Updated: Apr 4, 2020
Kaamos is coming
With all this nature on our doorstep, it seems wasteful not to embrace all opportunities to be outdoors. Neil still bounces out of bed at his favourite ungodly hour, all bright-eyed and ready to find something new to explore. Bouncing early morning isn’t my thing, but am internally just as enthusiastic. Usually after my first coffee. We have been making our way through the regional fells either cycling or by foot and more recently on snowshoes, enjoying each and every step on our way.
Until we moved to Levi, I didn’t quite consider nor appreciate the value of nature and what impact it has on our wellbeing. Five months in, I am noticing some benefits of the clean air and healthier habits: increased stamina, fresher looking skin and an ever-developing superpower of falling into deep sleep in seconds. My newfound superpower may go hand in hand with the increasing hours of darkness as we enter our next chapter in the 8 seasons of Lapland.
Kaamos, or better known internationally as the Polar Nights, is the mystical period of winter when the sun doesn’t rise above the horizon. In Levi, the Polar Nights start on 9 December and finish on 3 January. That’s an impressive 25 days of darkness! Add some moonlight and stars reflecting off the snowy grounds and I think we end up with something quite spectacular! Some say Kaamos is their favourite season, others dread it every year and combat the darkness with therapy lights and vitamins. Let’s see if I belong in either of those camps, or if I find my own alternative. Right now, the Polar Nights seem like a terrific season for any avid fairylight enthusiast.
the first steps
Snow came early to Lapland this year, and we were able to practice some new winter activities sooner than expected. Snowshoeing is an easy, fun and rewarding way to get around during the winter months. Hiking by foot becomes challenging once thick snow covers the ground and exploring the slopes can be on the tough side. Once you strap on a pair of snowshoes magic happens as they make you kind of float on the snow. Add a head torch and some trekking poles and suddenly you feel like a true adventurer!
The snow brought a sense of stillness and serenity. Winter has changed the landscapes to a different world, as if we have travelled in time to another place. And here we are, trekking across a snow covered fell or a frozen lake with only silence round us. With the Polar Nights there will be darkness, but in the shades of pinks, purples and blues.
Imagine an invigorating snowshoe hike in sub-zero temperatures and the freshest air you can breathe. This gives both body and soul a sense of tremendous wellbeing, and the best bit: anyone can master this sport. Unlike skiing, there is no badass technique to it. Basically, if you can walk, you can snowshoe. I can warmly recommend this to anyone with limited time and patience. With little effort you can master the basics and reap the benefits of wintertime exercise.
The early days of snowshoeing
There doesn’t seem to be any official recordings of who invented the snowshoe, but they have been round for some time, as I read somewhere that they appeared earlier than the wheel. Different sources claim the origins to be in North America, Central Asia or Northern Europe.
For several thousand years the snowshoe would have been a prime necessity for anyone having to hunt, survive, explore and discover in areas of deep and frequent snowfall. There are some historical accounts by early adventurers where the snowshoes have been their most valued possession, as without them, they would have perished. The snowshoe is a symbol of courage and adventure. In your snowshoes you’re literally walking in the footsteps of great adventurers such as Sir Ernest Shackleton. The legendary polar explorer, hero and survivor of an Antarctic shipwreck back in 1914, enduring temperatures that would have frozen your eyeballs.
"What good is the warmth of summer without the chill of winter"- John Steinbeck
Getting started is easy if you want to try this fabulous winter sport. There are many types of snowshoes in different shapes and materials, and all seem to function the same, personal preference is the main deciding factor. A good idea is to rent the equipment first time to see how you get on. Walking poles add support and balance. Some recommend the telescopic poles as you may want to adjust the height depending on if you are hiking up- or downhill.
Hopefully you already have some warm boots with a bit of support for your ankles. The bindings are such that you can strap any shoe in them. Finally, make sure that you are properly wrapped up and have followed the principles of layering to keep warm and to enable ventilation if you get too hot.
So, if you have the equipment and your explorer spirit at the ready, all you need to do is grab a friend, prepare some sandwiches and decide on a route.
If you are not used to roaming in the wilderness and perhaps a little nervous about all this, you can arrange for a guided tour as a starter. Your guide will take you to a safe but secluded place, and will help you “break the trail” which usually is tiring and demands more energy. This will make your first snowshoe experience fun in a safe environment!