Den Norske Turistforening: DNT Hut Operations at Rondvassbu Hut
by Mackenzie Murphy, Dartmouth College
- DNT History and Organization
- Day Serving
- Dinner Choices
- Staff Food
- Guest Rooms
- Showers and Drying Rooms
- Living Room
- Staff Areas of Main Building
- Staff House
- Staff Contract
- Fire Plans
- Comparison between Cabins
- Self-Service Cabins
The information for this paper was compiled from June-August 2012 during a stay at Rondvassbu. I worked at the cabin 5 days a week performing general service jobs including preparing breakfast, washing dishes, serving dinner, and cleaning. The purpose of my stay was to record the management practices of the Norwegian Tourist Association, and specifically the daily workings and amenities of Rondvassbu. This information will be used to provide suggestions to the Dartmouth Outing Club about cabin management and amenities.
DNT History and Organization
The Norwegian Trekking Association, or Den Norske Turistforening (DNT), was founded in 1868 by Thomas Heftye, who was inspired by an article about the necessity of founding a trekking association written by Aasmund O. Vinjein in the Dølan newspaper. He founded DNT to “acquire the means to ease and develop outdoor life” in Norway. Since then, it has grown to 240,000 people in 89 member associations in Norway, the largest in Oslo. The organization strives to promote outdoor activities and preserve the outdoors and cultural landscape of Norway.
The local organizations are responsible for working with cabin managers to keep them operational, marking the routes and ski tracks, and arranging trips and courses for members. DNT maintains 20,000 km of marked foot trails and 7,000 km branch-marked ski trails, mostly done by volunteers. The volunteer presence is enormous, often amounting to over 175,000 hours per year.
DNT trains and qualifies leaders within the organization to lead tours for members. Around 4,000 tours occur per year, servicing approximately 100,000 guests. These trips are led by a DNT guide and are paid for in advance, with the price covering all food and lodging for the trip. There is a children’s club for kids 12 and under with about 16,000 members. There are special activities tailored to this age group at the cabins, including a family weekend during Easter. There are also camps for youth aged 13-26, as well as smaller clubs for specific sports such as mountain climbing and glacier hiking. DNT is also very focused on conservation and the Public Right of Unlimited Access, supporting the idea that the wilderness is of the people. For this reason, it regulates all motor vehicle use inside national parks.
Rondvassbu, located at the south end of Rondevatnet Lake in the middle of Rondane, was built in 1903 as a personal cabin. In 1929 it was purchased by DNT and has been expanded and remodeled several times since then. It is the largest staffed hut in Rondane and the third largest in Norway, averaging 11,000-12,000 guests sleeping at the cabin per year, approximately 2,000 staying in the winter.
Den Norske Turistforening is the parent organization that oversees the 89 local DNT organizations, which in turn oversee the cabins. All cabins are run by managers hired and paid by the umbrella DNT organization. The local organizations own the cabins, both staffed and self-service, and set all prices. Rondvassbu is owned by DNT Oslo, the largest of the local organizations. The local organizations are responsible for ensuring the buildings remain in working order and are certified by the proper health and safety organizations, working with the managers and volunteers to provide consistent quality to guests, and maintaining winter and summer trails. The managers are allowed to put together side companies, which bring them money directly, to provide guests with amenities such as private hikes.
DNT members get benefits such as lower prices for lodging and food, the ability to make reservations online, and preference for rooms during the busy season. Members also receive a DNT yearbook once a year and a magazine 4-5 times per year.
There are ten peaks over 2000 m in Rondane; five are blazed (marking the trail that hikers follow) with a red “T” and five are not. All blazed trails are marked on the map sold in reception along with approximate, conservative times. If staff are asked, they are required to give these times to ensure that guests allot enough time to their hikes. There are wooden signs at all trail junctions, as well as at the start of trails, making them very easy to follow.
Because Rondvassbu is situated above tree line, bushwhacking is very straightforward because peaks can be seen at all times. The only danger is inclement weather, which can occur without warning. It is strongly advised to stay off ridges and unmarked peaks during bad conditions as the mossy rocks can become extremely slippery in rain or snow. Trolltinden in particular necessitates picking the correct route due to unstable rock so it can be useful to go with someone experienced.
In general, the slopes are talus, with moss growing on the rocks which can be slippery even in dry conditions. There are some scree trails at lower elevations. Many rocks are not secure so it is important to stay alert at all times and watch footing and route choice to minimize sliding rocks. These conditions make hiking a challenge, but they also make it extremely fun and rewarding.
Leave No Trace is stressed because of the wild reindeer living in this region. All cabins, staffed and self-service, are closed during reindeer calving season to protect the animals. Guests are strongly recommended by receptionists and signs to stay on marked paths to minimize impact on local vegetation that could disturb feeding patterns of the wild reindeer.
- turn on coffee maker and dishwasher
- make porridge and hard boiled eggs, 7 mins on steam in oven
- make coffee when water is 96⁰ C
- make food and refill during meal (have refills ready)
- start by putting out dry food, then meat and cheese after 7:45 AM
- light candles on tables in living room and reception, then dining room
- make sure tables are clean and organized and there is food on all plates (nothing is out)
- wipe up spilled milk and juice under dispensers and ensure coffee/hot water is full
- clean tables often and take dishes to dishwasher
- talk with guests and make sure they have everything they need
End of Breakfast and Cleaning (finish by 10:30 AM)
- start cleaning at 9:30 AM
- take cheese, meat, and garnishes, refill plates, cover them in plastic wrap, and put in fridge
- change ham and pickled herring every day
- put bread in bags, fill cornflakes and muesli, refill crackers and put in cabinet covered with towel
- wash tables and buffet, mop floor, clean windowsills (flies!)
