Oppdal was established as a municipality January 1, 1838 (see formannskapsdistrikt).
Oppdal is bordered by one municipality in Sør-Trøndelag (Rennebu to the northeast), three municipalities in Møre og Romsdal county (Surnadal on the north as well as Rindal and Sunndal to the west), two municipalities in Hedmark county (Tynset on the east and Folldal on the south), and one municipality in Oppland county (Dovre to the south). The southeastern part of Trollheimen mountain range is located in the municipality. The municipality covers an area equal to the entire county of Vestfold. The administrative centre is at 545 meters above sea level. In 2001 its drinking water was named best in Norway The climate is slightly continental with average annual precipitation only 500 mm. Even so, the winters are not extremely cold; January average is -6.5°C and July 24hr average is 11.5°C (1961-90 ).
Most of Oppdal's area is mountainous, with large areas above the treeline. In the valleys around creeks and the river, there are some spruce and pine woods; closer to the treeline, birches dominate. There are several lakes in the municipality, the most famous being Gjevilvatnet, a particularly scenic lake with hiking and cross-country skiing trails around.
Heather and alpine meadows provide grazing for sheep in the summer. 1,161 km² of the mountains has been held since time immemorial as a collective (almenning) by farmers in the area, giving them the right to hunt, fish, and rent cabins.
Oppdal is an alpine community with roots back to the Norwegian Iron Age. Its location seems predicated on its being at a crossroads for traffic from Trondheim, the Dovrefjell mountain range, and the west coast. This is reflected in the three rays in the coat of arms.
Oppdal was first settled some time before 600 CE. By then there were about 50 farms in the area, and this number grew by about 20 more in the Viking era. There are remnants of over 700 pagan grave mounds from the time at Vang, in which jewelry and other pieces from the British Isles were found. This indicates that the area was relatively affluent and participated in the Viking trade. Much of the affluence was likely derived from the availability of game, both in the area and from nearby mountain ranges. Several game traps can still be seen in mountains around Oppdal, particularly ditches for reindeer, and there have been more than 80 finds of at least two different types of arrowheads in the area.
Archeological finds in Oppdal indicate that there were less pronounced economic disparities in Oppdal than elsewhere in Norway. Communal efforts to hold off famine and share burdens appear to have been common through several centuries.
During the Christian era, pagan shrines and gravemounds were replaced by churches and chapels. Five rural churches were built in Oppdal at the time, in Vang, Ålbu, Lønset, Lo and Nordskogen. The Oppdal church, built to replace an earlier stavkirke in 1653, stands to this day (Reference: Welle-Strand).
Oppdal was a stop for pilgrims on their way to the St. Olav shrine in Trondheim during the Middle Ages. As a result of the heavy stream of pilgrims who followed the Pilgrim´s Route prior to the Reformation, King Øystein erected mountain stations where the pilgrims could find food and shelter. Kongsvoll, located on the Driva River along the route where pilgrims passed from the Gudbrandsdal into Oppdal was one of these stations, and is still an inn today. Drivstua, further north, was another. (Reference: Stagg & Welle-Strand)
Oppdal was particularly affected by the Black Plague, which led to abandonment of a number of farms. With a worsening of the climate, 170 years later the community hadn't recovered, and there were only 35 farms and 350 people left. Only one church at Vang was still in use. As late as in 1742, people in Oppdal died of hunger.
In the early 1600s, Oppdal's fortunes turned and population grew. By 1665, 2,200 people lived in Oppdal, and a new church was built at Vang, which stands to this day. The churches at Lønset and Fagerhaug have been re-established, and Oppdal houses several other religious communities. Since the 1700s, the inhabitants of Oppdal have made significant investments in education, leading to the establishment of several small rural schools and recently a high school.
In the 1800s, increased fertility and reduced mortality led to population growth that could not be sustained by agricultural resources. Many became tenant farmers, and eventually a large proportion of people from Oppdal emigrated to the United States. The population decreased until 1910, when the railroad from Oslo to Trondheim via Dovre created employment and opened for tourism. In 1952, the first ski lift opened, and with further expansions Oppdal now offers Norway's largest downhill network.
Main industries in Oppdal today are agriculture, tourism, and some light manufacturing. It has the largest sheep population of any municipality in Norway, with 45,000 heads of sheep put out to graze in the mountains every year. It is one of Norway's best ski resorts and is surrounded by national parks.
European route E6 passes straight through the commercial center of Oppdal.
The writer Inge Krokann was born in Oppdal, and the area is central to his work.
The climate is harsh, even by Norwegian standards. Among other things, snakes have never made it to Oppdal, and snow is not unusual on May 17th National Day celebrations.