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Does this scenery make you happy?

Yes, say Tommy and Renate Soleim, who moved to the Romsdalen mountains in central Norway to open a beautiful cabin for mountain biking and hiking trips

Does this scenery make you happy?

It was watching NRK television show Operation Sognefjorden that did it for Tommy and Renate Soleim. The show about skiers, base jumpers and mountain bikers having adventures on Norway’s largest fjord was – in Tommy’s words – “like seeing our dream on television”.

The Soleims lived “a busy, everyday life” in Drammen, running an importing business, mostly jewellery from China. “The business was okay but we weren’t very happy,” says Tommy. “Every time we had any free time we tried to get away for hiking, biking, skiing or whatever. We wanted to do something in tourism – Renate’s big passion is food, mine is mountain biking, and we wanted to somehow combine the two.”

Since 2008, they’d been looking at farms, eventually going as far afield as Geilo and Hemsedal, but “we hadn’t had that feeling in our gut”. In November 2011, however, after placing an ad in a local paper, they found a small farm in the mountains of Romsdalen, near the village of Åndalsnes. “It was just perfect – you’re near the Troll’s Wall road, a wide range of skiable summits, and this vast range of world class hiking and mountain biking routes.”

At the beginning, Tommy and Renate were mostly carrying on with their import company and exploring the local mountains – until December 2012, when they found a house close to the farm up for sale, and started renovating it as a guest house for their new company, Romsdal Adventure.

In March 2013, outdoor clothing brand Norrøna published a mountain bike photo shoot having stayed at the Soleims’ farm, and things exploded. “Suddenly, we were booked for the whole summer with mountain bikers, and we had to rush to renovate the guest house.”

Much of the publicity around Romsdal Adventure – Red Bull named the area one of its top five places to go mountain biking before you die – is down to the fact that, according to Tommy, “There hasn’t really been such a thing as mountain bike tourism in Norway before. We’re really just creating the package that we’d have wanted – good food, good beer, a nice place to sleep and this incredible landscape, where you can ski or mountain bike from the top of mountains down to the fjord.”

Tommy does most of the mountain bike and hiking guiding, and often uses local ski guides. The guest house, Villa Vengetind, has 15 beds, and the package includes Renate’s brilliant home-made food. This summer they’re renovating the east end of the villa to create a self-service unit with 15 beds. “We’re already getting a lot of people coming back,” says Tommy. “People are blown away when they see this place.”

As for Tommy and Renate, who have a very young child, life has changed, though Renate still designs her own jewellery range. Any regrets? Tommy pauses for a second… “What do you think?”

romsdal-adventure.com     
 

Åndalsnes is two hours’ drive from Ålesund; Norwegian flies to Ålesund from Oslo, Gran Canaria, Alicante and London. Book flights, a hotel and a rental car at norwegian.com


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