- fill coffee for reception
- bring coffeemaker to dishwasher
- wipe off juice and milk dispensers, wash splashguards
- blow out candles, replace, clean holders if dirty
- if almost out of something, write it on the list
- take food from basement storage upstairs to replace if necessary
The breakfast shift normally starts 1.5 hours before breakfast, which usually runs from 8:00-9:30. If there are a lot of people expected, it runs from 7:30-9:30. The selection is all buffet and consists of bread, meats, cheeses, fruits, vegetables, cereal, yogurt, oatmeal, and hard boiled eggs. Milk, juice, coffee, and tea are all available free of charge. People can come any time during the breakfast window and seat themselves, taking their plates and utensils from the open cabinets. If we are extremely busy, guests also sit in the living room. Butter, salt, and pepper are provided on every table. There is a cart for dirty dishes next to the trash cans (waste and paper) with a bucket of soapy water for silverware.
Working breakfast mostly consists of refilling the buffet. The only items which have to be cooked are the loaves of bread, rolls, eggs, and oatmeal – everything else is packaged. When a buffet item is low, take the plate into the kitchen. Fill a new plate with food, putting the old food on top and using the garnish from the old plate, then bring it back out to the buffet. Staff working breakfast also help bring dirty dishes in from the cart to the dishwasher and clean dishes back out to the cabinets. The dishwasher washes all the guest dishes and all of the kitchen dishes before thoroughly cleaning the station at the end of the shift. When the breakfast period has ended, all of the food is brought in, transferred to a new plate, refilled, and covered in plastic wrap to be ready for the next day. The staff working breakfast are also responsible for cleaning the dining room and setting the tables for dinner.
During breakfast, guests can fill thermoses with hot water or coffee, but must pay for it at reception. They can take sandwiches for lunch, also paid for at reception. There is wax paper provided to wrap sandwiches (with a map of Rondane on it) and smaller sheets to go between slices of bread. This is a very popular option because we do not serve a sit-down lunch and it provides a hearty hiking lunch.
Tasks after Breakfast
- take dishes in from island
- wipe down island
- refill cereal
- put out flatbread and dishes for salad dressing/jam if necessary
- replace candles and clean candleholders
- mop floor
- wipe down tables
- set tables and put in chairs
- refill silverware
- put away dishes
- make coffee for reception
- refill sugar, toothpicks, coffee spoons, tea, and hot chocolate
- wipe down cart for dirty dishes
- put water pitchers on cart for dinner
- wipe up spilled juice, milk, and coffee
- empty trash
- wash milk/juice splashguards
When guests arrive, their places are already set for them. This includes a fork, knife, glass, plate, and folded paper napkin (white, “mat med utsikt” or “food with you” showing) for one course dinners. Three course dinners also include a bowl, soup spoon, and dessert spoon. The “T”s of the decoration on the plate and bowl should be at 12:00 when the guests sit down and in line with each other and centered on the chair. Opposite plates and chairs should also be in line. The bowl is in the middle of the plate and the napkin is just under the right side of the plate. The knife is on the left of the napkin, the soup spoon on the right. They are lined up at the bottom of the napkin and on either side of the “mat med utsikt” so it is readable. The fork is on the left side of the plate, in line with the bottom of the knife and spoon. When just one course, the fork takes the place of the soup spoon on the napkin. The dessert spoon is above and centered on the plate, the spoon end facing left. The glass is in the top right corner, between the soup spoon and the napkin. Table settings should be as close to the chairs as possible so there is enough room for servers to place family-style platters in the center of the tables. Flatbread and water pitchers should be placed at both ends of the tables.
We started a day serving rotations for when we are really busy, because when there are a lot of people it is hard for reception to check everyone in and do food orders. The job includes serving food from the kitchen, doing dishes, bussing tables in the living room, and straightening guest areas in the main building – usually bookshelf and kids’ area. Also helping the reception and kitchen with anything they need. This usually runs from 12:00 until staff dinner or whenever needed. This person also folds napkins for dinner (white) and makes fork/knife and fork/spoon bundles (blue) when running low. This system is staff run. It also includes filling coffee/hot chocolate/hot water for reception, restocking shelves and drinks from the basement, and carrying food up from the basement for the kitchen.
Guests have the choice of a one or three course dinner, with the vast majority choosing three. With one course, you are served a “plate” dinner – it is the same food as is served to the guests eating three courses, but is served pre-portioned on a plate instead of family style. Coffee, hot chocolate, and tea are available free of charge after the meal. With three courses, guests always begin with a soup course, served family style. Next is the main course, consisting of meat, starch (almost always some form of potatoes), vegetable, and sauce, all served on separate dishes. Guests can ask for refills for both these courses. Dessert is served individually and guests are invited to take tea, coffee, or hot chocolate free of charge. One and three course gluten-free, lactose-free, vegetarian, and vegan meals are available upon request. The first dinner seating begins at 7:00, the second at 8:30, and the third whenever the second is finished. Seatings are added as the previous fills up; all guests are guaranteed dinner if they want it, regardless of when they arrive. Groups can reserve tables for dinner.
