Freeriding from Gaustatoppen

Few people know Gaustatoppen’s terrain as well as Torgeir Urdal. In the 80’s, the Rjukan native used to walk on Telemark skis to the summit to go off-piste. Today he takes the Gaustabanen train.

When Gaustatoppen’s secret train began with public tours in 2010, Torgeir Urdal was among the first to get onboard.

– Gaustabanen was a game changer for me. When I climbed to the top myself, I couldn’t manage more than two runs in a day. Now my record is twelve runs. But a typical day is maybe five, six runs, he says.


Torgeir Urdal, guide at Gaustatoppen

Gaustabanen straight to the top

Born and raised in Rjukan, Torgeir started to ski even before there was a lift system. Instead, he took the Krossobanen, the gondola system built for the inhabitants of Rjukan to see the sun in winter, and then used mini ski’s to go down Vestfjorddalen’s mountain sides.

Today it’s off-piste skiing that Torgeir loves the most and he is hired as a guide for off-piste skiing at Gaustatoppen.

– If I have people for the first time, we start with run number 7, it is very wide and deep and usually has plenty of snow. If I’m unsure of the group’s skiing skills, then we start with an easier trail on the south-eastern side.

The steep grooves of Gaustatoppen

The front of Gaustatoppen faces the ski lifts and Gaustabanen’s start. There are seven or eight deep grooves in the mountain that all differ. Some are narrow, others are deep and some are so steep you have to drop into the groove.

– Fewer skiers transcend the rear slopes. They are steeper and are more susceptible to avalanches, and besides you must have someone with a car to drive you back, explains Torgeir.

Off-piste all the way down to Rjukan

In preparation for the winter 2018/2019 season, he’s gathered a bunch of volunteers and off-piste enthusiasts who will clear a power line corridor through the forest using chainsaws.

– It’s an old dream to go off-piste with 1650m drop height. From the top down to Rjukan’s old train station, he says.

The 1939 downhill slope from Gaustatoppen

This isn’t Torgeir’s only dream. Another is the downhill ski slope from 1939, planned for the 1940 World Championships. The Second World War and the German occupation of Norway put a stop to that and the slope quickly became overgrown.  Now the slope might become a reality once again.

– An Austrian downhill coach thought it could be the world’s most challenging run.


Facts: Torgeir Urdal

Age: 54
Profession: Salesman and guide at Gaustatoppen.
Favourite mountain resort, apart from  Gausta: “Chamonix. It’s got  Mont Blanc, everything, a big nice town and the mountains are steep enough.”
Leisure: Exercises and competes in road bicycle racing.