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'We dug up enough snow to build a competitor to the Ice Hotel'

Published: 15 Feb 2013 10:28 GMT+01:00

It has snowed A LOT this winter. As I look out the window now, it’s still snowing.

We’re fairly keen walkers but winter up north is not really designed for strolls through the meadows. If we were to attempt a stroll to the shore of our lake I’m pretty sure we’d drown before we’d gone 10 metres.

This is serious snow.

Even our cats, all giant Maine Coon monsters, built for harsh winters, rarely venture outside other than for their obvious necessities. And even then, they come back looking like abominable snowcats.

But it is beautiful, especially as the days get longer and the sunny days become more frequent. We want to be outside as much as possible, especially as it’s been a relatively mild winter up here – it’s rarely dropped below -15C. All that snow and no way to explore it (not without a snorkel anyway).

I considered Nordic skiing but my dodgy, football-wrecked knees have pretty much ruled that out. So, after a lot of encouragement from our neighbours, we bought a snowmobile, or snöskoter.

Låge, my snöskoter-crazy neighbour, took us shopping. I tried a mammoth Yamaha Viking that would probably have accommodated myself, Donna and our two friends, Vlad and Bea, who are helping us renovate our wreck of a house and probably the cats too, but Låge said it was too big for a beginner.

"If you get stuck on that, you’ll need a helicopter to rescue you."

After a further three or four test-drives Låge found us a Lynx Yeti that was ideal. It had a wide-track, which meant it offered stability and traction and it was big enough to allow two people to ride comfortably.

IN PICTURES: Follow Paul on his snowmobile adventure

At first, in the relatively shallow snow, just after Christmas, riding it was a breeze. I even ventured off-trail (something I’d been warned not to do) and made my own tracks in the huge expanse of virgin snow that our house backs onto. The sense of freedom it gave us was thrilling. We could venture out to places that had been hitherto inaccessible.

My English friend, David, who’s been here seven years, had warned me that I would come a cropper at some stage – "everybody does".

"Ha," I thought, "I’m obviously a natural, this is easy-peasy."

A couple of weeks ago, we had another huge dump of snow. Sunday, as seems to be the norm up here, dawned bright, sunny and glorious. We all got togged up and I hopped on the skoter to firm up the track down to the lake (a skoter is a fine tool to make walkable paths over deep snow).

After about 100 metres I could sense that the terrain had changed. The skoter wobbled around at low speeds and was proving difficult to turn. After 200 metres, I was starting to panic – I was heading towards the trees at the edge of the lake and the bloody thing would not turn.

Then I made the first error of the day – instead of accelerating out of the spot of trouble (why is it always the counter-intuitive method that does the trick?), I slowed down.

The skoter, robbed of its momentum, dipped its left side into the deep, fresh snow and threw me off. I was flipped into deep snow. I was like a turtle stranded on its back – I could not move. Eventually, I righted myself. But I couldn’t shift the skoter.

Luckily, the others were only 200 metres away and Vlad trekked back to the house to fetch a shovel. Thirty minutes later we were free and Vlad jumped on the back and off we went again.

Luckily, he brought the shovel with him because we found ourselves stuck a further three times – on the last occasion, in order to free the skoter, we dug up enough snow and ice to build a competitor to the Ice Hotel.

I’ve learned my lesson. This is nature ice-cold in tooth and claw.

Up until now, I’ve forgone proper snow boots and not bothered with a helmet. Both oversights have been rectified but I’ve not ventured out since. I tell myself I’m just waiting for the joys of vårvinter but I have lost my bottle slightly. It is really lovely out there but it’s a beauty tinged with glacial danger.

And I’m not quite ready to take it on again yet.

Paul Connolly

Read more from Paul here, including his Northern Dispatch column

Related links:

Your comments about this article

13:08 February 15, 2013 by GraceBee
Hej Paul, I missed your column, so glad you're back! Skoters are lots of fun but they take a while to get used to. March is the best time and sometimes April is very good too.

Have fun!
13:33 February 15, 2013 by Åskar
When I read this I'm so happy that my father had the good sense to move south.
13:48 February 15, 2013 by dunx
This made me smile. I took a neighbour's snowmobile into virgin snow this winter for the first time ever. It took me less than a minute to get to the other end of one of my fields, and I loved every minute of it. It then took me 15 minutes to get it turned round, before speeding across the field in less than a minute again. Until I have the hang of it I will stick to following the tracks our neighbours are good enough to create for us.

I do feel I need to buy one for myself, now.
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