The Peer Gynt Loipe is a long-distance ski-trail that runs high along the west flank of Gudbrandsdalen, a wide valley that starts near Oslo and then runs north to Lillehammer and beyond.
The trail itself extends from the little settlement at Dalseter to the ski-resort at Skeikampen. It goes through an area known as the Peer Gynt Ski Region. Up here the cross-country skiing is very good, with over 600km of track. And there are good hotels, which are usually willing to accept bookings for just one or two nights – at least, outside the high season weeks in February and at Easter.
The Peer Gynt Loipe links together some of these hotels. Its total length is about 60km. The entire distance is tracked by grooming machines, so you can use light skis without metal edges.
This combination of well-maintained tracks, good accommodation, high altitude and snow security makes the Peer Gynt a good choice for fit and capable skiers.
You start from one of the hotels at Dalseter, at 880m altitude and right at the head of the Espedalen valley.
You can get there by public bus from Lillehammer (which is reached by train from Oslo Gardermoen airport). Alternatively you can stay on the train beyond Lillehammer, to Vinstra, and take a pre-arranged hotel car to Dalseter, a 35km drive.
The tour can be broken down into the following stages.
The first is an 18km stretch from Dalseter to Fefor. The trail climbs steadily to 1030m, makes a long descent and then winds easily over to Fefor. At Fefor there is a hotel.
The next stage goes to Gala-Wadahl. The distance is 10-15km, depending on which of these neighbouring villages you aim for. Each has a hotel. Initially the trail undulates through forest, but then drops down to the lake Galavatn. After following the lake shore for a couple of kilometres it climbs steadily up to Gala. The continuation to Wadahl is flatter.
The next stage, to Lauvasen, is less than 10km and the track is flat and easy. At Lauvasen there is a mountain hotel with rooms in the lodge or in adjacent cabins.
The final stage, from Lauvasen to Skeikampen is a long one, about 25km. The trail mostly keeps to a height of about 1000 metres – above the tree line. Finally it comes steeply down to the bustling resort of Skeikampen where there is a hotel. From there you can take a bus down to Lillehammer.
Of course it’s possible to combine some of the stages. A reasonably strong skier could consider doing it in three days, with stops in Dalseter, Fefor and Lauvasen. I once did it in two days, overnighting at Lauvasen.
Some travel companies offer a supported tour along the Peer Gynt Loipe. They make a relaxing week of it, with a few extra side-loops and with baggage transfers between the overnight stops so that you can ski with just a light pack.
But it’s easy to make your own arrangements, especially if you are prepared to travel light and carry all your kit in a rucksack. (You can leave your main bags at left-luggage at Gardermoen airport or at Oslo rail station.)
It is also possible, although rather expensive, to have your baggage transported between the hotels. You need to set this up with the individual hotels at the time of booking.
Alternatively, you could leave your main bags at Dalseter and return there after the tour, taking buses via Lillehammer.