There are 8 tables which seat 84 people: 3 seat 14, 3 seat 10, and 2 seat 6. The two smallest tables are set apart by a wall opening. The numbering system starts from the table closest to the kitchen door, going clockwise, and finishing with the two tables set apart. Family-style dishes are portioned according to how many people are at the table.
- always be ready on time and present
- set tables in dining room, check with reception for number
- make coffee and refills tea
- put out flatbread and anything specific to dinner (jam, salad dressing)
- light the candles at 6:55
- serve by instruction from kitchen/manager: GIVE CLEAR MESSAGES
- you are the face of Rondvassbu, so represent it well to the customers
- when 2 settings, important to get all dishes washed for next setting
- bus tables and quickly get dishes to dishwasher
- clean tables and windowsills
- mop floor if necessary
- fill coffee and put in reception
- clean coffeemaker and prepare it for next day
- check candles aren’t too small, if so change them
- wipe up spilled milk and juice
- close all windows and door for guests
- check candles in living room, clean reception and living room
Doors are opened about five minutes before the meal starts. When they pay for their meal at reception, they are given a dinner ticket, color coded by seating time. They hand this ticket to the waitress at the door when they enter. The rest of the waitresses are positioned around the dining room greeting guests, answering questions, and making sure people do not sit at reserved tables. Tables are either reserved for groups or if the dining room is not expected to be full in an attempt to compress the diners. Seats are first come first served. We do our best to accommodate families and groups by moving chairs or asking guests to relocate or seating them in the living room if necessary.
Serving attire consists of black pants or jeans, a black apron, and a black “mat med utsikt” (“food with you”) tee-shirt. Girls must have their hair pulled back. Any shoes, including sneakers, may be worn. Jewelry, make-up, and nail polish must be subtle.
Øystein rings a dinner bell and welcomes everyone to Rondvassbu and to dinner. If we are over capacity, he explains the situation and, if there is another dinner after, asks people to take their coffee into the living room after they finish their dessert. He then introduces the meal and servers. He usually introduces me personally and describes my internship so guests know I only speak English, adding that the other servers all speak Norwegian or Swedish (this always elicits a laugh because of the friendly Norway/Sweden rivalry). He explains that we will take drink orders before serving the soup, then welcomes everyone again before leaving the dining room in our hands. This whole introduction is done in Norwegian, so I normally explain the menu to guests in English who don’t speak Norwegian.
After the menu is announced, we begin by taking drink orders. If the dining room is full, we have between four and six servers, but only four take drink orders. We pair the tables as follows: 1+6, 2+5, 3+4, 7+8. This is the most even distribution of guests and makes the most spatial sense because we are assigned tables across from each other. Table assignments change from night to night, including who is assigned to take drink orders. Water is free, any other drinks cost money. We ask each guest if they would like a drink, and if so, their room and bed number. Families and groups can put drink orders on one bed. The room and bed number are how the drinks are entered into the computer and correspond with the card guests are issued when they check in that keeps track of all their expenses. If guests do not remember where they are living, we can take their last name and look them up in our records. All servers use the same pad of paper and pen that are product placement for one of the wines we sell; the folders holding the wine lists are product placement for wine as well.
After taking drink orders, we bring pitchers of water to all of the tables, then go to reception to get the drinks. We use round black serving trays to carry them. The receptionist usually pours beer from the tap while we take care of the rest of our drinks. Many sodas come in glass and plastic bottles: plastic are for during the day and glass are for dinner whenever possible. There is one white and one red wine used for glass orders, which changes day-to-day based on availability. We have a wine list for bottles of wine and recommend one white and red each night based on pairing and availability. We also have one white and red, usually the house wine, chosen if guests do not specify a bottle.
Serving trays are placed on the island at the front of the dining room and drinks are carried to the tables by hand. Drinks should be set down on the right side of the guest and servers should never reach across the table unless necessary. For drinks in a bottle, like soda, a glass should also be brought to the table. Wine bottles should be opened at the table if they are screw-topped and in reception if they have a cork. Wine should be poured for each guest by the server and the bottle left on the table. Guests can get refills of drinks during dinner but have to pay for them or put it on their room and bed.
Servers not taking drink orders start serving soup after all servers taking drink orders have left the dining room to fill them. If all servers are taking drink orders, soup is served when the first server finishes bringing drinks to her tables, with other servers helping when they are finished. Soup is served in table number order. Once the soup is served, waitresses bring drink order sheets to reception for the receptionist to enter into the computer. Servers should always enter the staff area through the door to the dishwasher and exit through the door from the kitchen. Both are swinging doors and this keeps collisions from occurring.
All bowls, spoons, and family-style soup bowls are cleared from all tables before dinner is served. If a table looks like they are finished, you can ask and begin taking their plates or bowls. It is nice when guests stack them for you at the end of the table, but if they do not servers hand clear all dishes. Food on dishes gets thrown out, dishes go to the dishwasher, and silverware goes in a bucket of soapy water. Food on family-style platters gets saved. There are containers for each food item on a cart by the dishwasher, including garnishes (lettuce and tomato flower).
When serving dinner, waitresses take two platters at a time. The starch and vegetable are always served together, as are the meat and sauce. It is the servers’ job to wipe the sides of the platters clean and to take utensils before bringing the platters to the table. If the kitchen is busy, one server helps by pouring sauce. If the vegetable is cold (usually salad), it is portioned out and placed on the island while the guests are eating soup to make room in the kitchen and free the chefs up to focus on plating the other parts of the meal. The starch and vegetable are always served first and one table should be finished before the next is started whenever possible. The kitchen usually does a good job of keeping track of where dishes need to go and when they should be served. If servers are waiting for platters, they should stand just outside the kitchen doorway so the chefs have room to work.
