Most of the Tromsø locals explain that there are really only two seasons here, summer and winter. Though we did have a beautiful fall, it lasted all of 4 weeks in late August and early September. The leaves changed and then a big storm quickly blew them all off the trees. The snow began to fall in mid-October and has yet to stop. I do love snow. My kids love snow. Joel REALLY loves snow. There are two problems with the snow here this time of year (1) a nice pillow soft snow fall is often followed by rain which makes ice…yuck. (2) There is only about 3 hours of pseudo daylight in which to enjoy the snow unless you are keen to ski with headlamps or on the lit ski trails. You must really know where you are going if you plan to get very far on a backcountry ski. Regardless of these obstacles, we have welcomed the dark, snowy, rainy season into our Norwegian lives and are learning to embrace and even enjoy (parts of) it.
Here are some photos of our winter (technically fall, but it is way too wintery to call it anything else) family activities.
1. Cross country skiing. A part of every good Norwegians skill set. Odin and Adelheyd have become quite adept on their skis and fondly refer to this as ‘uphill skiing’. As I mentioned in last Spring’s posts, there is an amazing network of lit cross country ski trails in pretty much every Norwegian town, ours included. We can ski from our house to the trails which is quite nice…spoiled.
2. Backcountry skiing. Referred to here as a skitur. Not as common as cross country skiing, but the Troms people take pride in their accessible nature and most people you meet have in the past or will still happily hike up a mountain to ski back down. We took the rare opportunity of some time with just Odin to partake in our own little skitur on Kvaloya while Adelheyd had a playdate. Odin made his way up on cross country skis (not an easy task…we have since promised to cut some skins to fit his cross country skis) then changed into his down hill hear and navigated the way down through the trees. Not bad for a 6 year old!
3. Kicksledding. I am not sure that I can call this a sport but certainly an activity. There are people kicksledding everywhere this time of year. The kicksled to school, to the grocery store, into town. We joined the masses (as is expected in a socialized country) and purchased our own kicksled. I have to admit that I am hooked. They are a genius mode of transport with two kids and I MUST bring one back to Montana with me. I think the kids would agree. Adelheyd has taken to going ‘no hands’ while we cruise down hill together and has a huge smile spread across her face the entire time.
4. Sledding. Remembering the fun we had last year with our sleds, we made an early season trek to a sledding hill not far from our house. We were quickly reminded why early season sledding is not a great idea. The ground is REALLY hard when you fall and there is not very much snow to cushion your landing. We made a repeat visit to the sledding hill after the snow fell and added the required hillside fire with pølse roasting to the event. This is another part of every good Norwegians life. You bring your backpack to the sledding or ski hill with a few important items. 1. wood 2. lighter 3. sitteunderlag (sitting pad or if you are TRULY Norwegian you have a small piece of reindeer skin that you sit on) 4. drikkeflaske (thermos) with hot cocoa 5. pølse and appropriate roasting stick I have even had to pack this exact list in Odin’s backpack for school some days when his class takes a tur (fieldtrip) to the beach or woods. He may not be learning how to read, but the boy can survive outdoors for hours in inclement weather, start a fire, and roast his own pølse. Some may argue these are also essential life skills.
4. Ice skating. By the sheer quantity of ice skates and hockey gear for sale in the sporting goods store, you would think that everyone here skates. There are several frozen ponds, lakes or just playground areas that get turned into skating rinks around town, but it is no where near as popular a past-time as skiing…yet. Norway is the only Scandinavian country not really known for their hockey skills (the Swedes and Finns we have met here remind the Norwegians of this regularly). Regardless, we like to ice skate and so have included this in our activity repertoire. The scenery at Prestvatnet (Lake at the top of the island not too far from our house) is always beautiful so it is not a bad place to spend an afternoon.
5. Building snow forts, climbing and jumping from mounds of snow. The snow plows work constantly out of necessity. Living on a densely populated small island that gets a ton of snow requires good snow removal. The best part of the snow plows for us is of course to make driving easier. For Odin and Adelheyd the purpose of the snow plow is to make the snow piles bigger and bigger, perfect for launching off. Odin was even doing some front flips off the top of a snow pile landing into the soft powdery snow below. I want to be 6 again.
6. Futbol. Of course there are indoor activities as well. The boys play futbol (as do some girls) and the girls mostly play handball. Odin is signed up for the 1st grade team at his school, Bjerkaker Skole. The teams around town are all organized by school and grade. All first grade boys at one school are on a team. Odin’s team has about 20 boys with 3 coaches (all of whom either currently play or coach at the professional level for the local top-tier TIL team). They are very well coached and more importantly, they all seem to have a lot of fun. They practice one night a week at the school gym for an hour. Odin had his first tournament a few weekends ago, playing 5 vs 5 for 13 minute games. He received a medal for participating and wears it around the house almost every day, hanging it on his bedpost at night. He is quite proud:) The first two photos are not of Odin’s team, but the older kids. I was just impressed at how they shoveled the field off from one of the early snows to get in a good practice. Dedication.
So there you have it. Aside from the daily tasks of cooking, cleaning, working, doing homework, etc… this is how we have been spending our fall/winter in Norway. It looks fun, but trust me, there is often a good bit of complaining in the process. Joel and I have an understanding that we will experience at least on complete breakdown from each kids during our outdoor adventures. We try to prepare with layers and layers of warm clothes, food, beverages, and a positive attitude, but we all know that kids can only walk/hike/ski/sled/skate/be out in the cold snow for so long. The best part is that at the end of the day, the kids only remember the fun parts and so do we.