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Exhilarating pistes and acres of fresh powder can be found in ski resorts the world over, but only Scandinavia can claim to be "the cradle of skiing." This is especially true of Norway, whose mountainous terrain and cold climate have long made it a winter sporting Valhalla. Geilo, with its short lift lines and wealth of outdoor activities, will keep even the most capricious children occupied.
8:00 AM Awake in "The Land of the Midnight Sun"
Your morning begins at the sprawling, red-roofed Dr. Holms Hotel (3580 Geilo; 32-09-57-00). Once a sanatorium, the hotel still promotes the well-being of its guests with its serene natural vistas and Old World-style personalized attention. The scenery and service may not impress your young ones, but game rooms, face painting, and magic shows are sure to capture their attention. Load up on hearty indigenous specialties such as brown cheese and mackerel in tomato at the hotel's hot and cold breakfast buffet while your kids make their own waffles.
10:00 AM High Standard of Living
Geilo's family-friendly reputation is well-deserved: Facilities include the newly developed Kikutheisene, an alpine skiing area served by three lifts and reserved for families with young skiers. Cross-country enthusiasts can explore 220 km of prepared trails through the Hallingdal Valley and across the Hardangervidda Plateau. Very young children (ages 0-7) will be entertained at the Trollklubben Kindergarten (Troll Club), while older kids and parents enjoy the Skurdalsåsen Rundt, a 12 or 19 km blue/black run accessible from Kikut ski center. Mountain cafeterias are scattered throughout the area: Stop to soothe lunchtime hunger pangs or sip a steaming blackcurrant toddy.
3:00 PM Viking-worthy Adventure
The town abounds with après-ski recreational options, and leading the pack when it comes to fun is dogsledding. Husky Adventure (47-32-09-48-46) offers families the opportunity to handle a dog team on a 5 km ride across the frozen Skurdalen Lake.
Back at the hotel, let the kids splash around in the indoor pool while you take refuge at the Dr. Holms Spa Clinic (47-32-09-14-05): Signature East-meets-West options include the Qi body treatment, a combination of shiatsu and oshiboris (hot towels).
7:00 Northern Delights
As the day ends, order an American-style pie from Peppes Pizza (47-22-22-55-55) for the kids, then sneak away to savor delicacies such as grouse, reindeer fillet, elk, and red deer at Hallingstuene Restaurant (47-32-09-12-50). Timber walls decorated with Norwegian rose painting make a fitting backdrop for the elegant local dishes served by Norwegian celebrity chef/owner Frode Aga. Select a bottle from the extensive wine cellar and toast Ull and Skade, the Norse god and goddess of skiing.
WHO SHOULD GO:
Families bored with routine vacation destinations, and cross-country aficionados.
Geilo's wide variety of winter sports—try the old (telemark skiing), the new (snowmobiling), and the unusual (kite skiing).
The Skarverennet is the world's largest cross-country race, with 14,000 skiers challenging one another through 38km of mountain terrain. The 2005 race will be held on April 23.