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Norway

Queen Sonja attends a lecture on the history of cross country skiing – Norway’s national sport


Oskar Aanmoen/Royal Central

Cross-country skiing is Norway’s national sport. Indeed, it is a well-used saying that most Norwegians are born with skis on their feet. Last Thursday, Her Majesty Queen Sonja was present at a history of skiing evening at the Ski Museum in Oslo. Author Thor Gotaas delivered a lecture on the brothers Marius and Stein Eriksen and their significance in Norwegian skiing and alpine sports.

Upon arrival at the museum, Queen Sonja was received by Secretary-General Erik Eide of the Ski Association and the Ski Museum’s leader, Åslaug Midtdal. In the late 1940s and 1950s, the Eriksen brothers put Norway on the alpine ski map. Marius Eriksen won the unofficial Norwegian slalom championship in 1947 and 1948, and he participated with his brother in the Winter Olympics at home in 1952. Marius did not do as well in the Olympics as his brother Stein Eriksen who secured Olympic gold in giant slalom at home. Stein also won three gold medals during the World Cup in alpine skiing in 1954.

Stein was the first alpinist outside the Alps to win gold in the Olympics. The Eriksen brothers came from a sporting family. Their father, Emil Marius Eriksen, was an active gymnast who participated in the Summer Olympics in Stockholm in 1912 where he won a bronze medal. Their mother Birgit “Bitten” Eriksen was the initiator of  the woman’s ski-club which was formed in 1933.

Folklorist and author Thor Gotaas has written a number of books related to Norwegian skiing, and his book about the Eriksen brothers’ family has been published earlier this year. The book reveals the deep tracks the Eriksens has left behind in Norwegian skiing history. A family that skied downhill, invented bindings and knitted sweaters. The so-called Marius sweater is named after Marius Eriksen.

The Eriksen family was synonymous with Norwegian alpine skiing for several decades in the 20th century. They were each in their own way pioneers in a ski branch that today has become a popular sport. After the lecture, the author had an exciting conversation with Martine Eriksen, daughter of Marius.

The Queen followed the event with great interest and took plenty of time to talk to the participants. After the lecture, the Queen was handed a copy of the book. King Harald spent a lot of time with Stein Eriksen during the slalom race during the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City in the USA in 2002. Moreover, when Stein Eriksen won gold in the giant slalom and silver in the slalom during the Winter Olympics in 1952, he was congratulated personally by Princess Ragnhild.

About author

Senior Europe Correspondent Oskar Aanmoen has a master in military and political history of the Nordic countries. He has written six books on historical subjects and more than 1.500 articles for Royal Central. He has also interview both Serbian and Norwegian royals. Aanmoen is based in Oslo, Norway.