Surviving the Norwegian winter

Snowshoe walking

I settle down the place where the sun sets at three in the afternoon, merely an hour later it gets completely dark. And so it is until nine in the morning. It’s hard to get used to the long shadows cast already early in the afternoon. The early December’s temperature of minus 20ºC promises a good start of upcoming winter season. This is a welcome gesture of central Norway, a region commonly linked with Jotunheimen national park and the Olympic village of Lillehammer. Some seventy or eighty kilometers up north there is a hidden and surrounded by snow-clad landscape enchanting village called Gålå.

This is a very desolate place with just a several lifts located in between two summits of Blåbӕrfjellet and Valsfjellet, a shop, a hotel some houses and hermit huts scattered around. Besides, if you look around up to the horizon you would see nothing but wildlife, Peer Gynt Vegen, a picturesque trail passing through the surrounding valleys and well-prepared cross-country skiing routes.

There is no rush in a ski resort

Who would have thought that an easy-going guy from Poland will teach Norwegians how to ski. Nowadays, everything is possible. In my case the decision was quite easy. Instead of constantly having not enough and counting down until the next one-week long trip to the mountains, it’s better to spend the whole winter on snow and fully take to the benefits of such a lifestyle.

At the beginning of the season I am a dedicated snowboarder, but as the time passes also the desire to try the other winter sports arises.

I live in a wooden hut with several other instructors. The way to work is a ten minute cross-country skiing downhill. Together with a ski lift these are my only means of transportation.

Straight down into deep powder

At work I deal with all kinds of stuff that can be dealt with in a small resort. I instruct how to ride a snowboard, skis and cross-country skis, with time also my favorite telemarks. I do all sorts of technical work, ride a skidoo, run a lift, pick up and drop off people, run ski lifts, organize snowboarding competitions (being a judge, photographer and putting all the necessary equipment together), go crazy on a skidoo with a rope-attached inflatable raft filled with adrenalin-seeking tourists, then I take care of tobogganing, sometimes I work in a bar, sometimes at a restaurant. Moreover, anytime a lift’s engine stops for no reason, I’m a part of a rescue team to bring skiers stuck on a chairlift safely to the ground. I admit I like it here.

Each week has a different nature, holidays, a lot of foreign guests, family holidays, school holidays, Danish, Dutch, German, silence and emptiness or crowds of invaders from the south. Traditional events (e.g.  a slalom skiing competition with some jumps on the way with all skiers carrying a bowl of beer in their hands in order to arrive with as much as possible at the finish line), events, biathlon, cold, chilly, sometimes sunny or foggy and sometimes so cold that it freezes the blood in veins.

It all adds up to enjoy the Norwegian way of life. Norwegians are open people and the popular belief that people are reserved comes from the fact that nobody here carries on the conversation for no reason, just out of politeness . If you have a few words with someone and the conversation sparks up, then most it likely means than you already started an interesting friendship.

Cross-country trails are more popular than roads and highways

Now is a time for a bit of criticism. While Norway gives you access to great fish and everything possible to be made of fish, a summary of Norwegian cuisine might be my observation. In some restaurant I found three different sections in their menu. Plentiful Chinese cuisine dishes and nearly as much abundant Italian section; and here it comes the department of Norwegian cuisine, which contains exactly one position: French fries . So I’m getting confused, do French fries come from the USA, France or maybe Norway?

Ok, this is definitely not the place for gourmets and fresh fruit and vegetables lovers. After all, with a bit of creativity you cope with it. During the winter baking bread has became my new hobby and I spend lots of time on experimental cooking with limited ingredients, which resulted in some nice dishes.

Be it free time or at work, it matters it is the park

Days at work also tend to have ups and downs. Taking care of a a bunch of five year olds taking their first steps on skis and speaking six different languages is not as exciting as a perfect sunny day spent entirely on a snowmobile running small errands around. However, this is not the point.

The point is that for more than eithteen weeks I have snow and mountains all over around. They make me smile every morning I wake up and just as I step outside I realize freedom and wild nature are the things I need so much!

April 2010