13 December 2010

The plus side of winter tourism

Travelling above the arctic circle in December? You have to be slightly mad to even consider doing so, but having now had a couple of weeks to acclimatise to the northern hemisphere winter (and one that has come earlier and colder than usual) I've also had time to consider some of the benefits of winter tourism.

Here's a short list:
Getting to know my dog team
  • you get to sleep in - or at least have a good excuse for doing so, when the sun rises at around 10.30 am and sets at around 1-1.30 pm - and in between it's sort of like a continuous twilight!
  • sightseeing can generally be done indoors (at least in the major cities) - museums, galleries, shops and cafes
  • in the snow, everything looks like the Christmas of my childhood fairy tales and Christmas cards. You can almost hear Bing Crosby crooning "I'm dreaming of a white Christmas . . ." as you travel around the snowy landscapes.
  • you don't get the huge crowds that you do in mid-summer (with the minor exception of Christmas shoppers)
  • the Christmas lights make up for the lack of daylight - and are, if anything, enhanced by the snow which serves as a great reflector!
  • you can eat more - after all, you burn up calories to stay warm, right?
  • the northern lights are only visible in winter - but the tricky lady has yet to appear (at least where I am - there are reports of faint lights only at the moment here in Kiruna - and only outside the town).
  • you get to do fun things like dog-sledding, snow-mobiling - and eating reindeer stew at every second meal!
Of course, there are a few challenges - it's hard to really say what's an average temperature here, because it really depends where you are and what you're doing. In the town, it's somewhere between -5 and -10C most of the day. In the wilderness areas, it's much colder, especially on the frozen lakes and rivers, which are around -25C or even colder at night. 

A typical day here starts with layers. First the underwear layer, then a thermal layer, then a light woollen top and trousers, at least two pairs of socks and a pullover or jacket. And that's just to go to breakfast!

For outdoor activities, I've been supplied by the local tour guide company with heavy duty overalls, boots, hat and gloves. And the operative word is "heavy" - my kit must weigh at least 7 or 8 kg, with around half of this being in the boots, which have the look of steel-capped boots, but made of some sort of synthetic rubber type of compound.

Needless to say, you don't move very fast in this sort of outfit, but you are very stable and protected. 

Snowmobile night - dinner in uninsulated hut!

1 comment:

  1. But if ANYONE can make heavy duty overalls look good - it is you!