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Midnight skiing

We have enjoyed rather fine winter weather for about two weeks. Clear skies, meaning a lot of sunlight and crisp starry nights. Nighttime temperatures have fallen well below -20°C, some nights being close to -30°C. Seems like my interior wall renovation project was perfectly timed. Now with one more electric radiator on the indoor temperatures have been comfortable all the time. Like, +15°C in the morning, and it quickly gets warmer as I lit a fire in the stove to cook the morning coffee.

The nearby lake is all frozen over, the ice is so thick that it is perfectly safe to move around. And I wanted to enjoy the sunny days skiing out on the ice. Two weeks ago I took my pair of skis out from the storage, and went to ski a little. I followed a forest trail, then went down to the ice, and headed back towards home. As I was merrily skiing I suddenly noticed that the other ski turned loose. My skis are from the leftover stock of Swedish army - I like the army skis, as they are long and wide enough to support my weight even when skiing in untouched snow. Also, you don't need special skiing boots, as the military-style bindings are suitable for many kinds of winter boots. The bindings have a pair of leather straps, reinforced with metal hooks on the other end. And now one of those straps had snapped, rendering the binding unusable. I walked back home carrying the skis.

I thought that I have a small bag with assorted straps and replacement parts for the ski bindings. And that bag is stored somewhere, probably in the small shed in my yard. So, the following day I started looking for that bag. For an hour I dug through the crates, boxes, bags and heaps of things and stuff which are stacked on top of each other in the shed. I found a lot of things I didn't remember I have, but I didn't find those replacement straps I was looking for. Some of the stuff I really don't need, and I've been just storing it hoping that some day I'll sort through them to see what is wise to keep and what is good to throw away. Now I collected some of the obvious trash, and piled them up to be burned. I gave up looking for the straps, and went to the garage to fetch a can of chainsaw fuel to make sure the heap of trash will catch fire. In the garage there were some small leftover pieces of panels, so I collected also them to be burned. As I was looking for more pieces of trash wood, I noticed something on a narrow shelf on the garage wall. Aha - a pair of replacement straps for the ski bindings! I poured a little of gasoline on the heap of trash, started the fire and tinkered with the ski bindings, replacing the broken strap with a fresh one.

Since that I've been skiing; to enjoy the sunlight, to visit nearby islands, to enjoy the atmosphere of starry nights, skiing alone and skiing together with a friend. (In Finland school-kids and many of the adults have a week of winter holiday about this time of the year. It is called 'the skiing holiday', and in Finland when we say 'skiing', we mean cross-country skiing. Although down-hill skiing seems to be more popular nowadays, but we have a different word for that. For so many generations skiing used to be a common way to move around in the wintertime, and mastering the skill of cross-country skiing was considered essential. That started to change when I was a little kid, but I think the cultural meaning of skiing still hangs around. And the old ways haven't completely disappeared. Some of my city-dwelling friends came to visit my place, so that they can ski on their skiing holiday. Yes all of our cities have plenty of skiing opportunities available, but the tracks tend to be somewhat crowded. Skiing quietly on a wide open lake is a different thing.)

Yesterday it was Thursday, it was full moon and clear sky. The weather forecast said that it will be getting cloudy, and the sky will likely be overcast. I knew of Friday I don't have work in the morning. So I decided to go for a small midnight skiing trip to enjoy the scenery illuminated by the moonlight. After the day's work I was back at home after 9 pm. I packed my stuff, did some preparations and went skiing at 10.30 pm. It took me half an hour to get to the tiny islet which is my favourite camping location. I started a fire, boiled water melted of snow to make me a cup of tea. I grilled some sausages for a late evening snack, spending about an hour by the camp-fire. After midnight I went skiing back home, enjoying the crisp fresh winter air.

As I'm writing this it is Friday noon. Time to post this so I have a little time to take care of household chores before leaving for today's work. I think I'll prepare the sauna so that it will be quick to heat up once I'll get back home after work.

A pair of replacement straps, and a burning heap of trash.
Enjoying a bright winter day.
Enjoying a crisp winter night ...
... with a mug of tea cooked of melted snow.
tags: 
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folklore
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Comments

A nice update. Thanks :)

I loved this post so much. Made me want to do all the things you did, like the midnight skiing. And the picture of you and the snow branches is so beautiful. The branches and your beard seem the same thing!

Hi Erkka, great post. Just one question, from a person living far, far away from any frozen water (bar the ice cubes in the fridge, haha): aren't you afraid of falling through the ice in the middle of the night? You'll just dissappear! I know it is supposed to be safe, but climate change and all that...

This winter the ice has been thick enough to carry a weight of a car. On a solid good freezing winter people can drive tractors or even fully loaded timber trucks on lake ice. In such conditions there's little to worry about.

But, of course, it takes some experience to evaluate when and where it is safe to go on ice. For example, my local lake is a part of a bigger network of lakes, and each lake is connected to the next one via straits. Some of those straits are a bit like short small rivers, meaning that the water flows from a lake to another through the strait. On such places the ice never gets as thick as it does in the wide open lake where the water is more still.

I'd guess it is bit like driving a car; of course there always is a risk of dying in an accident, but once you have the skills and the experience, you aren't actively afraid of crashing your car. You trust your skills, you evaluate the changing situations and drive accordingly. It is the same on the ice; although the risk is always there, with enough experince you just stop worrying and rely on your experience.

But climate change definitely has had a major effect at my latitudes. On recent years there have been winters when I didn't dare to go to the ice at all. Nowadays the winters tend to be shorter than they were in my childhood, and mild winters are a lot more frequent.

Very interesting, thank you. Hope to visit Hyperborea sometime :) Hasta luego!

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