Glory of Green
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Stories from the Great Outdoors

 

How old should your kids be before you let them out alone, cross-country skiing in the mountains? Of course, it depends on a whole range of factors, such as experience and skills, terrain, weather, familiarity with the area, number of family members who are down with a cold and the possible subconscious impressions left in you by “Vildvittrorna”, the vile creatures in Astrid Lindgren’s “Ronja, the Robber’s Daughter”. This reference might only make sense to Scandinavians. Other readers: You know Pippi. Same author, different story, flying and screaming man-eating beast and young skiing girl stuck in the snow, put on film and showed to generations of Nordic kids at an early age. It’s a calculation you’ll have to do for yourself. Now 13 and a really good skier, with a ton of out-door skills, we decided it was time to let Erla discover the mountain accompanied only by her own self – me nervous the whole time she was away. She in total bliss. No Vildvittror in sight. 

The risk-calculation

She went out skiing with friends when we lived in Norway, but that was a whole different story – she wasn’t alone, the trails are more or less always packed with people and the conditions in the forest trails close to Oppegaard are very different from what you encounter in the mountains in Bittermarka. There are very few possibilities to take a wrong turn, and the weather is pretty stable. In the mountains the weather can change rapidly, and the trails will be covered in snow almost instantly when the wind decides to move it around. Then you’ll have to march through heavy snow and keep to the greyed wooden poles that shows where the trail goes. It turns dark in a blink around 3-4 pm, and then the moon is your sole source of natural light.

On the other hand, the weather seemed very fine this second to last day of 2018, with a low winter-sun flashing back from the glittering snow and absolutely no wind (which by the way makes our composting toilet stink due to no exhaustion through our wind-driven rooftop ventilation fan – you can’t have it all). The terrain around our cottage and along the trail we decided on has some fun downhill runs but is not prone to snow-slides. We bought our cottage back in 2011, when Erla was 6. Since then she has spent every winter criss-crossing the trails of Bittermaka, Trysil – on trips up to 30 kilometres. She knows this place.

The context of dodgeball

So far, we have managed to go skiing together as a whole family ONE time this Christmas, and we have skated ONCE. The rest of the time we’ve been split in a varying constellation of three people out and about, and one of us staying back in the cottage.

There has been a cold going around – and there has been a dodgeball injury. A traditional risk of celebrating Christmas with my husband’s crazy clan of kin: They rent an old community house in the forests close to the Swedish border, eat a lot of food, have a great time together – and then they play dodgeball. Hitting each other as hard as hell. Ages 3 to 82. Lots of strong handball players involved. Me shivering along the wall somewhere… To be fair though – it was slippery stockings rather than a hard ball that put our youngest, Alma (9), on the sofa for a day. But when both adults went down with the cold and Alma was invited to go skiing with some family friends, Erla was done with her sickly family and super-ready to take on the mountain all alone. 

The mother

We packed a backpack with extra clothes, chocolate, water, ski wax and a charged cell phone – and decided on a route she knows well. Then I took a photo of my very happy daughter on her way out of the nest (and instantly pictured it as a very good headshot for the imagined search party looking for her frozen body). Off she went, and it didn’t take long before I remembered that we’d forgotten to pack a headlamp, and that she probably should have had a Jerven Bag in her backpack – just in case (a Jerven Bag is a light weight, insulating and tent-like bag that you can survive inside if necessary). I decided not to call her. Read a book, and then I decided not to call her about five times more until she showed up again. As happy and proud as a human being can be. We showed her that we trusted her, and I think she knowns it implies that she is good at being outdoors.

The daughter

MY NAME IS ERLA, AND I'M THE DAUGHTER

The trip is about 8 km, and it’s a rather flat tour. You might think it’s easy (and normally it is), but when I met the first down-hill, I crossed my legs in fear of falling down due to a million holes in the trail or stumble into some bushes and hit my head and die in silence. You see, here in Trysil it has been a lack of snow this winter – and the machine for grooming trails hasn’t been able to go through the trail more than once. Which means that small roots and trees are sticking up here and there, the trails are hard as ice and quite deep holes made by people and dogs are frozen in the snow.

Despite my fear of stumbling into bushes or a snowy hole (like Alice in Wonderland), the weather was nice. I didn’t give a thought about my parents, it was just me and the white landscape. – and a couple of dog shits in the trail. I was going pretty fast and made the 8 km tour in about 45 mins, despite stopping for a bite of delicious Stratos chocolate (one of my many favourite Norwegian chocolates) and taking tons of photos on the way. My mother has become a Japanese and bought a selfie sick, and I got the honour of using it on my trip. At least I would be able to take a selfie while lying in a bush all alone (together with the dog shits), waiting to die…

Even though it would have been fun to meet Alice and her friends in Wonderland (I would have gone directly for Johnny Depp), I was happy when I returned to our cottage and made my mother’s day by surviving. Easy!