Friday, March 4, 2011

Excursion to Lifjell

I’ll be honest; there are some days when living in Bø can be pretty boring. It’s a small valley town so there isn’t a lot to do if you’re not willing to spend money. (I do regret not purchasing a pass to the workout center. It’s expensive but I think now that it would’ve been worth it.) There are some times when I will go a couple days in a row and do nothing but stay in my room. The days we actually have class are days that most of us look forward to more than the weekend because it gives us something to do. (So my suggestion, make sure you have a hobby before you come!) But, I really can’t complain too much because it really is breathtakingly beautiful here. Just walking through town makes you feel a little better. A few of us went out for coffee/hot chocolate the other day when it was sunny and we just sat outside for a couple of hours chatting. Those times are very nice (but again, cost quite a bit of money). However, every once in a while a day will come along that makes up for any lazy days I might’ve had in the past week. Today was one of those days.

Let me preface this by plugging a class that I highly recommend for anyone coming here. It’s called Individuals, Environs, and Society. (I know, what on earth does that mean?) It’s basically a class about outdoor life and how to take advantage of your surroundings. In other words, we ski. Now, I have never really skied before coming here. I went maybe a couple times as a kid but it’s been so long that I really don’t count that. So I was a total novice coming into this class. Our teacher, Tone (pronounced sort of like “tuna”), is absolutely wonderful. She is so patient and understanding and encouraging of all the students. A couple of weeks ago we went skiing around the “lit track” (meaning that it has lights around it so that you can ski until 10 in the evening) and she waited so patiently as I made my way up this large hill VERY slowly. She gave me pointers and encouragement as I shuffled my way up the hill sideways. That day was absolutely wonderful. The scenery was gorgeous, and it was really just a fun time. I tell you that, so that when I say that today was extraordinary, you can have a sense of what I mean.

Our class piled onto a bus at about 9 this morning and made our way up the mountain to this place called Lifjell. It is a ski area up in the mountains that have both downhill slopes and cross-country/back-country trails. When we got there, the three Nordic Life students in our class went off to build a little camp for us while we got some ski practice in. We went along the easiest ski track for a while, going up and down the hills (I did a spectacular face plant at one point when I couldn’t stop), and enjoying the absolutely magnificent scenery around us. Then our guest instructor told us that we had to try some back-country skiing and get off the track to make our own track. We each took turns going in the front of the group, and that was the hardest thing I have done. The snow was several feet deep and with each step our skis would sink a couple of feet into the fresh powder and our poles would sink until they were almost buried. I fell down a few times, but we all had a good laugh as we finally made our way back onto the prepared track. After that we skied along the track looking for the group that had gone off at the beginning. We turned onto one of the harder tracks (fortunately we didn’t have to go far) and they were there waiting for us. They had dug a place for us to sit and eat lunch that was about 4 feet deep and 15-20 feet across, with benches carved into the snow around the walls. They also built a fire and explained to us why they were lighting it the way that they did, and told us stories about their recent excursions and the things that they had learned about building snow caves and testing the snow for possible avalanches. We all enjoyed taking a break and eating lunch, and learned how to make pinne brød (bread on a stick) by wrapping dough around the end of a stick and roasting it like a marshmallow.

After resting for a while we had to leave to go down and meet the bus to take us back to the school. As we were skiing along the track we all decided it would be a good idea to attempt going down the downhill slope as it was the fastest way back to the bus. This was not a bunny slope, though. It wasn’t a particularly difficult slope, but for someone who has only been out skiing a few times before today, I feel no shame in admitting that I fell three times going down the hill. And I loved every minute of it. There really is something to be said about the Norwegians and their love of the outdoors. Even if you’re not particularly skilled at skiing or not very fit, as in my case, you just can’t help but feel happy and refreshed after spending a day outdoors and skiing through the beautiful Norwegian mountains. It does help that we are a larger group with people of all skill levels, so no one feels left behind, but days like today I wouldn’t trade for anything. Days like today are what make Norway worth it. And the best part is that skiing is FREE. You might have to pay for parking in some areas, but you can go skiing on the groomed tracks for free. That, to me, is a beautiful concept.

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