Saturday, 31 December 2011

Searching for Winter

It's not just here, there are plenty of places that are still waiting for Winter to turn up and put a shift in this year. Actually Bergen did have some snow, enough for me to dust off the snow shoes and pack a bag, but it departed as quickly as it arrived, replaced by rain, more 'extreme weather events' and the flu. Man flu, the particularly savage variation.

To get some skiing done at all this winter I needed to travel. Not just to find some snow but also to retrieve one of my skis that got mixed up with another guide's at the end of our last day of work together last winter. Same skis, slightly different bindings. It was a foreseeable oversight. Boarding the train at Bergen I took the just about sub two hour train ride to Mjølfjell. Stopping at Voss first, the train evacuated it's neon clad content of teenage thrill seekers, spilling out onto the platform in a miasma of cheap perfume, loud voices and excitement. Only the old remained. Plenty of plus-fours, knee high wool socks and faded cotton anoraks. Quietness and relief from the hubbub filled the near empty carriages. Wallowing slowly away from the 'adrenalin capital of Norway' the old train climbed into the mountains, passing into higher valleys, each exhibiting slightly more snow than the last. Finally at Mjølfjell I alighted with maybe three other people. I called my old boss and 20 minutes later I was sitting in his cabin, sharing a coffee and tales of the year past. An exchange of skis and handshakes, promises to reconvene and I was finally out by myself, standing at the trail head and breathing in the crisp, winter-filled air.

A few quick arm and leg swings, gloves on, pack adjusted, bindings engaged. Whoa, I always joke that the first ski session of every season is filled with trepidation and a bit of rust. Seconds later I start to remember. Seconds later still and I'm lying face first in the drift on the side of the snowmobile track, my pack unceremoniously wrapped around my head and my sleeves filled with snow. It got better. I remembered. Sitting here a day later and it's my muscles that are the slowest to remember but it did all start coming back to me. The course of the trail, the feel of the cold air gripping my nasal hairs. The coordination required in herring bone. The brightness of it all. Mjølfjell still resists the full grip of winter and the rivers remain running free but this surely won't last. Winter's tardy timekeeping has been noted this year but he is coming. He will provide you with what you're looking for, if you can remember what it was you seek.

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