Weekend Feature: Extremists at the Top of the World

This week the city of Voss in Western Norway has been invaded by
'extremists' from all over the world, participating in the annual Extreme Sports Week. The week has been a festival of alternative sports with over a thousand participants from 30 nations, jumping, diving, biking and gliding from the surrounding mountains.. This week the city of Voss in Western Norway has been invaded by
'extremists' from all over the world, participating in the annual Extreme Sports Week.

The week has been a festival of alternative sports with over a thousand participants from 30 nations, jumping, diving, biking and gliding from the surrounding mountains.With only 8,000 inhabitants, the town of Voss in Western Norway produces more than its share of famous sportsmen and women.

Beginning with Knut Rokne, the famed American football hero, over a hundred years ago, and up to the three gold medalists from the Salt Lake City Olympics (Kari Traa, Kristen Skjeldal, and Egil Gjelland), Voss is known for sport.

The mountain hamlet which, calls itself the “Heart of Fjord Norway,” is located between the Hardangerfjord and the Sognefjords in the West of Norway and is a historic tourist destination, as European nobility frequented the area for salmon fishing and hunting throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries. Local ski resorts and pensions have also played host to domestic and international tourists for traditional winter and summer mountain sports for generations.

However, in recent years the tourism industry of the village and surrounding area has had to innovate, as the salmon supply is no longer as plentiful as before, and package tours to warmer destinations draw modern globetrotters and Voss locals alike to southern European locations. In innovating, Voss has looked inward, and found that sport is still in its heart.

Thus, lst Sunday began the annual Extreme Sport Week or ’ekstremsportveko’ (written as pronounced in the local Voss dialect). The week is a festival of alternative sports aimed at young and old enthusiasts alike. Organisers expect that over a thousand participants from 30 countries have participated in jumping, diving, biking and gliding from the surrounding mountains and sky, thousands of onlookers enjoying the events and accompanying parties.

Extreme Sport Week is complemented by high profile concerts held on the lakefront just a block from the town center, with headliners such as Norwegian pop singer Morten Abel and the dance group Kaiser’s Orchestra, among others... Attractions such as the Swedish Trampoline Champions jumping and tumbling through the air and the air acrobatics of California’s Icarus Team Extreme skydiving team contribute to a circus-like atmosphere for the week.

But it is the sportsmen and women themselves that are the real attraction. Voss offers them a central arena for base jumping, skydiving, white water rafting and kayaking, rock climbing and mountain biking. The events are arranged as competitions for the serious ‘extremists,’ but one can also participate in ‘TryIt’ beginner sessions, where nearly all of the sports can be tried with the guidance of experts and coaches.

The event in itself is somewhat of a grassroots coup, as it has developed without the official municipal support that often surrounds such tourism attractions. A private initiative, the event has over the years secured sponsorship agreements from local, national, and international firms, culminating with this year’s sponsorship by Nike.

Tourism innovation has been required in rural Norway, as it is impacted by global tourism competition. The Extreme Sport Week seems to be a step in the right direction for Voss, and combined with other Voss attractions, such as a new 18-hole golf course and the national children’s soccer tournament, Voss Cup, Voss seems to be secure in its sporting history and future.
Norway Post's reporter in Voss: Erick Haukeb

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