In Mora, Sweden, trail users now have to pay 50 Swedish kroner per day for skiing on the local groomed trail system (ed. roughly $6). In Norway, there is growing concern that it’s only a matter of time before the trend will jump the border.
Last season, the Swedes introduced trail fees for access to groomed trail systems in Mora, the legendary town of the Vasaloppet finish. Skiers now have to pay 50 Swedish kroners per day for using the trail system, or 400 Swedish kroners for a season pass that allows unlimited use of the groomed trails. The fees were not well received among users, and the whole concept ended up in court. The courts decided that the county does have the right to charge a user fee.
Frode Linnerud, the CFO of Lillehammer’s Olympic park (Olympiaparken AS) that maintains the trail system starting at the Birkebeiner Skistadion in Lillehammer. Linnerud believes that it’s only a matter of time before trail fees for XC trails will be introduced in Norway as well.
“At some point it will be necessary to charge trail fees to maintain the quality and frequency of grooming that skiers have come to expect. However, the laws have to be changed in order to allow charging trail fees for XC skiing. So far, it’s all based on donations. The current laws granting everyone reasonable access to non-developed, non-crop bearing properties bars land owners from charging the way they do in Mora,” Linnerud explains to www.langrenn.com.
“People enjoy and value nicely groomed trails, but they don’t fall out of the sky that way. It’s actually not that long ago that groomed trails were quite a novelty. Over the years, the grooming has improved significantly, in many places with both classic tracks and skate lanes. At some point it will become impossible to maintain the standard without user contributions, but currently there is only snow parking fees that can be charged,” Linnerud says, adding that he does experience more understanding and appreciation for the grooming efforts.
No trail fees in Olso
“Skiforeningen (ed. note: the Oslo area trail association) will not introduce a trail fee for grooming,” Mette Habberstad of Skiforeningen says to www.langrenn.com. “For starters, there is no room in the current laws that allows for charging a grooming fee, and most importantly, we think introducing user fees is the wrong place to go after funding for grooming.”
The season pass in Mora, currently about $50, grants access to a little more than 20 kilometers. Yearly membership in Skiforeningen runs about the same amount but the association maintains more than 2,600 kilometers of trails. And the membership is optional and not a requirement to access the trail system. “It takes a lot of resources to maintain and groom a trail system, so I understand the reasoning behind charging a grooming fee for using the trail system. But I think I would encourage the Swedes to look into different avenues to finance the grooming and trail maintenance rather than charge the skiers for using the trails,” Habberstad says.
From www.langrenn.com, July 16, 2010 By Ola Jordheim Halvorsen. Translation by Inge Scheve
Inge is FasterSkier's international reporter, born and bred in Norway. A cross-country ski racer and mountain runner, she also dabbles on two wheels in the offseason. If it's steep and long, she loves it. Follow her on Twitter: @IngeScheve.