The popular saying, “Norwegians are born with skis on their feet” may be an exaggeration, but it’s not far from the truth. Norway is a country where skiing is deeply ingrained in its history and culture. Norwegians have won over 121 Olympic medals in cross-country. That’s pretty impressive for a country with only 5 million inhabitants.

There have been cross-country skiing races organized in beautiful Norway since the 1850s – now there are hundreds of races across the nation. We’ve compiled the best and most popular ski races for everyone whether you’re an elite skier determined to break a record or a recreational skier looking to get some exercise and have a good time.

Birkebeinerrennet

March, Lillehammer, Eastern Norway

Photo: Birken/ Geir Olsen

Birkebeinerrennet is a 54 km race from Rena to Lillehammer that commemorates when the Birkebeiner loyalists, a rebellious party in Norway, carried the then one-year-old Norwegian king, Håkon Håkonsson. Every participant is required to carry a backpack that weighs at least 3.5 kg as a symbol of the tiny king. This classic race crosses two mountains reaching a maximum height of 910 m.a.s.l. It’s been held annually since 1932, and due to popularity, there is now a limit of 16,000 participants. Bonus, you’ll feel like an Olympian at the finish line as it’s the same place the winter Olympics in 1994 were held.

Skarverennet

April, in the Finse area, Western Norway

Photo: Morten Knudsen

Skarverennet brings together a diverse group of participants ranging from elite to recreational skiers. It often marks the end of the ski season for many of the participants. There are two-course options: the classic is a 37 km starting at Finse, which is only accessible by train and ends at Ustaoset. The shorter option is from Haugastøl to Ustaoset and is only 25 km. Either distance, you’ll get great views of the wide open mountains. Although a certain weight is not required, it’s mandatory to carry a backpack with extra clothes and gear. On average it takes the 14,000 participants 4-5 hours to finish.

Make your Skarverennet race a weekend trip and spend time exploring nearby Geilo.

Holmenkollmarsjen

February, in Oslo, Eastern Norway

Photo: Magnus Nyløkken/ Skiforeningen

Holmenkollmarsjen is a scenic ski race in Nordmarka, a little north of the capital of Oslo. You’ll be surrounded by lush forests and some hills whether you do the 54 km or 25 km track. The race begins in Sørkedalen, goes across a few frozen lakes, near Kobberhaughytta, and finally finishes at Holmenkollen National Arena! It’s organized by Skiforeningen, one of Norway’s oldest and largest ski associations.

Troll Ski Marathon

April, in Lillehammer, Eastern Norway

Photo: Lillihammer Troll Ski Marathon

The organizers of this race describe it as, “Probably the world’s most scenic cross-country ski course.” Try it for yourself in Lillehammer, a ski resort town north of Oslo. Choose how you’ll challenge yourself with 4 different options: the 120 km is supposedly one of the world’s longest ski competitions, the 95 km is the most popular and traditional route, the 45 km which takes you through the forest and some mountain areas or the 13 km a family fun race. All races take you across beautiful landscape, marshlands, forests, mountain plateaus, and glacial lakes. 

Hallingspretten

March, Eastern Norway

Photo: Hallingspretten

When you ski at Hallingspretten it is much more about the experience (and all-night party), than the actual race. Although there’s a 45 km elite option, this event is mostly dominated by the relaxed 45 km track, the half-sprint 21 km from Geilo to Sangefjell, and the half-sprint 24 km from Sangefjell to Ål. Get together 3 or more friends or your company for and join the costume outfit contest for some prizes. Whatever happens during this race remember its slogan, “Real skiing pleasure for the people – made by the people!

Ingalåmi

March, in Lillehammer, Eastern Norway  

Photo: Ingalåmi

Who runs the world? GIRLS! Celebrate being an incredible woman while skiing at Ingalåmi, Norway’s largest women-only ski race. There are three classical style distances to choose from, 5 km without timing, 15 km, and 30 km. All races start and finish at Birkebeineren Skistadion and include well-stocked goodie bags. 

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