Racing star Michael Schumacher has a cabin at Trysil, but his brother says the Norwegian skiing resort is 'boring'. Stephen Wood finds out if it has a winning formula

There are always disagreements: it happens in every family. Take the Schumachers, for example. When asked by the Italian newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport in early December where he would be taking his Christmas/New Year break, young Ralf - who drives in Formula One racing for the Williams-BMW team - made it plain that he would not be going to Trysil. If I remember correctly, he described it as "too boring". But his elder brother Michael, six times winner of the Formula One drivers' championship, had already announced he and his family would be in Trysil, where they have spent their winter holiday in recent years.

Where and what is this place about which the Schumacher brothers cannot agree? About 210km north of Oslo, Trysil is Norway's biggest ski resort. Compared with Geilo, Hemsedal and Lillehammer, all much better known to British skiers, it has a bigger turnover, more guest beds and more lifts (of which, it has to be said, 22 out of 27 are drag-lifts).

Michael Schumacher visited it at the invitation of a friend, a German theme-park owner who has a cabin there. As a result, he now has a cabin there, too. According to Trysil's spokeswoman Runa Eggen, he likes the resort because "nobody takes any notice when they see him: he can go shopping, or to a restaurant, and he won't be bothered". Had she ever seen him on the slopes, I asked, interested in the possibility that I might find myself next to him on a chair-lift. No, she had not; but she knew that he was a keen downhill skier, and that at least one of his young children had taken lessons there this winter.

More Britons are going to Trysil (pronounced "tree-sill") this season, though not because they want to be ignored, too. The Brighton-based tour operator Neilson has added the resort to its Norwegian programme, which already includes Geilo and Hemsedal. Trysil is keen to attract British skiers: at the moment it is almost completely reliant upon guests from Denmark, Norway and Sweden (in that order, somewhat surprisingly). And Neilson wants to develop its business in Norway, which is increasingly popular among families with young children, for whom the fluent English of the ski instructors is a boon.

English-speakers are plentiful in Norway, as are money and social-welfare provisions; thanks to its offshore oil and gas, it is a very rich country. What is in short supply is daylight, at least in winter. This is no great problem at the end of the short days: Trysil's lifts close only a little earlier than those in the Alps, at 3.30pm, and it feels pleasantly cosy to be heading back to one's hotel at dusk. But even about a third of the way up the country to the Arctic Circle, the light can be just as low at 9am - which is quite gloom-inducing. Until, that is, you catch the sight of a lividly pink dawn glowing on the horizon. In a landscape otherwise almost black-and-white, the inflamed sky is almost alarming: if a similar colour appeared anywhere on your body, you'd slap a poultice on it immediately.

There is something about the cold and forbidding aspect of a Scandinavian winter that brings emotions close to the surface of a soft southerner. At least that is my excuse for finding the sky almost as affecting as when Dawn kissed Tim in the final episode of The Office.

Trysil's skiing is only a couple of kilometres uphill from the town, but the lift base has a busy, ski-village atmosphere, with shops, bars and restaurants. If it lacks accommodation - apart from a single apartment hotel - that is because to the south and north of the ski area are entire suburbs of cabins. Altogether there are 1,800 of them; and those with doorstep skiing are available for rent. For hotels, visitors have to stay down in the town, until the resort builds the four-star property it is planning (in part to attract British skiers, who favour hotel accommodation).

The ski area swings almost 180 degrees around the lower, wooded part of the 1,132m mountain, with an open swathe of skiing above the tree line. Last Saturday, much of the top section was closed for lack of snow - which was no great hardship with a temperature of minus 11C and a strong wind. Down among the trees, though, both the climate and the skiing were pleasant - the latter even more so the following day, thanks to the couple of inches of snow that fell overnight.

Although the ski area has beginner, intermediate and expert runs marked on the piste map, that is wishful thinking: the descriptions "fast, medium and slow" would be more accurate. The pisted areas are wide and easy, those rated "expert" merely somewhat steeper than the others. In truth, what Trysil offers is extensive terrain for mid-level intermediates, plus nursery slopes. More skilled skiers in search of a challenge would find it only among the trees or on the unpisted areas.

The slopes also offer the chance to see the most successful driver in Grand Prix history. Why keep harping on about Schumacher? Because he is very important to the resort. Search google.com for "Trysil", and the whole first page of references are to Norwegian websites; add the words "Michael" and "Schumacher" to the search, and the resulting first page has sites from Norway, France, Spain, Indonesia, Germany, the Czech Republic and Italy.

Did I see him? Nearly. I missed the soccer match on 29 December in which he took part, with many Norwegian footballers who have played in the UK (including Bjornebye, Bohinen, Rudi and the Flo family), most of whom own cabins at Trysil. And I missed him on Saturday when setting off for lunch with the resort's chief executive. Once settled at the table, I asked Henning Hanevold if he ever saw Schumacher on the slopes. "Sure. I saw him just now." Where? "Did you notice that I said 'hi' to somebody at the lift?" Yes, I did; but I didn't look round. "That was Michael Schumacher."

Neilson (0870 909 9099; www.neilson.com) is the only UK tour operator with Trysil in its programme. Weekly package prices per person start at £399 for a self-catering apartment or £609 for a hotel room (based on two sharing); cabins start at £414 (six sharing)

Comments