for their seafood night, where you pay a fixed price of the equivalent of about €40 and it’s all you can eat seafood, from lobster to oysters, all very fresh and delicious. This is a family-run business with very nice owners who know how to make guests feel right at home.
This is a family-run business with very nice owners who know how to make guests feel right at home
The only risk I see with this place is that you’ll be so cozy in front of the open fireplace and the friendly company that you won’t want to leave.
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Where to eat & Drink
We were pleasantly surprised to realize that the Hovden community, albeit tiny with just under 600 permanent residents, was a young (at heart) and easygoing crowd. Everyone here is a snowboarder or skier, regardless of whether they’re aged 2 or aged 70. People come here to live because they love the outdoors and the slow pace of life. Quite a few of them have left bigger cities like Bergen and Oslo to set up camp, even raise families here. It felt great to be visiting a place that is a touristy destination but also has an actual local community working in the industry, the bars, the shops, the hotels (and not just student workers that come up here for the season). One or 2 visits to the bar should be enough to make a round of new friends.
My favorite drinking hole here was the XO Chilloutzone. Frankly, the name is not the most glamorous but it’s worth putting all prejudice aside, especially on Thursday when it’s Bingo night and you can win some cool prizes and free shots. The crowd here is a pleasant mix of tourists and locals and it’s easy to meet everyone over beers and cocktails. Head over to their Facebook page to see funny pictures of girls bartending in their bikinis.
The name is not the most glamorous but it’s worth putting all prejudice aside
Another recommended option doubles as the go-to spot for après-ski, as it’s located right at the bottom of the slope. Offpiste Bar is in the same building as the Ski center and was recently renovated to get a slightly more sophisticated look and a brand new pizza oven on top! This spot is great for snacks and hot drinks after you finish skiing or snowboarding or to come to in the evening for a slice of pizza and a pint. Look out for one of their infamous beerpong competitions.
If it’s not a fresh pizza from Offpiste or Seafood from Fjellstoge, why not shoot for a somewhat more fancy night out and head over to the Hovden Alpin Lodge, open Friday - Sunday for lunch and dinner. We didn’t stay long enough to try their much praised cuisine, but the a sneak peek inside sure made it look like a guaranteed good night out.
Finally, we had a couple of very nice dinners back at our hotel restaurant, the one at the Hovden Resort. Steak night in particular is a popular choice where you can choose your size and type of meat along with your ideal sauce and sides. Yum!
What to do
So what do you do in a snowed-in ski town? You ski! And snowboard. And do all sorts of other stuff people usually do in snow. Hovden has pistes for every level of experience, including many options for the little ones. Some pistes are lit up at night, if you fancy yourself a night ride. If you have yet to learn how to move elegantly on a board like myself, your best bet is to chat to the LAGG Ski School at the Hovden Ski Centre for expert training.
Much more relaxing and suitable for talent-free skiers like myself is the option of cross-country skiing. While there are some things to know about this sport as well, it’s not nearly as challenging as the former and you get to combine a fun way of seeing nature and burning a handful of extra calories in the process. For those who still don’t quite trust those long boards, opt for snowshoes instead, they’re still my favorite of the bunch and it’s pretty much impossible to fall with them.
Much more relaxing and suitable for talent-free skiers like myself is the option of cross-country skiing
Not an official option on the Hovden Things-To-Do list but rather a cool insider tip from me to you is the possibility to ride this bad ass snow-shoveling vehicle.
Finally, when it’s time to relax and get your spa on, there is only one place for you in Hovden and it’s a good one. The Aqualand & Spa caters to both kids and adults with big slides, whirlpools, a heated outdoor pool area and a wellness oasis complete with different saunas and a steam room. The latter is especially cool because everything here is wooden with cool DIY tables made from palettes (something that I found particularly fascinating, since I’ve been meaning to make such a table for myself for the past year or so).
Four or five days in Hoven can easily feel like 2 weeks, it’s relaxation at its best. And when you feel ready again to hit the big town, just hop on the bus and you’ll be back shopping, socializing and partying back in Oslo in no time.