Otonabee Ward: Experiencing ‘Hygge’ on the Peterborough area’s cross-country trails

To keep my spirits up during the cold winter months, I like to get outside and be active. My favorite place to cross country ski is at Kawartha Nordic, south of Apsley, where 46 km of trails wend their way through the woods and rolling terrain of the Canadian Shield.

Sunlight sparkled on the newly fallen snow when I reached the trails recently after a big snowfall. Retrieving my skis from the car, I spread blue wax along their underside so they would grip where their base touches the snow, while at the same time allowing for gliding — the unique properties of ski wax. I evened out the hard layer with my hand to make it smooth.

The warm-up cabins which had been closed to skiers for the past two years were now finally open again, but I wasn’t sure if I was in good enough shape yet to ski to the Tanney cabin, an 11-km round trip. I thought I’d go at least two-thirds of the way, then see how I felt and turn around if I wasn’t up to the whole distance.

On the groomed, track-set trail, I was getting into the rhythm of the diagonal stride—moving alternate legs and arms forward and double poling on the downward inclines. I wore several light layers as my body built up quite a heat while in motion. One reason I started skiing in the first place was that I liked the feeling of being warm while outside in the cold.

I was surrounded by a winter wonderland befitting a scene from a Christmas card. Stretching as far as the eye could see, the spruce, pine, cedar and hemlock trees looked as if they’d been frosted with marshmallows. Above, I saw wisps of white clouds whisking across the blue sky.

Looking down, I saw animal tracks criss-crossing the path—tiny vole marks beside those made by larger rabbit paws, covered by even larger deer footprints. I looked around to see if there were any animals I’ve spotted here before — beaver, fisher, or deer — but all was still. Even though I couldn’t see them, I knew they’d passed through and were hiding, underground, in burrows or in thickets beneath the trees.

There’s a silence in the woods in winter that is different from other seasons — the white blanket of snow muffles the sounds, creating a magical atmosphere. I think Robert Frost summed it up perfectly in his poem of his, “Stopping by woods on a snowy evening”: “The only other sound’s the sweep of easy wind and downy flake.”

About two-thirds of the way along, I brushed against a low-hanging spruce bough, causing snow crystals to spray over my face. Energized, I decided to challenge myself and go all the way to the cabin.

As I herringboned up the final hill, I saw smoke rising from the snow-covered roof. Leaving my skis on the rack, I felt a blast of heat on my face when I opened the door. I laid my hands on the wood-burning stove, experiencing “hygge” — the Danish word for comfort, especially during winter. I rested on the bench while I ate my lunch. Refreshed in my body and spirit, I readied myself for the mostly downhill ski back.

There’s nothing like the full-body tiredness I feel after a day of skiing. When I got home, I snuggled under a blanket with a good book and a cup of tea — the ultimate cozy “hygge” experience. And because cross-country skiing burns so many calories, I didn’t feel guilty about nibbling on chocolate and shortbread. A good way to break up the bleak mid-winter.

For more information about the Kawartha Nordic cross country and snowshoe trails, please visit www.kawarthanordic.com.


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