We left Rauland Ski-Senter late afternoon on Thursday, after a full day of telemark skiing. The return route took us by a couple of important Norwegian landmarks. We skirted the Hardangervidda, a mountain plateau that covers part of Telemark county and is the largest plateau of its kind in Europe. Most of the vidda (Norwegian for “plateau”) is protected as the Hardangervidda National Park. Further along the route, we stopped to see the Vemork hydroelectric power plant, positioned high up in the mountain of a deep gorge. This hydroelectric power plant was built by Norsk Hydro in 1911. In 1935, the plant began producing heavy water as a by product of fertilizer production. Knowing that heavy water could be used by Germans in WWII to produce nuclear weapons, a series of actions was taken on February 27, 1943, by Norwegian saboteurs bent on destroying the heavy water and the facility making it. These actions involved parachuting onto the Hardanervidda from a glider, skiing across the plateau, and climbing down and up the deep gorge on a moonlit winter’s night. For more information about this heroic feat by 12 Norwegian men, see more here. Or, check out the six episodes of, “The Heavy Water War” on Netflix.
Hannah and I arrived in Porsgrunn, at the home of our respective host families on Thursday night. On Friday, Hannah accompanied Kristine at school, walked through the town of Porsgrunn with her host, and enjoyed pizza and a movie with other students. I was delighted to see the four Norwegian students from last year’s exchange. On the eve of the departure, Hannah confessed that she wished she could stay in Norway longer and she just might not be at the house when we stopped by to pick her up for the ride to the airport!
Here are Hannah’s responses to a few questions:
What did you think about the Norwegian landscape as you drove through Telemark?
Hannah: The Norwegian landscape is beautiful.
What was the best part of staying at your hotel in Rauland?
Hannah: The best part of my hotel room was the people I shared it with. It was me and one other American, with Emilie and Kristine (Norwegians), and we got so close over the 3 days. It was so fun.
How do you feel about telemark skiing?
Telemark skiing is a lot of fun. It’s great. I loved it.
Do you think your Loppet friends would like Norway? If so, why?
My Loppet friends would love Norway because it is such a healthy, athletic, and beautiful country.
The purpose of the international youth exchange between the Loppet Foundation and Porsgrunn School in Telemark is to create Norwegian and American youth-to-youth connections, provide experiences centered on shared passion for skiing and outdoor activity, promote cross-cultural understanding, and provide opportunities for leadership skill development. This exchange program enables Norwegian and American youth to learn about each other’s culture, particularly as it relates to skiing and outdoor pursuits, to actively engage in community activities, and to develop leadership skills. This is the second year of the exchange and the first year The Loppet sent a female youth alumni. Loppet youth must have participated in Loppet programming and reside in North Minneapolis to participate in the exchange. The Loppet Foundation works closely with Norwegian partners, teachers Truls and Frode from Porsgrunn School, to create an exchange that provides the students with the opportunity to learn from one another and experience each community’s passion for outdoor winter activity – SKIING!