Jan and Judy Get New Ski Gear, New Snow Adventures In A Land That Loves Skiing.

After breaking her leg on our disastrous first ski date in Michigan, my wife Judy was still a bit stiff  in the left leg when we arrived in Norway in late June 1956 to begin my Fulbright-student year studying Norwegian folklore.  But we had all summer to get in shape—walking around Oslo, hiking in the forests and mountains, and taking some long bike trips.

In the fall, we bought ski gear: wooden skis, cable bindings, leather boots, and bamboo poles. State of the art stuff. I had my favorite ski clothes, including the Norwegian striped cardigan I had been using since 1953; Judy bought a spiffy new outfit (maroon ski pants and grey jacket) that she occasionally still uses.

Oslo was a great place to practice. The tram lines run right up to the edge of Nordmarka, the vast wooded park above the city, and there were ski racks integrated into the sides of the old wooden cars. (I assume they have metal tram cars by now.) This photo of Judy loading her skis was taken on a weekday; on weekends and holidays the whole side of the car would be covered with skis.

Judy racks skis and boards tram to suburbs of Oslo.

I believe the only ski lift we rode all year was a T-bar in Nordmarka; the rest was cross country. After touring up there we could glide right back down to the area where we lived via ski tracks maintained between houses and businesses.

Early in the winter we took a train to Lillehammer, stayed in the youth hostel, and skied both in town around the open-air folk museum and in the surrounding countryside.

Next we did a weeklong trip with some friends to Numedalen, staying in a rented cabin (hytte) above the treeline. The snow was great, and we got lots of practice and exercise climbing up hills and sliding down. Judy, only in her second season as a skier, got pretty good, despite having little coaching beyond “Follow me!” Here she is enjoying some powder.

Judy in powder on her new skis and outfit.

One day on that trip I skied down to a village to buy some food, expecting a long slog back up with a heavy rucksack. But just as I was starting up, a group of Norwegian army men came along in a tracked vehicle. They tossed me a rope and pulled me back to the level of our cabin. Sweet!

In March we attended the annual jumping meet at Holmenkollen with my uncle and his family. It was a foggy day, and the jumpers came sailing out of the murk, most of them sticking the landing as if it had been a clear day.

Easter was late in 1957  (April 21st) so when we made another mountain trip, this time to a cabin in Telemark, the weather was balmy and snow was thin except in the shadows. Here we are enjoying the traditional Norwegian Easter ski trip, me still in that favorite sweater.

Jan and Judy, Easter ’57.

In June when we returned to the States we had enjoyed a great year of study and skiing in my ancestral home, so to speak. I brought back an article that got published in the Journal of American Folklore, kicking off my academic career. And, of course, we kept our Norwegian ski gear.

But would there be much skiing in our immediate future? After all, we were headed to Bloomington for my graduate work at Indiana University. Not exactly in a major ski zone, but who knows?

To be continued . . .




  1. Richard Kavey says:

    Wonderful stories Jan!

  2. It’s nice to read about this couple’s early ski trips in Norway, I look forward to the continuation of their adventures.

  3. My family is from Norway, and though I’ve been over there, I’ve never been skiing there. Thank you for writing this and including the pictures! It was great fun to read it!

  4. Thanks for sharing these special memories! I know very little about skiing in Norway and would certainly enjoy learning more.

  5. That is a Great story. I enjoyed it very much. I’m glad you got to live it.

  6. Bjørn Lunde says:

    Thanks, Jan, for a great reminder about my own trip “back home”. I came to Amerika with my family from Bergen in 1953. I had walked around on the snow with skis my dad fashioned for me as a three-year-old, but there were no ski areas or lifts. All my downhill skiing took place after arriving in California and later in the Pacific Northwest. In my twenties, I visited Norway again and stayed for almost two years. Most of that visit was spent deep in the Sogn fjord country with my grandfather and extended family including some wonderful boating adventures, but no skiing. Over the winter of ’71-’72, I arranged an extended visit to Lillehammer, bought some long skinny skis at the Madshus factory and loved exploring the expansive trail system–some parts even lighted against early twilight–in the hills adjoining the town. It was a magical experience with seemingly ancient & simple equipment, but I sure now prefer having steel edges and locked-in-place heels when the slope goes downhill. Having it both ways with modern touring gear is quite a luxury…and a giant improvement in safety too.
    Thanks again for the flash-back!

  7. Jan Brunvand says:

    My mother’s father came from a place called Luster in Sogn. The farmstead and family name was Flykke. In the summer of 1953 when I attended the University of Oslo summer school for foreign students I made a long bike tour that extended up to Sogn and down Setesdal to Kristiansand where my parents were brought up. I visited two aunts of my mother’s in Luster: Ingeborg and Kristina Flykke. One was at the farm down below and the other up at the saeter with the goats and cows. I accompanied the lower aunt up to visit the upper one. This was summer, of course, so I did not ski in Norway until the winter of 1956-57.

  8. Win Stebbins says:

    Wonderful writing! Your stories remind us there are many great ski areas other than in the Rockies. Win Stebbins, Michigan

  9. My wife and I went to Oslo in March, 2006. The train is indeed much more modern now, but no more ski rack on the outside. I skied a few days at what was then called Tryvann Vinterpark (now Oslo Vinterpark), and in the morning the train was packed with skiers and snowboarders, many with their skis or snowboards on the train, in their ski clothes and helmets. A rush hour like no other subway in the world! We were staying in downtown Oslo, but I did not have to take my skis or boots on the train because I rented equipment at a ski shop at the train stop near the ski area, and they let me just store my equipment overnight in the shop between ski days. I would share a picture of the train packed with skiers but do not see a way to attach a picture to a comment.

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