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A Winter Drive to Røros

Winter scene from Røros, Norway

Last weekend I had the pleasure (!) of driving in the Norwegian winter for the first time. Below you'll find some tips for those of you doing the same, but first, my story.

I don't drive often these days. Since leaving the UK over two years ago, I've driven just four times, twice on the left and twice on the right. So it's nerve-wracking enough driving at all, let alone on the “wrong” side of the road and during a blizzard.

Yes, during a blizzard!

Driving from Trondheim to Røros

My worries about making the trip from Trondheim to Røros were focused on the road surface. I've driven on icy roads in the UK and it's not nice.

But – and this feels stupid in hindsight – I hadn't thought about the possibility of it snowing during the drive.

The hire car from Allways in Trondheim was fine – a red Mini with winter tyres of course (a legal requirement in Norway), heated seats, and a full tank of fuel.

Red Mini

But the very moment we stepped out of the house to start our journey, the snow began to fall.

Moholt in Winter

We were leaving Trondheim at the worst possible time – the beginning of rush-hour on a Friday afternoon. So the main E6 motorway was at a crawl. My hopes of making it to the long country road to Røros before complete darkness soon disappeared.

E6 traffic jam

The snow quickly covered up the road markings sending my spatial awareness into meltdown – especially as the E6 switches from single to dual-carriageway and back again.

We finally made it to Støren, the beginning of route 30, over an hour later than planned, and sure enough it was dark.

As we turned on to route 30, my heart sank. Not only was it pitch black, the road was unlit, snow hurtled directly at the windscreen, and the sign ahead read “Røros 106km”.

I don't think I've ever had a scarier drive in my life.

Winter driving in Norway

What made things worse were the local drivers, clearly used to such conditions, flashing their headlights and overtaking me. Thanks @rseholes, that's really going to help, especially when I was driving at just 7km/h under the speed limit. Hardly a dawdler.

Whenever we found a chance to pull over I grabbed it. A chance to clean the windscreen, wipe snow from the front and rear lights, and most importantly to relax.

The concentration required to drive in such hypnotic conditions is immense, and I found myself needing to stop every 20 minutes just to give my mind a break.

As the snow worsened, we pulled into a Coop supermarket at Singsås. I genuinely felt fearful about continuing and contemplated staying put until the conditions improved. After 15 minutes or so, we decided to carry on.

Taking a break

Taking a break

Conditions improved as we approached Røros. More of the road was lit and the snow had stopped. We eventually pulled into the Røros Hotell almost five hours after leaving Trondheim. On a summer day the drive would take a little over two hours.

The Return to Trondheim

After our weekend in Røros (I'm so excited to tell you all about it – next time!), I couldn't help but be a little nervous ahead of the return drive. We left Røros with plenty of daylight still remaining. The roads were still treacherous, but with much better visibility I was able to relax a little more and appreciate some of the stunning scenery. I couldn't believe this was the same road we'd driven just 48 hours before!

Route 30

Winter Driving Tips

For those of you contemplating a winter drive in Norway, here are some tips. Most are common sense, but some you may not have thought of.

  • Allow significantly more time to complete your journey
  • Make sure your car is fitted with winter tyres (a legal requirement)
  • Stop regularly to clear snow from your headlights and number plates
  • Check the weather forecast but don't rely on it – conditions can and will change rapidly
  • Take a flask of hot drink and some water
  • Take warm clothes and blankets
  • Take an ice scraper, brush, and old rags/cloths
  • Take two orange warning triangles in case of difficulties/breakdown
  • Make sure your mobile phones are fully charged
  • Pull over regularly for short breaks

Be careful out there!

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About the Author: David Nikel

Originally from the UK, David now lives in Trondheim and was the original founder of Life in Norway back in 2011. He now works as a freelance writer for technology companies in Scandinavia.

14 Comments

  1. The first time we went to Norway in the winter and rented a car in Lillehammer to drive to Dombås we were also scared as shit. Our conditions weren’t as bad as in your case, but the changing ground (sometimes narrow clear tracks, sometimes hardened snow, sometimes ice) and the arriving night already were unpleasant, complemented also by the impatient locals.

    Because we also had rented car, we sported a Norwegian license plate, maybe they would have been a little more gracious, if we had a German one. Then they could have seen that we were foreigners and not used to the conditions.

    But we were also happy, that we had rented a local car, which obviously was appropriately equipped for the weather. One year we even had studded tyres. And after a few days of getting accustomed to the conditions, we weren’t anymore driving much slower than the locals. 🙂

    BTW: Did you forget to replace XXXXXXXXXX with a real name where the coop is located?

  2. Yikes. No fun. It’s pretty much the same driving in some parts of Canada in winter. Even on well lit multi-lane highways it can be very treacherous. Heavy traffic volume is also scary in bad conditions. If there is a decent snow fall coming, best just to avoid highway driving completely and if there is storm coming cancel the trip! I’m always amazed at how recklessly people will drive – usually to fast! – in bad conditions… and that includes “locals”. Always leave lots of stopping distance between yourself and the car in front of you. Once, coming home from a ski trip, our car loaded with 4 guys, hit some black ice and although we were already going slow we did a complete 360 on the road and somehow managed to stay out of the ditch. Needless to say, we were shaken and pulled over at the next motel to wait out the bad weather. Cheers.

