The quest for snow and reindeer
A walk along the coast
Having spent the winter in South America I began to dream again about winter, a real one. By early March the snow in the Alps has already been gone. There was an alternative idea. Together with my friend Mati we loaded the yellow bus will all sorts of winter sports equipment and set off to Norway in quest for snow. From the very beginning it was not easy, because during a routine check, right before boarding the ferry, it turned out that I forgot the registration certificate. A German policeman’s reaction was quite obvious: "Ah so! Das ist nicht gut!“. Just unlike as I expected, the guy just looked at some digits, called somewhere, checked something, talk to somebody and at the end he wished us a nice trip and happy holiday. That is a reason good enough to change the stereotypical thinking about Germans and their favorite “Ordnung muss sein” as a primary rule for life, allowing for zero flexibility in case of “non-standard” issue. That is it, let’s go!
The early spring has also arrived to Oslo. People are so desperate that they ski on the grass and in the mud. In fact, capitals’ residents are sometimes difficult to accept the reality.
We continue to Sjusjen nearby Lillehammer. There is some snow left. It turned out that today we learned a lesson for skating cross-country skiers. The snow tracks for classic style are full of klister and because the snow melts, it all becomes sticky. If you ever use skating skies, don’t ever enter the tracks in late winter. The price we paid is a few hours of struggling and removing the excess of viscous adhesive layer, in open-air conditions.
We are on the way to Gålå, the place where once I spent a whole winter season. I remember fresh snowfall in April and some roads being still impassable at that time. This time it is only stretches of nothing but yellowed grass and a cross-country track artificially revived by snow groomers. After all, it is good to see some old friends, my former boss and this place, sentimental as usual.
Luckily we find what we were looking for in Skeikapmen. Fresh snow, perfectly prepared tracks and almost zero people. The following 5 or 6 days we stop here. We camp inside the bus, cook diners in the cold, freeze at night, our water is also freezing and so are our spices, yesterday’s spaghetti and yerba mate.
Slamming a good 40 kilometers in a morning session then occasionally making a premium evening round, either cross-country or ski-touring round to the top with my telemarks. We consume a lot of energy in hearty three or four dinners we eat, but it’s still not enough to cover the 6-8 thousand calories we burn daily.
Every day we discover a new areas and trails but in less than a week I get the impression that we have been everywhere nearby Skeikampen. Poor and lacking snow Gålå and Kvitfjell. We go further north.
Oppdal, here comes the next big snowfall. Our car gets stuck, but fortunately we meet good people willing to save the bus from a snowbank.
Traversing the smooth and fresh powder
Some more days pass and despite cold it is worth to take a shower in nature. We usualy use cold water in the cold air outside, which is a fairly extreme version when I think about the carefree bathing on the coast of Portugal. I regret that I did not take my winter sleeping bag, because the night temperatures reach -15°C.
Including our last skiing trip’s day on the track around Tronheim, I estimate that a total of distance covered during these two weeks is around 400km, a good amount of skiing.
I drop Mati off at the airpor and continue myself another thousand kilometers north to discover that in the far north there is even more snow. It means one more month of skiing.
In life it is important to find the perfect balance between work, travel, responsibilities and pleasures. Late winter in Norway is the perfect time for this.
That season is also the right time to ride snowmobiles with locals. I had no idea that these machines have such a powerful acceleration. I felt it entirely when within seconds I reached the speed topping 120 km/h on a snow-covered frozen lake. Snowmobile is also a perfect option to improve uphill climbs followed by downhill rides on telemark skies.
Actually I didn’t expect that I might encounter so excellent snow conditions. Next time I am here I am sure I’ll take my snowboarding and ski-touring gear to make even more out of winter. I tell you, if you want snow, far north is the answer you’re looking for.
The uniqueness of the island Senja is the fact that it is one of the few places in the world where you can enjoy freeriding the fresh powder in May, admire the beauty of fjords and not have to worry that it is getting dark. It won’t and more specifically, the first time it happens is in August, or in about 3 months. For enthusiasts of this type of entertainment I recommend meeting my friend who knows things. Bent Vidar Eilertsen is a local guy who runs Senja Lodge & Mountainguides, he’s every day life is either to climb (winter and summer) or freeride local mountains.
Snow slowly dissapears. I realized that that when I was crossing frozen lake on my skis I flooded my foot up to me knee in ice-cold water, so I also decided to finally close the snow season.
During the next few months I got a bug for running and walking in the mountains – kind of out of my passion, perhaps out of boredom, but what else would you like to do in a place where there is nothing but the fjords and the mountains? Now that I already mentioned that, I can modestly boast myself that during this season I ran more than 1,000 km, including five marathons!
The other side of Mefjord
The August came, I almost feel satisfied, but there’s something missing… reindeers! So, what about reindeers? Well, in Norway it happens to encounter a moose, lemmings, whales and seals, yes there are also reindeers, but compared to Finland, they are few and far between in Norway. My Austrian friend Marlene flew to visit me in late August. We decided to take a trip through Finalnd, to mark another route linking the south with the north of Europe. They say that in Lapland, the land of Santa Claus there is ten times more reindeers than people. We confirmed it aslo empirically as on an average day we met dozens of them. Not only in the wildernes extending over tens of kilometers, but also in middle of small towns!
We are discovering the charms of a new country, sometimes assumed to belong to Scandinavia, sometimes not. Moving south Finland becomes more civilized. We stop in Kuopio, Jyvaskila and Helsinki, where we get to know amazing people. However, the vast majority of the time we are accompanied only by reindeers. That may be the reason why the only Finnish word (probably the weirdest European language) I remembered is “poro” a useful expression in the wilderness, but also in a restaurant ordering delicious reindeer meat.