During dinner, servers walk around the dining room to fill up pitchers of water (from the sink), clear empty bottles, and get anything else guests need. A maximum of three should be standing by the coffee machines ready to help guests. One should help in the dishwasher.
Platters can be cleared if they are empty before the guests are finished eating, but always ask the guests if they want more food. When serving seconds, use a new platter and utensils whenever possible and tell the kitchen to which table it is going because they will portion the food accordingly. Clear all dishes, including flatbread and salad dressing, when guests are finished with dinner. Never have more than two servers clearing a table at a time so as not to overwhelm the guests. Dessert is served as soon as a table is cleared and guests are told that there is self-service coffee and tea free with dinner. It is best to have one or two serving dessert, as they are individual desserts, while the others clear tables. Dessert is cleared when part of a table leaves – you can clear around people. We would be finished too late if we waited until everyone left before starting clearing the tables. During the last seating, servers can begin setting up breakfast while guests are eating dessert.
Between seatings, all tables are completely cleared, wiped, and reset. Communicate with the dishwasher what is needed, which is usually silverware and glasses. Water pitchers, flatbread and dressing are refilled and more coffee is made if necessary. This needs to happen very fast to be on time for the next seating, so all staff help out. If guests are sitting with coffee but have finished dessert, they are asked to take it to the living room.
Guests are very happy to be sitting down to a hot meal after a long day of hiking and understand this is a cabin. While mistakes should be avoided whenever possible, it is not a big deal if servers do small things wrong. Just smile, be nice, enjoy yourself, and talk to the guests. They will remember your personality and hospitality more than they remember your small mistake and want to have a good time.
Always communicate with the kitchen. Tell them when people come, how many guests are at each table, when they are ready for food, if there are any food allergies. We have high chairs for young children in the dining room. It is good to have windows and sometimes even the back door open during dinner because the room can get very stuffy.
Red Wine (much more popular):
- Rondane Nasjonalparks Jubileumsvin (house wine)
- Hardys Mill Cellars Shiraz
- Santa Carolina Premio Red
- Robert Giraud C
- Vidal-Fleury Côtes du Rhône
- Santi Amarone della Valpolicella
- Santi Valpolicella Classico “Solane” Ripasso
- Coto de Imaz Reserva
- Santa Carolina Chardonnay (house wine)
- Regnard Chablis
- Comte Lafond Sancerre
- Vicar’s Choice Riesling
- Gandia Marqués del Turia Blanco
- Gandia Marqués de Chivé dry Muscat
- Hugel Gentil
- Bollinger Spècial Cuvée Brut
- Montvillers Champagne
- Clasic de Vallformosa Cava Brut
- Clasic de Vallformosa Cava Brut Rosé
- El Coto Rosé
- Ringnes on tap and in cans
- Atna (local beer)
Because the drinking age is 18, all staff can pour and serve alcohol.
Breakfast: Same as guest breakfast, the buffet is open from 8:00-9:30 but staff can take food before or after if working or sleeping late. Most staff who are working during breakfast eat before. You can take a plate of food for a friend and cover it in plastic wrap if they are planning on sleeping in.
Lunch (1:00): The same as guest dinner from the night before, with dessert but no soup. Sometimes random other leftovers are included if the kitchen is trying to get rid of them before they go bad. If it is a slow day, sometimes the kitchen will surprise us with spaghetti or pizza, but this also happens if we do not have enough food left over from the night before because we had more guests than expected.
Dinner (6:00): Changes a bit from day to day, but usually bread with meat, cheese, and vegetables. This is usually a quick meal because most staff work during guest dinner.
Miscellaneous: Staff can buy, or give money to others to buy, food from the grocery store in Otta, the small town nearest to Rondvassbu. This is a nice option because the food can get monotonous and provides an avenue to eat a bit healthier. Most people get fruits and vegetables because we do not get a lot of fresh produce delivered. Staff can take drinks such as coffee, tea, milk, juice, and hot chocolate for free during the day, and can also take food between meals as long as it does not affect serving guests. We can also make free lunches using the food available at breakfast, which are good when hiking. Staff can also buy food, drinks, and other essentials from reception. There is a small book where staff can keep track of purchases, which are taken out of their pay check at the end of employment.
Dry and frozen goods are delivered once a week, produce and dairy twice a week, and fish twice a week on the days that it is served. Food is ordered every Monday, with a new order being made each week.
If baking needs to be done, the chefs start at 9 AM so it is finished before day serving. Certain dinners also need to be started early so there is enough space in the oven to cook everything. Otherwise, they start around 11 AM. It is important to start early with the knowledge. Some day service items are premade and others are semi-ready so they can be made quickly.
Soups are made from concentrate and mixed with water, milk, cream, and seasonings. Most food we serve is bought almost finished so we can feed the large number of guests who eat at the cabin every night. The same soup and dessert are usually paired with the same main course; main courses rotate on a weekly schedule.
We try to use leftovers as much as possible. Extra food from serving platters at dinner gets stored for the next week, given to the staff for dinner, or used in soup the next day. Leftover soups are used for day service two days later. Food is never reheated more than two times. The extra containers are washed and used to store food.
