10 Things We Love About Gausta

Andy H - Headshot

Gausta in Norway only joined our programme last summer, but after one season it's already one of our most popular and highest rated resorts - and not just in Norway! Based on multiple team and personal trips last winter, plus feedback from our customers, here are 10 things we love about Gausta.

When I first visited the resort in July 2023, I knew it would be a hit with our customers. I’ve been working with Norwegian ski resorts for over two decades and could tell immediately that it was up there with the best of them.

Incredibly high levels of service and a passion for winter sports? We were an instant match!

The feedback from our customers this past winter has been incredible and I can personally vouch for their experiences having visited on four separate occasions now. Firstly in June last year, returning in January with more of the team, then with my family at Easter, and finally with the entire Ski Safari team for our end of season ski weekend in late April.

With the most beautiful mountain in Norway, fascinating historical sites and top-tier culinary delights, Gausta is no ordinary ski resort. It's a truly unique destination with so much to impress skiers of all ages and abilities and plenty for non-skiers too.

Keep reading for 10 reasons we love Gausta and think it should be at the top of your 'to ski' list, then call our team on 01273 224060 or enquire online for personal advice and a tailor-made price.

By Andy Hemingway, Sales Manager / Norway & Sweden Product Manager

1. It’s home to Gaustatoppen, the highest peak in Telemark Norway

You'll first spot Gaustatoppen on the drive up to the resort and it'll rarely leave your view once you arrive. It's so remarkable and ever-present that the main hotel in the resort, Gaustablikk Fjellresort, literally means 'Gausta view mountain resort'!

It reminds me of the views Mt Yotei from Niseko, Japan - although I guarantee you'll see a lot more of Gaustatoppen - and provides an equally stunning backdrop for photos.

Gausta Resort in Norway, Andy skiing with Gaustatoppen in the background
Gaustatoppen is ever-present throughout the resort and is particularly striking on sunny days like this one in April

It may not be the tallest mountain in Norway at 1,883 metres above sea level, but it's by far the tallest in the Telemark area and it provides the most far-reaching views in the country. From the summit, you can see around one-sixth of Norway and even into Sweden and Denmark.

If you recognise it, it may be because it's one of the most photographed and painted landscapes in Norway - or you might have even spotted the distinctive peak from Norefjell! The two resorts are only 65km apart as the crow flies.

2. You can take a train ride up THROUGH the mountain...

If Gaustatoppen sounds impressive, wait until you hear about Gaustabanen, the unique funicular railway that takes you into, and then up through, the mountain to the summit.

You'll first take an electric tram 850 metres horizontally to the mid-station, before switching to a vertical tramway which takes you up 1,040 metres at 39 degrees. The whole journey takes around 15 minutes and it feels like you're making your way into a James Bond villain's lair.

Gaustabanen - a train ride through the heart of Gaustatoppen
The Gaustabanen tramway is a serious feat of engineering and feels like a journey to a villain's hideout

The tramway was originally conceived as a tourist attraction but before its completion, NATO took over the project, using it instead to reach a radio tower at the summit. That radio tower proved crucial during the Cold War for listening in on Soviet communications.

It wasn't until 2010 that Gaustabanen was opened to tourists. Before then, anyone wishing to visit the summit needed to hike up (which is still popular in the summer).

The current operators have continued to develop the experience at the summit, with guided tours of the apartments and offices of the radio operators, 'top secret' dining experiences and even escape rooms.

Cold War apartment where the Gaustatoppen radio tower operators lived and worked
The apartments and offices for the Gaustatoppen radio tower are preserved so you can see how the operators lived and worked at the time

It's not only breathtaking views and top secret listening posts at the top. First opened in 1893, Gaustatoppen Turisthytte is a famous spot for waffles. It was built from rock carved out of the summit and is ideal for warming up before you make your way back down the mountain.

3. ...and then you can ski back down!

It's possible to take the train back down, but if you're feeling adventurous then make sure you bring your skis!

