SI Vault
Allan Pospisil
November 19, 1979
In later years, Norway's Fridtjof Nansen would gain fame as a polar explorer and as the winner, in 1922, of the Nobel Peace Prize. In the winter of 1884, when he was 22 years old, he got a foretaste of treks to come. He decided to enter the annual Huseby Hill ski jump. There was one hitch—Huseby Hill was in Oslo (then Christiania), and Nansen was in Bergen, 215 miles away.
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November 19, 1979

Fridtjof Nansen Skied 150 Rugged Miles To Jump Off A Hill In Oslo

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Nansen pronounced the meal and the company "entirely delightful," though he had broken a personal rule against drinking alcohol and smoking tobacco when he had far to go. Regaining a sense of purpose, he resisted entreaties to stay and hunt grouse, and wobbled off at dusk down the Hemsedal Valley.

Late getting to Tuf, he met a party of horse traders, a society less sporting than hunters. The traders' game was cards and they pressed him to join them. Foreseeing trouble, Nansen bargained instead to hire a horse and rode on to the Kleven postal station, arriving well past midnight and lucky to find a bed. Kleven, too, was full of horse dealers.

He was gone next morning at nine, skiing hard down slopes where spruce and pine grew, and across pastures where saeters—farmers' huts—lay nearly buried by snow.

At midmorning he reached Rolfshus. He had gone 10 miles, and at that rate, he calculated, he could make it all the way to Gulsvik, another 40 miles, by day's end. He entered the Hallingdal, the valley that cradles the tracks of today's Oslo-Bergen railway—completed in 1904—and made Nesbyen in time for an early-afternoon dinner and an hour's rest. Refreshed, he took to the trail again. Snow was falling but he was skiing well, and he and Flink were in Gulsvik late that night.

Saturday's run looked easy—20 miles down Kr�deren Lake to Olberg and another few miles for a train connection to Oslo. Nansen approached the lake and found ideal conditions. The ice was smooth and dusted with new snow. Settling into the relaxed rhythm of a long-distance skier, kicking and then gliding, he skied into Ringnes at noon and Olberg an hour after that. Weakening at last, he hired a sleigh to get him to the train on time.

With Flink in tow, Nansen arrived in Oslo that evening. Taking into account train rides at either end and passages by steamer and hired sleigh, he had skied about 150 miles in six days.

On the seventh day he got some rest, and on Monday he entered the Huseby Hill meet, forerunner of today's Holmenkollen competitions. He placed ninth. The Norwegian Sports Journal reported, "Fridtjof Nansen entered again this year. While he exhibited the same beautiful style as before, he did not seem to be in top form."

The meet at Huseby Hill was Nansen's last competition. After that, other goals occupied his thoughts, foremost among them a scheme to ski across Greenland, which he did in 1888. Nansen questioned the value of competitive skiing. "The purpose of sport," he later wrote, "should be to develop and strengthen the body and the soul, while taking us out into nature. But many of our sportsmen have become muscle machines, race horses who...strive to break records and come in a few meters ahead of their fellows."

At the time, however, his foremost concern was the matter of returning home. Nansen packed his rucksack, strapped on his skis, whistled up Flink—and skied back to Bergen.

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