Wilderness Training: Winter Friluftsliv

In January 2020 five Romanian Outward Bound instructors, five German future childcare practitioners specialising to be Coyote Mentors and seven Swedish QVF Mentors in training went on a winter Friluftsliv Färd to Northern Dalarna. When we left the Campus of Sjovik Folkhögskola in Folkärna it was not until we had arrived to Särna after about 4 hours up North to see the first snow. Unusual as they were telling us. The next 10 days we all would live a simple life outside at the cabin camp Nysätersvallen. All activities like fetching water from the frozen well or even toiletting needed to be done on skies. A good fire was our permanent company: it crackled in the tent oven of the tipi, our gathering place, it provided us with good food on our day tours. The Swedish showed us how we can use it for bending spruce stags to make traditional snow shoes or how to prepare a log fire to slightly heat up the open baker tents where we slept in during our nights out. A signal fire even guided two of our teachers to find their way home in the darkness. In mixed international groups we needed to discuss where to find the best place to set up camp for our nights out. For some of us it was the first time of sleeping outside in rough wintery conditions. We would not have believed that it can be so comfortable sleeping on a bed of spruce, the Swedish way.

Getting to know our differing approaches and backgrounds as outdoor mentors opened up the opportunity to start questioning our own practices. Watch our trailer on that 10 day LTTA in Sweden. AP

Participant´s voices:

Dorina (RO):

The Swedish experience from January, for me, was great from every aspect: the people, the experiences, the nature. And from these come the highlights and the learnings. I absolutely enjoyed spending that week in the  wooden cabins without electricity. I feel it has helped us connect in a very natural way with ourselves and the others. I had an amazing experience when we slept outside one night and  that’s where the main learning comes from: we can be very comfortable being and sleeping outside in wintertime, if we know how to plan and prepare the whole experience. If you know how to do that, then you can find the beauty of the more harsh and difficult conditions.  I cannot wait for the first opportunity when I can implement those things that I’ve learned on that occasion!

 I’ve met in Sweden people who respect nature in a deep and profound way and you can see this in the way they act and behave when they are outside. 

After this course, I’ve become more open to the idea of doing winter programs and together with other colleagues we have submitted a project to get Erasmus+ funds in order to organize a winter training and youth exchange in 2022. 

Thank you for an amazing experience!

Ted (SE):

It created a memory deep in my mind. Wonderful time with all the fantastic people, both Germans and Romanians. Great for me to be a mentor in the arctic winter. I had forgotten how hard it can be to go skiing.

Think we all got connected to nature in an amazing way.

Réka (RO):

The best experience for me was the last day trip to the waterfalls, with nice study skiing on a longer trail, being able to use the skills we’ve acquired until that day, going down and then back up again without taking off the skies, being very comfortable, having nature very close: beautiful landscape, waterfall, a hermelin coming down from a tree, snowing magically, animal tracks in the snow. It was like a nice summing up of everything what happened during the week, the friluftsliv life-feeling.

The last day back in Sjövik Folks Highschool was also very interesting, we had a chance to work on wood in the workshop-cabin.

I’ve learned new skills, like skiing, going on winter expedition on skies, new ways of cutting/chopping wood, orienteering in that kind of environment (also practicing my previous orienteering skills), new knots, I didn’t know before, eating advices for winter expedition, things about wool clothing and about outdoor equipment, how to stay warm.

I got an eye on another kind of logistics, ideas of organizing.

The entire program brought me much closer to winter outdoor environment, gave for me the motivation of wanting to be more outside in the wintertime.

All the above makes me more comfortable in my work with the groups as an instructor at OB.

Yvonne (D):

The two incidents, which come first to my mind, when I think about the ten days in Nysättervallen in Winter: I chopped a tree for the first time in my life and I witnessed the rare phenomenon of the mother of pearl clouds.

But of course there have been many more things I learned and experienced.

It has been a very intense ten days because I learned so many different things like: how to find firewood in the snow, how to build up a camp to be warm and cozy during a night outside, how to ski off the beaten track, how to navigate with nothing but a compass and a map, how to build snowshoes.

It was an interesting and illuminating experience to be able to stay outside in the snow in winter day and  night  long without getting cold. Now I know how easy it can be to live outdoors if you have the appropriate knowledge, equipment and techniques.

Apart from this practical learning we also had a great and deep exchange of ideas and knowledge.  People from three different countries shared one big issue: how to get back to nature, how to reconnect with it. It was interesting to learn about the different approaches to this topic and to discuss different ways. That also widened my horizon immensely.

And I am still thinking about my first tree I chopped: how grateful I felt for the firewood the tree provided, how satisfied I felt at the warm campfire, where we shared our stories of the day.

Sitting there looking at the happy faces of the people of the group illuminated by the campfire: it makes something with you. At least it made something with me: It was a mixture of feeling humble and grateful, and of feeling connected to nature.

I realised during the night outside in the snow that nature is not against me but with me, and that I am a part of it. What I need is the knowledge of how to use the treasures nature offers me and to be aware and sensitive of what nature needs from me. 

And that is what I would like to teach the children I work with. I want them to regard nature as part of their life. I would like to aid them finding their way to nature and not to see it as something strange and dangerous. Nature should become something worth to be protected and not to be destroyed. I see it as a part of my job to make the kids understanding this.

Emőke (RO):

I experienced an other attitude towards the concept of comfort: in Friluftsliv we take time to prepare good food, cozy camping place (we dedicated half a day for setting the camp with all the details: in the middle the fireplace, with our skis as benches, wood for our whole stay, a baker tent and a tarp, pathways in the knee high snow till the toilet place, bringing water from the nearest creek etc.), to take time to sleep 7-8 hours per night. They aim to create comfort in natural settings, in wilderness, and this was inspiring for me.

I learnt:

  • Alpine cross country skiing
  • Setting a camp in the thigh-high snow: creating fireplace in the snow, anchoring the tent/tipi in the snow, cutting wood in the snow
  • Emergency signaling with smoke
  • How to make snowshoes
  • Carving
  • Techniques and tips for winter expeditions and proper clothing
  • Becoming more familiar with cold weather
  • New ideas in outdoor cooking
  • The concept of Friluftsliv

Christiane (RO):

There was more than one highlight of the course for me. One was to spend the evening and night outside in winter in a comfortable way without getting cold. But I also liked a lot the sociable evenings in the cabin with talking and singing. One of the best experiences was the last daytrip to a frozen waterfall, where everybody was already skiing confidently and securely and I could enjoy the beautiful Swedish winter landscape.

I knew how to ski in cross-country style before, but it was very interesting for me to practice it with hand-made, traditional wooden ski and also to pull a sledge with them. New to me were the methods and small tricks that we learned for setting up a winter camp, for example digging out the fire place, making snow benches using the ski, lighting a fire with collected material and constructing different types of campfires. I learned more about dressing up in winter, e. g. with wool clothes, and staying warm in the sleeping bag. But I also had a chance to practice and get new ideas about cooking on fire and navigation.

Anna (D):

Snow, amazing sunsets, crackling fire and pure nature.

We shared our knowledge about nature, outdoor skills and different traditions.

I learned how to set up a camp in winter, how to build snowshoes, many different kinds of knots, to make a log fire  and to be fine with the cold. We experienced nice gatherings and had fun during the day and overnight trip. I enjoyed being outside the whole time and was really sad when we left. It was the second time for me in Sweden with the Friluftsliv course. Now I decided to apply for that course in 2021.

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