There's a wide, marked off-piste trail back down to the base that's suitable for anyone that has off-piste experience. There are much more challenging routes too, with varying pitch, to satisfy even the most experienced riders, with descents of over 1300 metres possible. As ever with any descents like this we highly recommend using the expertise of a local guide.

I’m fortunate enough to have skied Gaustatoppen a couple of times so far: on a beautiful sunny afternoon at Easter and most recently taking a descent with nine of our team at sunset. Both were incredible experiences.

The most memorable part for me, on both occasions, was enjoying the astounding views as I picked out a line to make my own fresh tracks in the snow. I can’t wait to return next winter to ski it again.

For more experienced skiers and snowboarders (I mean experienced - this is serious terrain), there are also some incredibly steep couloirs on the front and back sides of the mountain.

It's a very challenging mountain in certain places which has to be treated with the due respect. We can’t recommend enough the importance of hiring a local guide for the safest and most enjoyable experience.

4. There's skiing for all abilities from first-timers to freeriders

If the idea of skiing down Gaustatoppen makes you nervous, you'll be pleased to hear that 40% of the resort's main ski area is graded beginner-friendly.

There's a green run down from almost every lift, allowing you to rack up the miles even if it's your first time on the slopes. The ski school is well set up and managed by a team with a huge amount of experience. They provide high-quality lessons in small groups with English-speaking instructors, and first-timers learn on the magic carpet right outside the bakery - after ski school treats make a good incentive for getting little ones into their boots!

As you can see below, my kids both came on a huge amount in lessons over Easter.

45% of the ski runs are intermediate, so it's a brilliant resort to progress in too. The first test is the long and winding Telemarksvingen (green run 14), before progressing to Linken (blue 19) and Sondreløypa (red 15) off the same lift. Our team spent most of the day lapping these runs off the Gaustablikkekspressen in April. They were so much fun, we couldn’t help going back for more.

For experienced skiers, there are some more technical blacks, including long and steep Svart'n (black 18), plus a selection of marked off-piste runs and plenty of opportunities to lay your own tracks in the trees with wonderful gladed runs or in the open terrain off the Fjellheisen t-bar.

As well as the excellent ski school, it's also worth mentioning the quality of the rentals which got a big thumbs up from me and the wider team! Especially the custom-made Gausta skis - ideal for tackling Gaustatoppen.

Andy Hemingway with his Gausta skis
Showing off my all-mountain Gausta skis before taking them on Gaustabanen

5. The high levels of service and comfort at the Gaustablikk Fjellresort

One of the things that sets Norway as a whole apart as a ski destination is the quality of the accommodation, and the Gaustablikk Fjellresort is no different.

Fully refurbished in 2021, you know you're in Scandinavia as soon as you walk through the doors into the impressive lobby. Every detail has been carefully thought about, from the furniture and artwork to the little touches like a handcrafted table tennis table by the entrance and a well-equipped kids' room.

The rooms are spacious and comfortable, with beds to rival the most luxurious hotels I've ever stayed in. I'd recommend upgrading to a Gaustatoppen view. You’ll never tire of this view. It makes for an awe inspiring start to your morning and perfect end to your day.

Gaustablikk Fjellresort
Every part of Gaustablikk Fjellresort is beautifully furnished, including the popular shuffleboard tables which are free to use for Ski Safari guests

The staff are exceptionally welcoming and knowledgeable, ensuring you have everything you need for a perfect stay, and the hotel is brilliantly set up for skiing too.

There's on-site ski storage and the lifts, rentals and ski school are a minute's walk or ski away. As well as a good-sized pool, steam room, sauna and jacuzzi, take a short stroll down to the lake for a distinctly Norwegian experience...

6. The saunas aren't by the lake... they're on it!

The floating saunas on Kvitåvatn Lake are unrivalled in my opinion. Payable locally so you have a sauna to yourself, the floor-to-ceiling windows offer phenomenal panoramic views of Gaustatoppen across the lake.

The floating saunas at the Gaustablikk Fjellresort
It's as easy as 1... 2... 3! Photos by Ski Safari customers Katie Black, Robert Murray and Simon Pattinson

The lake is of course frozen in winter, but the hotel keeps a small section thawed so you can brave the cold and take a refreshing dip before heading back into the sauna to warm up. It doesn't get more Scandinavian than this.

