It’s been said that Norwegians are born with skis on their feet. Not necessarily true, but it’s a fact that being good at skiing used to be a necessity as it was a major method to transportation in Scandinavia for centuries. Learn more about 4,000 years of skiing in Norway.
Today, it is a sport and hobby for most Norwegians. At the Ski Museum in Oslo visitors can learn more about why skiing has been, and always will be, such a massive part of Norway’s culture and history. The Ski Museum was founded in 1923 and is the world’s oldest ski museum located at the base of the Holmenkollen ski jump in Oslo. It is one of Norway’s most visited attractions and a famous sporting arena.
Ever since the end of the 1800s, Holmenkollen and the surrounding area have drawn large crowds of Norwegian ski enthusiasts every winter. After it was rebuilt in 2010 it became the world’s most modern ski jump, attracting many visitors of its design and history. Most visitors climb to the top of the ski jump to experience the incredible view of Oslo and the Oslofjord, often described as ‘the blue, the green and the city between.’
The initiator of the museum was the architect Hjalmar Welhaven. His private collection formed the foundation of the antique and historic skis on display at the museum. Until 1951, the collection was housed in a building in the Oslo neighborhood of Frognerseteren. In connection with the rebuilding of Holmenkollbakken in 1951, the museum collection was moved to new premises at Holmenkollbakken.
Skiing, be it cross country, alpine, or the jumping type, is enormously popular in Norway, which has led to a rapid development of the ski arena in Holmenkollen. Today this arena is home to some of the world’s most famous winter sports events, including the Holmenkollen Ski Festival which is affectionately nicknamed “the second national day” of Norway.
As the world’s oldest skiing museum it has become a popular destination for tourists looking to gain a deeper understanding of Norwegian’s favorite pastime. “I think it is interesting to learn about the history of skiing and how the use of skis has developed through time”, says the ski museum’s operation manager.
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The museum contains 4,000 years of skiing history, starting with rock carvings dating from the Stone Age. It also displays skiers and skis from the Viking Age. Additionally, it displays equipment used in the polar expeditions of both Fridtjof Nansen and Roald Amundsen. The Ski Museum is owned and operated by Skiforeningen. This association is responsible for the organization of sports, activities and events in Holmenkollen National Park.
The very first ski jumping competition in Holmenkollen took place in 1892 in front of a crowd of 12,000 people. Spectators could enjoy the 18-kilometer cross country event one day, and then a winning jump of 21.5 meters the next. A good ski athlete had to be able to perform well in both disciplines.
When Oslo was awarded the 1952 Winter Olympics, the arena was improved with a taller tower that included an elevator for the athletes. The Ski Museum moved in underneath the table where the jumpers start their flight, and the pond at the bottom of the hill was dug out to achieve greater jump lengths. Permanent spectator stands were built for the first time, as well as special stands for judges and the Norwegian royal family. The Olympic ski jumping competition that year drew between 120,000 and 150,000 spectators, a record that stands to this day.
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The two-floor museum is divided into several exhibitions. The polar exhibitions are the most popular. Visitors find it fascinating to learn about Amundsen and Nansen and their expeditions. They are international heroes and looking at the equipment they used, you have to be impressed by their accomplishments.
Another popular exhibition is Winter Joy, which looks into why the outdoor life has had such a massive impact on Norwegian culture.
In the museum’s new building they also have temporary exhibitions, one of the current one being Blåkollen, a magic universe for the children. The exhibition is a mysterious and magic place where you can meet gnomes and tåketrolls. Their secret is that they can make fog and then make it disappear so you can see all the beauty behind it. The story of the fog people tåketrolls in Blåkollen is written especially for the exhibition and has been published as two books in 2018.
The interactive exhibitions are also very exciting.
4,000 Years of Skiing in Norway, written by Tor Kjolberg
Images © Skiforeningen