  3. Hello David!
    I am traveling to Norway this upcoming March and will be driving from Alesund to the surrounding Fjords and as far as Jotunheimen, do you know a website that would allow me to look at road closures or anything of the sort so I can be completely prepared with the routes I want to take? Also do you have any tips for weather in march in the Alesund (I know you are in Trondheim but I have no one to ask!)area?
    Happy New Year!
    Cheers,
    Skye

  4. Hi Skye,
    Welcome to Norway! I live in Ålesund and in March the temperature can be anything from -5C to +10 C (23F – 32F). 5 – 10 C colder further East (inland). The weather is usually quite wet. So far we’ve had a very mild winter; +8C with daisies popping up, so who knows where we’ll be in March? 🙂

    Up-to-date info on roads, closures etc. can be found here:
    http://translate.google.com/translate?sl=no&tl=en&js=n&prev=_t&hl=no&ie=UTF-8&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.vegvesen.no%2FTrafikkinformasjon%2FReiseinformasjon%2FTrafikkmeldinger%3Frapportid%3D600%26type%3Dutvalgt&act=url

    The following two roads won’t open until the snow is gone in June: no. 63 Valldalen-Åndalsnes (Trollstigen) and 63 Geiranger Grotli. Other main mountain roads are usually open unless there’s a storm (but sometimes open for convoys even then).
    Generally; dress for cold and wet weather. Cars are required to have winter tyres and chains on board.
    But if you’re lucky, you may see something like this! http://vimeo.com/57275675
    Best of luck!
    Elise.

  5. Hello Everyone,

    I will drive from Oslo to Flam and stay for 3-4 nights at Flam as main town from 19-22 March 2016, basicly I would love to explore winter in Norway with my parent not to hit the top of the mountain just feel winter and snow. Could you please share if saft to drive from Oslo – airport to Flam and should we stay Flam for 3 nights it is to much and I will return car to Oslo airport.

    Open to comment and suggestion.

    Tam

  6. Hi David,

    Greetings from India. Nice blog and info. I am planning to drive from Oslo – Bergen – Sogndal – Geiranger – Molde – Kristiansund – Lillehammer – Oslo during winter (Mostly 23rd Dec onwards) and then move to Finland self drive holiday.
    Is December end – Jan first week good time to drive in Norway and Finland? Will I get to see Northern lights (or how high the probability is) in my route? Or would you suggest any other route. I want to spend maximum 9 nights in Norway and 8-9 nights in Finland.

    Would appreciate your suggestions. Thanks.

    1. Hi, I would suggest you reconsider driving in the Norwegian mountains in December. There will be a lot of snow and many roads will be closed, meaning you have to stick to main highways. Bear in mind too it is the darkest time of the year, with a just couple hours of proper daylight. The northern lights are unlikely this far south, especially during December when the weather tends to be cloudier. I have lots more tips in my northern lights travel guide.

  7. Hi David,

    We would like to do a skiing holiday in Jan 2017 combining Are and Trysil. We plan to hire a car but are we better combining the train and bus (we are flexible where we can fly in and out of)? Is the drive between Are and Trysil a pituresque one?

    Thanks Liz

    1. Hi Liz. I’ve never made that journey but it looks like the quickest route is through Sweden. No idea if the roads that way will be open or not. The Swedish government probably have a webpage listing winter road closures. The alternative would be to head over to the E6, spend a day or two in Trondheim then head east across the border to Åre. I also publish this Norway travel guide which may be of use.

  8. As a native Norwegian who grew up quite rural, and has been driving since the age of 14 – I understand that driving under winter conditions is a lot of different things, very dependant on reading the snow and ice, estimating the depth and knowing the car. When I was younger, I used up to a week just tuning into the new season. I went down to a few days and now I switch between different modes on the fly. I really takes a lot of practice to master. I commuted from east to west for five years, and when your shifts starts 0700 on the other side, it’s really not an option not going if the roads are open even if the weather is bad. I created a “In case shit” package in my car.

    Fully insulated snow suit, mittens and “bjønnfitte”
    Shovel
    Towing line
    wool blankets for the kids

    In additions, may seem stupid but always have you car topped up with gas.

  9. Yea, the hypnotic part is really bad 🙁 Buy two Red Bulls as reserve, and don’t pop them to early. If it gets really bad, you just have to stop and sleep. I once had to sleep eight times between Voss and Bergen, a distance of less than 120 km.
    To know the tires and the car is a bonus. I once had a light Toyota Corolla with Nokian Hakkapelitta Q tires. If was a fantastic combination! Not least as the tires was designed to make warnings with a “pre-slip” before they slipped off the road. It scared the bum out of a friend of, who – despite being Norwegian – had next-to-thing knowledge of cars. (I never got the same combinations again when I changed to slightly heavier stationwagons later.) — Knowing winter tires is a culture!
    I once rented a car in Calgary from one of the gig rental companies. I first checked the tires of over half the cars on the parking spot, and I wasn’t convinced… I asked and they said “Of course: All of our cars have ‘all-year’s tires’!” An expression I had heard before, and is despised in Norway. Only embraced by Dutch, and the previously mentioned former friend. Still in doubt I, I rented a Taurus. There was no cars with any tires I would like.
    …the day after I drove it back to the company at 20 to 30 km/h, through the most quiet side streets I could find. Parking in the pavement when I saw a car coming up from behind. I had almost been killed twice while crossing the ring road. I had no intention to cross the ringroad: I had just planned a careful slow down to stop from the top of a bridge there. The Taurus bobsleigh had different plans. — “I can’t drive on these …suicide tires” I complained. I got all the money back.
    I have no doubt what Candians thinks about what is quality winter equipment. — It is just a topic I NEVER bring up them…

    We also rented a camper van in Canada. We were the first customers that had ever taken the snow chains in use. (We were also the only car that drove safely up and down from Whitewater in a snowstrom without doing strange random manouvers with our car. — A special thanks to the Nelson Road Service that lent us two bunge cords to tighten the tire chain. — That was missing from the snow chain kit.)

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