7. The cuisine is exceptional and experiential

Foodies take note, wining and dining is another area that the resort's owners take seriously and they've gone out of their way to hire the best people.

From casual to fine dining, the menus and concepts at the hotel are crafted by award-winning Swedish chef Melker Andersson and use local, seasonal ingredients. They cater to all dietary requirements and provide dishes that you'll want to eat slowly, savouring every bite.

The wine list is notable, with the knowledgeable sommelier Stefan on his way to building a world-class wine cellar, and the hotel also hosts regular events with guest chefs from Michelin-starred restaurants around the world.

Scallops, veal and cabbage at Blikk Fjellbrasserie plus pastries and coffees at Bakeriet
All tastes catered for: scallops, veal and cabbage at Blikk Fjellbrasserie plus pastries and coffees at Bakeriet

The focus on food extends outside of the hotel too. Bakeriet is run by Gustav, an award-winning pastry chef, and provides freshly made bread, sandwiches, cakes and pastries to fuel your day on the mountain. The cinnamon buns have to be the best I've ever tasted!

Stova is the main mountain restaurant with a pizzeria, barbeque, main restaurant and special events like Fondue Fridays and outdoor events on the terrace in the spring.

8. A daring mission took place here during World War II...

Down in the valley below the resort, you'll find Vemork hydroelectric power plant, a fascinating and important historical location and centrepiece of the Rjukan–Notodden UNESCO Industrial Heritage Site.

Firstly, the power plant itself is an industrial marvel. When it opened in 1911 it was the largest power plant in the world, built to power a factory producing artificial fertilizer. It was later used to produce heavy water, used to enrich uranium, which led to Germany taking control of the power plant and factory during WWII in an attempt to develop nuclear weapons.

Vemork Hydroelectric Power Plant
Vemork Hydroelectric Power Plant, now home to the Norwegian Industrial Workers Museum. Photos from my visit in July 2023

The Allies knew they had to destroy the heavy water supply, and after two failed missions, a team of Norwegian commandos were finally successful in February 1943.

They were parachuted into the surrounding wilderness, from where they launched their mission across the steep, icy valley to break into the factory and plant explosives, escaping by skiing 200 miles to Sweden!

Saboteurs Memorial and Blast Damage at Vemork
A memorial for the saboteurs involved in Operation Gunnerside and blast damage within the heavy water chambers

There are so many interesting twists and turns to the mission that I'd highly recommend reading more about it. Or if you're in Gausta, the resort runs a weekly tour to visit Vemork and learn about the scientific and military history of the area.

9. ...which was turned into a blockbuster film in the 1960s

If the story above sounds familiar, it may be because you've seen the popular 1965 film starring Kirk Douglas, 'The Heroes of Telemark', which was inspired by the mission.

It was filmed here and the surrounding area. The hotel's founder, Olav Svardal, even featured as Douglas's stunt double in all the ski scenes. He was asked to be paid 1 million for his service, he was thinking Norwegian kroner, but was actually paid 1 million US dollars. This allowed him to realise one of his dreams and build a hotel, which stands today as Gaustablikk Fjellresort.

Heroes of Telemark in Gaustablikk Fjellresort
Posters and photographs from The Heroes of Telemark, plus Kirk's Bar, named after Kirk Douglas

Proceeds from the film helped fund a lot of the early development of the hotel and resort, and the legacy is still found throughout with 'Kirk's Bar' named after the Hollywood star and memorabilia adorning the walls.

10. Nearby Rjukan doesn’t receive sunlight for 6 months of the year

The world's largest power plant required a sizeable workforce, and so Norsk Hyrdo developed the town of Rjukan to house workers. Free housing was an attractive perk of the job, one that was needed as the town's location in the valley below Gaustatoppen means there's no sunlight between September and March.

To help overcome this, three large mirrors were built on the northern mountainside to reflect sunlight down into the town square throughout winter. Visit on a sunny day and you'll spot the locals basking in the sun's glow on benches perfectly placed in the spotlight.