- ask reception which rooms to wash
- empty trash in every room and the main trash, put in dumpster
- stretch towels on bed, fold comforter and arrange with pillow
- try to keep same color in each room
- put curtains to one side
- wash mirrors and remove candles and matches
- wipe all horizontal surfaces with wet rag
- mop floor in every room, common areas, and hallway/stairs
- put rags in washroom, sort white and colored linens
- fold towels
Guests can choose from private rooms, a group sleeping room, or sleeping in a tent. Private rooms have either two beds and one mattress or four beds and two mattresses. The extra mattresses are stored on the bottom bunk beds and can be pulled out by guests whenever they are needed. Extra bedding is stored in the room. There are two group sleeping rooms, one with dividers between the mattresses and one with mattresses lying next to each other. All beds come with a pillow and comforter. Guests must either use covers for the pillow and comforter or sleep in a sleeping bag. These covers can be rented from reception.
Private rooms come furnished with a desk, stool, shelf, window, hooks for clothes, and mirror. Guests are never allowed to have matches or candles in their rooms due to fire concerns. A few rooms are dog-friendly, but if these rooms are not available dogs can stay in a fenced-in area outside. Dogs must be on a leash at all times and are not allowed in the main building unless they are service dogs. In the group sleeping room, beds are assigned to guests by number. There is space under the bed for storing personal items and there are shelves in the room for all guests to use.
The living room in the guest house has sofas, chairs, and tables for guest use. Candles are allowed here, and there is a fireplace for the winter. There are posters with information about the local flora and fauna, games, books, and pamphlets on Rondane National Park and Rondvassbu in Norwegian and English for guest entertainment.
Guests are assigned rooms based on DNT membership, availability, and party size. In less busy times, the rules are often bent to comply with guest requests. When we are fully booked, rooms are first come first served with preference going to DNT members, parties who can completely fill a room (including mattresses), and the elderly and very young. Parties unable to fill a room will have to share. Some guests request the group sleeping room because of its reduced price, but others are put there due to availability. Most understand that it is a common sleeping arrangement in Norway and do not complain, especially when we are very busy, but occasionally people are unhappy sleeping there. If possible, we try to move them into other rooms, but if we are over capacity, we apologize and explain that there are no other places to sleep. There was never a big problem with guests upset at having to sleep in this room.
When we are over capacity, guests must stay on mattresses on the floor. We begin by assigning guests to the living room of the guest house, followed by the living area and reception of the main building, and finally the dining room if necessary. Staff pitch in by helping to set out mattresses, which are kept in closets near each of the sleeping areas, and helping to find pillows and comforters for the guests if necessary. Guests rarely complain about this sleeping arrangement because they realize how over capacity we are.
Guests also have the option of staying in tents. Rondvassbu has two large tents on platforms with mattresses for eight people. There is a field behind the self-service cabin for people to camp with their own tents. Guests can also camp along any of the trails without asking permission, which is done fairly often.
The toilets are housed in a separate building along with the showers and drying rooms. There are three sections with doors that open to the sink area: women (4 stalls), men (3 stalls and urinal), and staff (1 stall). It costs 5 Kroner (K) for guests to lose the toilet. There are signs on the wall that explain the policy, so it is on the honor system, but most Europeans are used to this system so almost everyone pays.
The toilets are technically an outhouse, so there is just a wooden seat on a box. We have air fresheners in each stall and a few hanging in each section of the room, which really cuts down on the smell. There is a grate right inside the door which cuts down on mud on the floor. There is also a dryer for the floor, positioned in one corner of the room and reaching almost the whole floor, in case many people come in with wet shoes.
The toilets get cleaned every day. The floors are mopped with a rag mop. The seats are wiped down and toilet paper, soap, and paper towels are refilled. The mirrors and sinks are washed. Feminine hygiene bags (provided in each stall) are put in the trash and the trash is taken to the dumpster. For sanitary reasons, cleaning supplies for the bathroom is kept in a closet in the bathroom. The rag mops are used only for the bathroom floor and pink rags are only used to clean the toilets. Both are washed separately from other cleaning supplies. Staff are expected to refill paper products any time they are empty, even if they are not assigned to clean that day.
The toilets are emptied whenever they become full and at the end of every season. A truck comes to bring the waste out of the national park.
Showers and Drying Rooms
These are found inside a separate door in the same building which houses the toilets. There is a separate door for each sex. Inside the door is the drying room. The floor has a grate over it and slopes down toward a drain in the center. There are rungs on the ceiling and hooks on the wall for hanging personal items and boots can be left on the floor. It is recommended that only clothes and shoes are left in the drying room, but guests sometimes leave packs and tents as well. There is a fire hose for cleaning the floor, which is usually done by lifting the grate and sweeping the water and dirt towards the center drain, then putting the waste into a trash bag.
There are five showers for women and four showers for men. Showers cost 10 K for 4 minutes and there is a meter for each shower that works like a parking meter. The floor slopes towards drains in the changing area and the sink area to make it easier to clean. The showers are closed on three sides to provide a bit of privacy.
The floors are mopped every day and the sinks, showers, drains, and mirrors are cleaned. The trash is taken to the dumpster and any soap or bottles lying around are thrown out. The benches in the changing area are wiped down.
The drying room is heated by the heat produced by the generator, housed between the two drying rooms in the same building. This does not require extra electricity, unless the temperatures are below -20⁰C.
