Glory of Green
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Stories from the Great Outdoors

 

Living as an expat in Belgium, cross-country skiing is a huge privation. When we managed to squeeze in a short week-end at the cabin in Bittermarka, Trysil, I couldn’t wait to have my one-day wonder of snow and ice. When the sun turned up as well, it almost made me believe in faith and good karma. Me and this trip was destined to be. Alma (10) had her very own agenda this morning, as she had discovered that a golden ticket to the chocolate factory might be hidden in the Norwegian milk chocolate that went into the back pack. Pure Willy Wonka style. Different intentions – same activity.

Gnolla, Bittermarka

One of many hidden gems in Trysil

The areal of Bittermarka and Flendalen has a vast network of trails for cross-country skiing – for example you can cross the national border and climb a mountain in Sweden, or you can go from the county of Trysil and continue north into the county of Engerdal to the north. Wilderness and whiteness all around. 

Bittermarka-Flendalen is a hidden gem where you normally don’t meet the hordes of people from the entire world flocking into Trysil. Still I have decided to share the magic with you – giving you the best routes in Bittermarka under the uniform heading “Highlights of Bittermarka”. More stories will show up.

Going for the fun part

Not all trails are prepped the entire winter and a random windy week-end in March, we could choose between trails mainly in the lower parts of the terrain. After eight years of skiing in this area, we knew exactly the right route to go for: The FUN and hilly one.

While most of the terrain higher up in the mountains is quite flat, going over wide mountain plateaus, this 14 km long route is hilly – with one particular down-hill part that twist and turns and feels like it will never end. Kids and Audun LOVE it! This is one of those magical routes where it seems like there are much more down-hills than up-hills. 

Be sure that you go in the right direction, though. Do it the other way and you’ll have a never ending up-hill in front of you. Kids and I do not love that… Done the right way, it’s a great route to work on the down-hill skills. Alma was proud as a peacock this sunny Saturday in March – she finally managed to go down all of it without falling on her tiny face (she is not putting on the breaks, that one…). 

To get to the fun part, you must first climb the small mountain top of Gnolla (918 metres) – which means that you’ll get a glimpse of the views and the alpine landscape before you dive back into the forest. So many highlights…

Gnolla, Bittermarka

Alma on the top of Gnolla (918 m)

Where the hay used to lie

Not long after you've reached the bottom of the best down-hill in Bittermarka, you'll find a small, old barn in greyed solid wood to the left of the trail. It was probably used as storage at a time when agriculture was done differently. Someone has put on a new tin roof and enforced the structure in recent times, and we’ve been using it as a shelter for our “rast” for many years (“rast” is Norwegian and means an outdoorsy lunch).

Bittermarka has lots of old huts and small wooden shelters where you can enter and eat your food - and even stay the night. Some of them has a stove where you can make fire and a musty old deck of cards for playing a game while the wind is howling outside. Nice people might join you and have a chat, but most of the time you'll have it to yourself.

This particular shelter is quite open to the elements, though, with no possibility to shut the door and windows, but it offers a roof over your head and some protection from the wind. Anyway, we always bring extra clothes and some Jerven Bags to put on before sitting down. Who enjoys freezing?!

One of the many shelters in Bittermarka

It’s all about the hope

Alma dutifully ate her sandwich before grabbing the chocolate with the possible Willy Wonka tickets. She displayed a healthy interest in winning, was a bit disappointed when she didn’t get it, but got euphorically happy after eating Norwegian milk chocolate and sang the whole way home – interrupted only by her pondering upon how to obtain more chocolate so that she could have more goes at winning the tickets. What a great motivation for outdoors activities! Thank you, Freia Chocolate Factory – please do this all the time – you don’t even need to give away any tickets. Everyone knows chances are dim anyway. 

Freia Milk Chocolate

All good things...

The end. It was awful flying back to Brussels in splendid weather – I soothed myself knowing that Easter is around the corner. I’ll be back.

Practical stuff

This route is one of our options if there's a lot of wind or fog, but we normally stay clear of this route if the conditions in the trails are very icy.

Bittermarkvegen (The Bittermarka road) is closed with a barrier, and you’ll have to pay a small fee to enter. Parking is normally easy when you’ve reached the start of the trail, but it can be a bit full during Easter. The gravel road is sometimes a bit slippery at winter.

Bring food and whatever you’ll be drinking – nothing can be bought up here. The route is easy but passes shortly over two stretches of alpine terrain – expect wind and changing temperatures. Bring extra and different kinds of ski wax.

Check that the trail has been recently prepped before you go. The trails in Bittermarka are marked with poles and some signs exists, but you will not find defined and colour coded routes. Use a map to know where you are. The map below will normally be sufficient.