WRITTEN BY SHAUNA COOK
Living in Winnipeg, we are surrounded by ice and snow throughout the Canadian winter months. While some locals prefer a vacation that takes them away from the cold, others embrace the kind of experience that can only happen in frigid temperatures. For me that included a visit to Norway's Snowhotel.
On a cold December day we flew northeast from Oslo and landed in what seemed to be the middle of nowhere, at Kirkenes Airport. We were met by our host, Mili, and then whisked away for a 15 minute drive to the hotel. The construction of the actual Snowhotel was not yet complete, so we stayed in the equally unique and charming Gamme Cabins.
On arrival, we all got off the bus and were surrounded by pure nature on all sides. Snow, fjords, trees, and very little else for as far as the eye could see. We immediately made our way to the meeting place known as Gabba for a dog-sledding experience. After a short introduction, we were suited up and went to meet our friendly and enthusiastic dog teams.
Then we were off! For about 45 minutes the dogs pulled our sled through the snow, stopping in the middle of the frozen fjord. We were taking this ride at about 1:00pm, and it was already almost completely dark.
Back at the Snowhotel we checked into our accommodation. These little cabins are absolutely stunning, with light wood finishing and a large picture window overlooking the Snowhotel and the fjord. Each cabin has either 2 x single beds or a double bed, a large mudroom, a large bathroom, and a beautiful sitting area with two chairs set up to face the stunning view.
After settling in we had a little downtime to relax before heading back to Gabba for a presentation from a wonderful Sami man. He taught us about some Sami traditions including the Joik , which is a traditional form of song. Each person, place or animal has their own joik, and he even created a joik that was special just for our group.
We then moved to the main restaurant for our dinner. The restaurant has large windows on both the upper (dinner) and lower (breakfast) levels that offer amazing views over the fjord. The evening was spent socializing and learning all about life in the far North of Norway. We were all on high alert for the Northern Lights, but a steady snow was falling most of the day and evening so we didn’t see any lights, but you could still feel the magic of the area.
The next day we enjoyed a leisurely morning that included a very filling breakfast. We then boarded a bus for our next adventure - visiting the resident reindeer and playing with the dogs. As long there is a staff member in the area, you are encouraged to visit the dogs – they love visitors and attention!