When you walk in the front door, there are racks for shoes and hooks for hanging coats and bags. There is a no dirty shoes policy inside the main building. Rondvassbu does not provide storage, except in guest rooms which cannot be locked. There are signs explaining that plants and animals are protected, except mushrooms and edible plants. Guests can also hunt and fish legally.
The living room is a large room with tables, chairs, and a fireplace right next to the reception. There are also books, games, and a guitar for guests to enjoy. The books include informational books about the local flora and fauna, and guidebooks which are very useful for planning hikes. There are also three cubbies in the hallway with sofas and tables. One is the children’s area with books, games, legos, drawing utensils, and kids’ art on the walls. The best part of the living room is that it is in the main building and technically in the same room as the reception. At the same time, there are enough separate rooms and cubbies that guests can find privacy and the room feels intimate and homey. At the same time, it encourages guest interaction, which is nice for guests travelling alone.
- open reception at 8:00 AM
- get overview of people checking out
- wash and keep reception orderly and keep everything stocked
Important Points for Arrivals
- when people arrive, make sure all information is correct, especially number of nights
- keep track of how many people are going to neighboring huts (Dørålseter, Bjørnhollia)
- thank them for their stay and welcome them
- make sure candles and reception and living room are lit
- clean and keep order in reception and living room
- keep fireplace lit during winter
- keep food and drinks full 10:30-3:30
- make sure everything is ready for the next person
- make sure candles are not burned down and check for trash and melted wax
- light fire in fireplace at 20:30
- wash tables and windowsills
- help with drink orders during dinner
- fill up drinks and food at 10:50 so ready for next day
- replace books and clean bookshelves and clean children’s place
- check tables and chairs in reception and staff area
- close window and turn off computer and remove money
- make sure everything is organized and ready for the next day
What we sell in reception
- Food from the kitchen
- Includes waffles, pasta salad, sour cream porridge, soup with bread, beef sandwich, and pizza with ham and cheese. All food is made to order and served with utensils rolled in a napkin.
- Fresh cakes and pastries
- Drinks (soda and alcohol)
- Clothes (DNT/Rondvassbu and general)
- Gear (compass, map, headlamp, water bottle)
- Snacks (chips)
- Hygene supplies (toothbrush, shampoo, etc.)
- First aid supplies
Checkin: Members of DNT can make reservations by e-mail if they are staying for two or more nights. All other guests cannot reserve spots ahead of time, but can book multiple nights when they arrive. When they arrive, they are given a form to fill out with their basic contact information, names of all members of the party, and services they request. They are assigned to a room, which is written on the top of the sheet along with whether they guests order breakfast or dinner. It is important to get a phone number for each party because some guests forget to pay when they leave and this is the best way to contact them. The cost of the room and meals are registered on their card, labeled with their room and bed number, and they are given a receipt for this cost. This card can be used for any purchases while at Rondvassbu. They are given a dinner ticket and told what dinner time to attend. DNT members can get a three day all-inclusive package which includes free towel and sheet rentals.
Checkout: Guest cards are scanned, showing all purchases they made during their stay. This list is confirmed with the guest, then they are asked to pay by cash, check, or credit card. They are given a receipt when the payment is completed. We ask if they are going to any of the neighboring cabins and keep a count for each cabin each day. We call each cabin every afternoon and exchange information about how many guests to expect.
Miscellaneous: There is an Excel spreadsheet for each day organized by room. This is printed out each morning and kept at reception so they know which rooms are already full and how many guests to expect. When guests arrive, their names are highlighted and the font is made red on the computer. New guests are written in both on the printed version and on the computer. It is important to write the guests in for each day they are staying. The only information that goes into the computer is the guest name, date arriving, date leaving, meals, and nationality. The forms the guests fill out are kept organized by year so that any guests can be found on the computer and on file if necessary. The room cards are organized the night before based on room categories and whether there are guests coming to occupy them to speed checkin the next morning. Guests can leave their names and destination at reception when they leave to go hiking so someone knows where they are in case something goes wrong.
Staff Areas of Main Building
Behind the reception, there is a hallway which connects to the staff dining room. This is where the manager’s office is and where alcoholic drinks and recycling are kept. This is a good set-up because the manager always knows what is going on in reception and it is easy for waitresses to get all of their drinks together and give their drink order sheet to the receptionist. The manager’s office has all the important electronic equipment, such as the landline phone, computer, and printer, as well as all guest records.
The staff dining room acts as a staff headquarters. This is where all important meetings are held and weekly schedules are posted. There are also pictures from past seasons and letters from guests on the walls to create a sense of history. This is also the main social space for staff. After work every night, staff relax around the table drinking and talking. The curtains are always closed when alcohol is being consumed.
The dining room connects to the kitchen, which connects to the dishwashing room. The station is very systematic, with racks for all different types of glasses, containers for silverware, and a cart on which to stack clean dishes. When washing dishes, it is important to spray as much food residue off as possible so it does not get into the water of the dishwasher. The station must be left cleaned and organized for the next person and all dishes put away. Every night, the dishwasher is taken apart, emptied, and sprayed clean.
The basement is mostly for food storage and cleaning supplies. There are linens and towels for guest and staff use and extra staff tee-shirts, as well as the lost and found. There is a window (at ground level outside) for bringing in food deliveries, which speeds the process. There is a freezer, a refrigerator, and a dried goods room for food. There is also a washing room. There are two washing machines: one for clothes and one for towels and linens. There is one dryer. Lines are strung across the room to dry laundry. This is where extra cleaning supplies are kept.