Looking down on Rjukan from Gausta
Looking down on Rjukan under the shadow of Gaustatoppen from the slopes of Gausta

Living in perpetual shade may not sound great, but it does lead to some spectacular frozen waterfalls which make the area a world-famous destination for ice climbing. There are few places that provide such consistent ice and variety of climbs.

There are a number of local guiding companies offering courses for all abilities. We already have a number of customers who add on ice climbing trips to their ski holidays and it's a brilliant option for more adventurous travellers.

Speak to a Specialist

This is a destination that has so much to offer, but perhaps above all it’s the high levels of service and outstanding quality of delivery - consistently reflected in the snow, food, ski school and activities available, to name a few - that really make Gausta stand out.

For a tailor-made price, enquire online or call our team on 01273 224060, there are some great package prices at the hotel and the self-catered cabins throughout the season.

You'll find more tips on where to ski, stay, eat and drink, plus the best activities, tips for families and options for learning and developing skills in our Gausta Resort Guide.

Join our mailing list, like us on Facebook and follow us on Instagram for more tips and advice based on personal experience.

What Do Our Customers Say?

Need more convincing? We have never had such amazing feedback for a new resort before. Here's what our customers think...

Ski Safari customers in Gausta
Ski Safari customers in Gausta in 2023/24

“An excellent resort. An easy journey to get there and gorgeous snow when we did. Everyone was friendly and helpful and the atmosphere was cosy. A gorgeous place and one we’d certainly go back to.” - Samantha Benbow, 14 January 2024

“The set-up at Gausta is first-rate. The ski shop, ski school and access to the slopes are just a walk across the car park from the hotel. The skiing is varied and plentiful. Views of Gaustatoppen and the surrounding area are spectacular. Our ski safari was memorable on so many levels. As an added bonus, even the journey to and from the resort from Oslo was breathtaking. We cannot be any more grateful for such an experience. Huge thanks to Andy and the team for persuading us to try Gausta out - and for all of the seamless arrangements they made for such a great family holiday.” - Paul Radford, 19 February 2024

“A great friendly resort. Lots of off piste skiing and a chance to try ski touring. The railway and funicular inside Gaustatoppen mountain is really interesting. Pistes were immaculate and you’re in Norway so the snow is fantastic.” - Catherine Garrett, 14 March 2024

“The resort was so beautiful and easy to navigate. The ease of getting our skis and onto the slopes in minutes was just what we were looking for. The slopes were great for myself and two children as they loved to pop in and out of the trees. The size of the resort meant we didn't get lost, we got to know the quiet red, and beautifully winding green very well. It felt very local, friendly and chilled. A relaxing, fun time had by all.” - Sarah Elek, 08 April 2024

“A hidden gem, for the non-macho family skier, Gausta offers everything. Perfect variety of slopes to suit all abilities, well groomed pistes, incredibly helpful staff in restaurants and shops, it just got better and better as the week progressed.” - Sean Corcoran, 12 April 2024

“Great resort with skiing for all. Really impressed by the service and ability to suit all levels. Had a great time doing off piste and ski touring as well. The floating sauna is a must too.” - Emmanuelle Filsjean, 15 April 2024

“Beautiful place! Used the sauna and plunged in to the lake. Amazing experience. The skiing was superb for spring. Empty pistes and very quiet. Food was second to none. All staff super friendly including Bjorn who took us on a snowshoeing expedition. Thank you Ski Safari for a memorable holiday.” - Maria Elena Loxley, 22 April 2024

“A brilliant, attractive location for a family ski holiday for all ages which is suitable for both experienced skiers and beginners; skiing conditions were very favourable late in the season and skiing facilities, including ski equipment hire, were excellent; the hotel accommodation more than met our expectations, with superb facilities, amazing cuisine and a very professional friendly service throughout; of particular note was how quiet, peaceful and uncrowded both the ski slopes and the hotel was which made for an even more enjoyable stay.” - Colin Martin, 24 April 2024

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