Inside Norrona HQ
At the end of last winter, a group of our key clothing staff went on a Norwegian Adventure in the company of Norrøna to learn about one of our favourite mountain clothing brands and all things Viking...
When we landed in Norway on the Tuesday evening I think it's fair to say that none of us had any idea about the adventures that Norrøna had in store for us over the next few days. After losing one luggage bag at the airport, and one group member en route to the city (we found him again!) we finally met Frode, Norrøna's Account Manager who loaded up his van with our stuff and off we went to our first destination - the top of a hill where we watched the sun set over the whole of beautiful Oslo.
Not a bad start to the trip!
We were then asked to help carry 'the essentials' needed for a night of camping under the stars, and led through a forest to a deserted ski run which was going to be home for the night. We made a fire, we chatted about our experience of the outdoors, and tried to take in the beautiful surroundings. I've camped before but never without a tent, and I've never been so thankful for good quality kit and the use of a Norrøna down jacket to keep warm!
We woke early the next morning to be greeted with a beautiful sunrise and it wasn't long before another fire was lit and breakfast made. No time to chill though; we had to get ready for our first activity of the day - mountain biking! We were lucky enough to be able to use some Norrøna equipment—Falketind Flex 1 pants and various waterproof shells, so we could really see how the product performed in its intended conditions. We biked down a single track that ran parallel to a waterfall, not knowing where we were going to be coming out. It turns out that this route is just a normal work commute for some of the team - and before we knew it we were at the Norrøna HQ.
We were given a tour of their unique head office which really gave us an insight into Norrøna as a brand. It was obvious walking around just how much passion and enthusiasm these guys have for the outdoors and how they strive to be the best.
The coolest part for me was seeing the design rooms and the labs used for testing the products. All design and proto-typing is done in-house so it means that Norrøna have complete control over their range and can test the products, get feedback from testers and make necessary adjustments pretty quickly. Their design philosophy of 'Loaded Minimalism' means that they make products that are as clean as possible but with all the critical details needed.
After the tour we spent the afternoon checking out the museum at the Oslo Ski Jump and even had the chance to go sailing. We were then dropped off at a hotel in Oslo and told we would be picked up at 5am ready to go ski touring, so as a group we had a wander around the city before getting some much needed sleep!
Normally, an alarm going off at 4.30am is my idea of hell but being woken up at that time to drive to a mountain and go touring really wasn't difficult.
We were due to drive for about 3 hours to get to Gaustatoppen, taking in amazing views of the fjords and mountains. When we arrived we were kitted up ready to start the ascent. Again, we had the opportunity to use Norrøna product - I had a Women's Lofoten Jacket and Pants that I couldn't wait to try. With working in a Snowdome store I get to look at, and talk about skiwear all day long but nothing compares to actually trying it out on a mountain. As a keen snowboarder I have done several weeks on snow but have never had the opportunity to go touring, so I couldn't wait to get into my snow shoes and set off.
The conditions were perfect: bright blue skies with the sun beaming down on us; but there was also a strong wind as we got higher up. The gear we were wearing was fantastic, I had a merino base layer under my jacket most of the time, and I only needed to pull out my down mid-layer when we stopped for snacks and drinks on the way up! We were really pushing ourselves and it was so comforting to know that the gear we were wearing had our backs!
When we finally reached the top it was breathtaking - my tired legs soon got forgotten about and my focus shifted to the stunning views of the mountains in front of me. No sooner than us reaching the top it was time to ride back down! Strapping in at the top was so exciting and the ride down was great with perfect powder conditions and bright blue skies ahead. If only the ride down lasted as long as the ascent!
After a quick snack at the bottom, it was time to get back into the car and head back to the airport. We were all pretty quiet in the car- I think we just couldn't believe what we had experienced in such a small space of time (and the fact that we were so tired!) The Norrøna team had been so kind to us and the weather was perfect for all of the activities we did. I certainly will never forget the things that we got to do, and I will never look at Norrøna the same again in my store!
Seeing Norrøna where it came to life made me realise how connected the brand is to its roots. It reflects Norway, I think, and it reflects the people that create it, their passions and lifestyle. Knowing that what the guys at Norrøna manufacture is great quality is one thing, but being able to see how they get the ideas, how they create, test and develop products is something completely different.
The sense of community at company's headquarters is great as well; it felt almost like an extended family when we were having dinner with all the Norrøna employees. And we had fun, too! I would never expect to go for a dip in the river during an office and lab tour – and people at Norrøna seem to do it on regular basis. The whole trip was an experience I will not forget for a very long time.
I was lucky enough to be selected to go to Norway and experience what Norrøna is all about. Our jam-packed three day adventure started in Olso city, where we were greeted by Frode, Lisa and Tony who then proceeded to take us up to mountains to watch the sunset over the picturesque setting of Olso. After our relaxed intro we then moved onto where we would be wild camping for the night, a thawed ski run overlooking the city, and set to work making a fire and whittling sticks for cooking. After sausages and music (curtesy of Frode) we all settled into our sleeping bags looking up at the stars.
Awoken early next morning by sunrise, we then ate breakfast and packed up, ready to mountain bike down to headquarters. Needless to say the Norrøna employees were much more practiced, but it was great fun to try mountain biking for the first time, even if a little scary.
Arriving at the headquarters we were greeted with a tour (we even see the fabrics testing room and be showed how the machines worked!) and then showers before a talk on the ethos of Norrøna, where the company's roots are and where it plans and hopes to go. Followed by going to a Norrøna own brand store to take a look at how they merchandise and to see how they want to have their products presented. We then went to check out the Olympic ski jump and to go inside the ski museum that they have there, which had a very early Norrøna jacket in it! After a traditional 'sour cream porridge' (Rømmegrøt) dinner, we set out sailing for the evening. With Simon taking the helm and some great wind it made for a perfect evening out on the water. Then off to the hotel for some much needed sleep before our early start the next day to go ski touring in Gaustastoppen.
Our last day with Norrøna was spent ski touring and what an incredible day it was. For which, considering it was late April, we had great conditions. We hiked up for 3 hours, taking in the stunning views as we went. The way down seemed to fly by considering how long we took to get up! It was a fantastic experience as ski touring was something I had always wanted to try, and what a great first proper go at it!
It was very apparent how passionate everyone is in the company and how great the kit is, which we were able to test on this trip. Thanks you for showing us some great Norwegian hospitality Norrøna!