There is a room for drinks, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic, with a staircase that pulls down from the ceiling. This leads to the hallway behind reception and provides a more efficient way of bring drinks to reception.
The majority of the staff live together in a large cabin on Rondvassbu property. A few of the older staff who have been working at Rondvassbu for multiple years have private rooms in the main building. All of the staff in the staff house have roommates, and we are free to change room assignments. The manager has an extra room in his sleeping area if there are too many staff for the staff cabin. The house has a private shower and sink, but staff use the same toilets as guests. There is also a living room where staff can relax separately from the guests and their work space, which is instrumental in staff cohesion and job satisfaction.
Staff sign a contract when they are hired that details the exact terms of their employment, which can differ between staff members. It includes the basic details of who is working, the cabin which is hiring them and where it is located, how many hours they will work and what jobs they will have. It differentiates between seasonal and full-time work, gives the trial period during which they can leave at any time if they are dissatisfied, and how many days’ notice must be given if they quit or are fired.
The contract also lists their per hour wages. The contract states that all overtime will be at the discretion of the manager, but Rondvassbu does not pay overtime. This is because the hours from day to day are variable and generally average out to the correct amount of hours per week; therefore, it is difficult to set daily hour limits that make sense for any number of guests. Staff are also charged 108 K per day for food and lodging, which is taken out of their paycheck. Otherwise, this income would be taxed. It is also useful for international staff who need proof of residence for work visas. Staff are paid once a month.
One of the most time consuming tasks for the manager is to answer emails from prospective and past guests. These can range from questions about policies and amenities to hiking to looking for lost items. Otherwise, the manager is expected to be knowledgable of all the jobs at the cabin and to help the staff work together in the most efficient way while still providing excellent service to the guests. I asked my boss, the manager of Rondvassbu, his thoughts about the job at the end of the summer. He answered that the hardest part of the job is having a cabin too small for the number of guests we receive yearly and not being able to expand due to national park rules. It is tiring for the staff, decreases the quality of service for the guests, and presents a constant and unsolvable problem. His favorite part of the job is that it changes every day and he has the opportunity to meet some amazing people.
There are electric lights in every building except the self-service cabin. The electricity gets turned on when breakfast is being prepared, usually around 6:30 AM. Guests are told that the lights will be turned off at 11:00 PM every night, but this varies depending on how busy we are. If there are a lot of guests and dinner runs late, the electricity stays on longer but it is almost always off by midnight.
There is no cell phone service at the cabins, although sometimes it can be found on the road to the parking lot or while hiking. Reception is pretty random and fleeting. We have a landline with two phones for business calls. There is Wifi with a password for staff use only. We only have a limited amount of Wifi, so if it is being used too much, it gets turned off for a few days. This can be frustrating because we rarely get advance notice about when it will be turned off or back on. Downloads and streaming are not allowed. There is one desktop computer, with a printer, which is used for bookings and business e-mails. Only the manager and receptions are allowed to use it and never for personal reasons.
If the fire alarm goes off, staff put on fluorescent yellow vests for identification purposes. We meet in reception to account for the staff then go off to our specific duties. One staff member takes the clipboard with the names of guests in each room and checks the guests off as they arrive behind the main building. Two staff try to put the fire out with one of the fire hoses on property. The rest of the staff walk around the property ensuring guests stay calm and telling them to meet behind the main building. Staff are instructed not to open any doors that are hot to the touch or unnecessarily endanger themselves to help guests.
The manager has a device which identifies the smoke detector that first went off. This makes is much easier to pinpoint where the fire started. The fire department is called, but Ronvassbu’s location is so remote that it takes at least an hour for them to arrive. Therefore, we must be prepared to deal with fires on our own and must be extremely vigilant about fire prevention. Because the detectors are very sensitive, it is important to always wet your fingers and pinch out candles so the smoke does not set off the alarms (this happened when I was there).
There is no direct transportation to the cabin provided by Rondvassbu. There is a parking lot, Spranget, 6km from the cabin and 45 minutes by car from the small town of Otta, where people can park personal vehicles for 15 K. Guests can also take a bus or train into Otta, then take a bus from Otta to the parking lot. All guests must either walk or bike the 6km into the cabin on a slightly hilly but easy road. Bikes can be rented for 100 K each way and are paid for in reception. They are all marked with red paint and locked with the same combination so guests have a choice of all available bikes. Walking takes about 1h 15min and biking takes about 30min.
Because Rondvassbu is located in a national park, motor vehicle use is very closely monitored. We have one truck which drives to pick up mail and supplies from Otta, empty the dumpsters, and pick up food from our warehouse just outside the park a few times a week. All trips, including time and mileage, must be recorded and reported to the government. Under almost no circumstances can guests drive or get a ride into the cabin.
There is an old wooden boat which goes to the other end of the lake and back three times a day: 9 AM, 2 PM, and 4 PM. A second trip will run during any time interval with enough interest. It costs 100 K each way. The boat provides an easier, shorter route to Dørålseter and four of the 2000 m peaks (Digerronden, Mitronden 1, Mitronden 2, and Høgronden), taking half an hour to travel the length of the lake. The alternative is a 2hr hike with moderate elevation change. Staff can rent bikes or take the boat free of charge.
