Monday, February 7, 2011

Moonlit ski

A few weeks ago (this has taken awhile to write) we had a beautiful full moon, coming out on a crisp night when there were no clouds in the sky to obstruct it. It was quite breathtaking, especially as it appeared over the horizon, an enormous glowing globe, and then disappeared again the next morning over the valley below around 8:30am, as I drove to my Norwegian class.

It was a full moon on a Tuesday night, which is the night that I  try to join a group of women for a workout. An interval workout, 4x 4 minutes, to be exact. In the fall we ran (ok, I did that once) or power walk with hiking poles, and once we get a decent amount of snow, we ski.

It is hard to be motivated to get out of the house at 7:30PM to meet the group in the dead of winter, when temps are hovering around zero, and it's been dark for 3 hours, and all one wants is to stay wrapped up in a blanket in front of the fireplace with a nice glass of wine, child sleeping, knitting in hand. But, that's kind of the point of the group: knowing that there are others meeting, and wondering where the heck you might be if you don't show up.

The night of the full moon was chilly, and my motivation to get out quite low, as usual. In addition to the above reasons, was the fact that this was my first workout on skis (which I was very nervous about--I mean, these are Norwegians I'm going to ski with! They are born on skis. I didn't strap on a pair of cross-country skis until I was 17 years old, not 17 months. Thanks to pregnancy, a nursing infant, and a few years of bad snow in New England, I can count the number of times I skied in the last 3+ years on two hands). Anyway. . . rather than driving to the start of the workout as I did all fall, I was going to ski there--on unlit tracks, downhill, on paths I had never skied on before, only to turn around and ski back up the hill with the group. Erik strapped a powerful headlight onto my head, waxed my skis (dear man), and sent me out the door.

The headlamp was bright, but at times hardly necessary (although quite valuable for the downhills), as the light from the moon was so bright reflecting off of the snow. I whisked down the groomed paths to the group, not exactly sure where I was supposed to meet them, until I passed a train of women coming up the hill (on their first of four intervals), and one shouted out to me, "Emily??"

I took the place of caboose, a good place for an American to be in a line of Norwegian skiers, and my goal was not to even do any intervals, per se, but to simply not be skiing alone by the end of the night. I managed to keep up with the last two women, and we skied most of the evening with our headlamps completely off, just skiing by the light of the moon. The snow sparkled, like diamonds had been thrown everywhere. There was something very magical about the combination of the adrenaline of the workout, the beauty of the woods in the moonlight, the shared experience with others, and the crisp cold night air that was absolutely thrilling.

We skied until we joined the lighted ski trails, and eventually met up with others from the group. Everyone was beaming from the night, and I was struck by what a uniquely Norwegian experience this was, and how this was why we moved here. Not simply the skiing experience, but the experience of a place--a community--a culture--that values fresh air, outdoor life, and nature to the extent that they make hundreds of kilometers of woods accessible to the community, for free. And we were not alone on the trails that night. We passed mothers skiing with their school-aged kids, 80 year-old men shuffling along with their little dogs, and of course the die-hard wannabe or has-been professionals. I lived in New England for 6 years and struggled to get more than one other woman to go out for a simple hike with me. And here the woods was teeming with them.


  1. I envy you for being able to strap on a pair of skis and head out your front door. I'd like to think that if I were living in Lillehammer, I'd have been out on my skis more than once this year. It sounds like a dream...

    "I took the place of caboose, a good place for an American to be in a line of Norwegian skiers." Love it.

  2. I would have gone hiking with you in New England! I wish we had connected more while you were here.
    Glad you're enjoying the active life there

  3. I remember our hikes. You did well to pull me out of my comfy zone at home and out into the woods for our little hikes, tho' often reluctant I was! I'd love to go with you right now. Ray and I get out for urban jaunts like the 3 mi hike to Portland, and hiking on some local lands, but the regular activity with you I certainly miss. Sounds like it's part of the living in Norway - a great way to be.