If you stroll around the center of Voss on a late June afternoon, nothing looks out of place. Coachloads of tourists in all shapes and sizes mingle with the locals who are going about their daily business. But this is the wild, wild Voss in Norway – at least for one week a year.
There’s a young woman whizzing past with a parachute in her bag on her way to the jumping ground. As a matter of fact, everything in Voss is quite normal.
Or not? Aren’t there rather too many clapped out cars, with life-vests in the roof and crash helmets on the back shelf? Youngsters cycling past on large bicycles, while others wander in the direction of the cable car with huge rucksacks on their backs? A glance at the sky confirms the suspicion that they contain paraglider wings.
A closer look around reveals that something is definitely going on. In the lawn beside the beach promenade stands a large circus tent. What is going on is no less than the world’s largest extreme sports festival. which gather together well over a thousand participants from 30 countries.
Extreme Sports Week is probably only possible in Voss, both because of the natural arenas afforded by the surrounding landscape and the efforts of some extremely, possibility-oriented enthusiasts.
20 tears of madness
It all started 20 years ago, with four local enthusiasts. They were each practitioners of their own specialist activity: parachuting, rafting, river kayaking and paragliding. They decided it would be good idea to hold a series of competitions within their individual sports in the same week, and maybe even have a chance to try out other activities.
Today there are a dozen or so sports on the program, and each year sees the staging of both national and international competitions during this week. Extreme Sports Week is constantly developing, with new complementary activities being added to the concept all the time. In 2005 where was so much snow up on the Vikafjellet mountain that a big jump competition for skis and snowboards was organized, as well as freeride on snow.
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In 2007 more than 1000 competitors and more than 40,000 spectators attended the event. The festival was covered by more than 250 reporters from both the Norwegian media as well as the international media. “Veko” does not employ many people as they base the organizing and execution of the event mostly on volunteers.
Kiteboarding works very well at the Vangsvatnet lake near the town center. In recent years the ski lift has become an Eldorado for cyclists who like jumps, drops and high speed along narrow woodland trails. While those with sufficient stamina can take part in the Multisport Competition, which is one of the relatively new events on the program.
The participants themselves are the main focus of Extreme Sports Week, but the organizers do what they can to accommodate spectators, too. The aerial sports are a case in point. They show themselves to their best advantage over Vossevangen every evening, with exhibitions of parachuting, paragliding and hang-gliding.
If you want to feel the energy of Extreme Sports Week, all you need to do is look at the program and map pf events. Although the bulk of the events take place close to the town center, many of the participants stretch the radius from Voss by many miles.
Downhill racing in a river kayak is one of the most popular competitions, and takes place well off the beaten track. One of the most spectacular events during the week is base jumping in the natural beauty of Gudvangen. To really feel the rush, you should take the steep hike up to the jumpers’ exit point.
Watching people like yourself jump off a mountain and be gone in seconds is in itself an extreme experience.
The concert side of the week gas grown big enough to make it worth the trip for those interested in music. With international celebrities like Kurt Nilsen and Røykopp on the program, the evening entertainments have become an important part of the Voss experience. And when the music in the big top has come to an end, club events continue through the pale mid-summer night.
The daily high point of Extreme Sports Week is the screening of the day’s video. Everyone who has been in action that day gathers in the circus tent to get an update on what has happened elsewhere during the day. It is a good opportunity to get a glimpse of one’s self and everyone cheers when spectacular stunts race across the screen.
In recent years the Norwegian broadcasting company NRK has produced daily news bulletins, so that the whole country can get a shot of the adrenaline that is flowing about at Voss. With the national broadcasting company providing such first-class marketing for activities which would otherwise not get much public attention, more and more people turn up wanting to have a go themselves. If you want to take the plunge and take part in Extreme Sports Week, you can do it in many ways.
Try-it is a regular feature, tailor-made for those who want to make the most out of the various activities on the program. The event is so popular that you have to get your name down early if you want to be sure of a place.
Wild, Wild Voss in Norway
At the start of the week anyone who wants to can try paragliding on a steep field – for free. But you have to be prepared to fly. If that takes your fancy, you can take a tandem paraglider flight from Hanguren over Voss. And if that is not dizzying enough, you can take a tandem parachute jump. Voss Rafting offers ordinary rafting, gorge walking and river-boarding in the local rivers.
If you have brought your own bicycle you can also join one of the many guided trail rides, or challenge yourself on the downhill run at the ski center. There are also specially constructed jumps, scaffolding and other elements to test your nerve and your skills.
To keep a particularly good Extreme Sports Week tradition, though, you should not get yourself too badly hurt. For, incredibly, no one has died or suffered serious injury in all these years. Which shows that the organizers are in control and that there is method in the madness. That too could probably only happen in Voss.
The different sports
You can see the complete program of the week 2018 here.
Extreme Sports Week also includes a music festival with several concerts and club events.
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Wild, Wild Voss in Norway, written by Tor Kjolberg