There is one speed boat which is used only in the case of emergency or if the main boat breaks down. Two other boats are motorless but can be rowed around the lake by guests for enjoyment. Fishing rods and lifejackets are available to rent.
In the winter, Letruds parking lot is used. Parking is 30 K a day for personal vehicles. Letruds is located 11km from the cabin along a staked path. The first 2km have moderately difficult terrain, but the rest is relatively easy. The ski in to the cabin takes about 3-4hrs.
We have two cats to take care of our mice problem. They have all their claws and are allowed inside and outside, with special doors leading to the basements. We leave milk and food for them on the steps to the kitchen. Like all staffed DNT huts, we fly the Norwegian flag. It is put up every morning and taken down every night at dark. When workers come in to do heavy trailwork, such as building a new bridge, they are offered free food during staff meals.
Comparison between Cabins
Dørålseter, a privately owned cabin, Bjørnhollia, and Rondvassbu are colloquially considered to be the “triangle”, a popular hut-to-hut loop along easy terrain. They also have an agreement that all staff can stay and eat at any of the three cabins for free, promoting friendly relations among staff from different cabins. The cabins also communicate regularly to improve guest experiences: all serve fish only on Tuesday and Friday so guests do not eat the same meal multiple days in a row and alert each other about how many guests to expect each day.
Hiking between the cabins can be relatively easy or more difficult depending on which route guests take. Routes of both difficulty levels can be up to 25 km, although the easy routes have minimal elevation change. The more difficult routes take guests over three of the 2000 m peaks, providing beautiful views as a reward for greater exertion. The availability of routes of different difficulty levels allows guests to choose their own challenge; this triangle is ideal for beginning backpackers while remaining fulfilling for the more experienced and fit.
There are a few notable differences between the cabins. Rondvassbu is the only one with cards that keep track of guest purchases; at other cabins guests must pay for items at the time of purchase, necessitating that they have money handy. At Bjørnhollia, servers wear traditional Norwegian clothing, while servers at other cabins dress in a more modern style. Dørålseter does not allow guests to purchase drinks at dinner, which creates a bottleneck at reception before dinner begins.
There are 420 self-service cabins in Norway owned by DNT. Rondvassbu has one self-service cabin; its season is longer than, but overlaps with, that of the main cabin. When the main cabin is open, this functions as a typical guest area. Guests are not allowed to cook in the cabin and receive similar amenities to those guests staying in the guest cabin. When the main cabin is closed, it operates as a fully functional self-service cabin. The manager of Rondvassbu checks on it once a month and does any necessary work to keep it in good condition.
All self-service cabins in Norway have the same lock for the front door and food closet. This ensures that hikers will always have a place to stay, regardless of getting lost or being forced to change their route. Anyone can procure a key by paying a 100 K fully refundable deposit at any of the local DNT headquarters.
There are multiple bedrooms with bunk beds and a loft with mattresses. Similar to the staffed cabins, guests are provided with a pillow and comforter but are asked to bring covers or use sleeping bags. There is a dinner table and stove for heating the house, as well as a fully stocked kitchen. This includes plates and bowls, silverware, cups and mugs, pots and pans, cooking utensils, measuring devices, a gas stove and oven, and other items to help guests prepare any type of food. There are signs explaining how to light the gas stove and how to change the gas if it is empty. Books and games are also provided for guest entertainment. There is also a room for firewood with an ax, shovel, and broom.
There are signs forbidding dogs, shoes, and smoking inside the cabin, and price lists for lodging and food. These fees must be paid at the correct hut. There are credit card sheets guests can fill out if they want to charge the fee, as well as envelopes for cash. These are all put into a locked box by the front door and are collected once a year when the cabin is restocked, or more often if it is a high traffic cabin. There are also instructions on how to clean the cabin for the next guests and explaining the policies concerning sleeping arrangements. They are very specific in stating that no guests get turned away. Solar panels are used to power the fire alarms only because there are no electric lights. There is a very small cabin a couple hundred yards away with beds for eight people in case the main self-service cabin burns down. This door also has the same lock.
Self-service cabins come stocked with food available to all hikers and priced by item. Typical offerings include just-add-water meals, canned fruits and vegetables, crackers, oatmeal and grits, canned fish, drink mixes, condiments, and cheese. Other useful items, such as gas for cooking stoves and plastic baggies for storing food, are also available. There are signs explaining which foods can be eaten after their sell-by dates. The food is restocked once a year by DNT Oslo.
Caretakers are hired to check in on the cabins, making sure they remain clean and anything broken gets repaired. Cabins with very high traffic have guards who are hired to sleep in the cabin to ensure that all rules are being followed and to act as a constant DNT presence. Volunteers do most of the trailwork, paint cabins, and sleep and eat for free. Guests usually leave the cabins the way they are found, so most volunteer work focuses on keeping cabins looking clean (like putting down floors that show dirt) so guests will take the initiative to keep them clean. A guest book is used to keep records of past visitors. Guests are asked to make up their beds, mop the floor, bring in wood, and ensure the gas valve is closed upon departure.
For all cabins in the DNT system, the policy is that no one is denied a place to sleep. This resulted from an accident years ago where a hiker died from exposure after being turned away from a packed cabin during a storm. DNT recognizes that in the mountains, there may not be anywhere else close by to stay, and during inclement weather or without the right equipment, sleeping outside could have potentially fatal consequences. If the cabin has more people than beds, children and the elderly are given preference and guests who slept in beds the night before are expected to give them to new arrivals.
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