One of the many things that we enjoy is the fact that in the North, snow is around for about eight months of the year. Another true fact is that it gets damn cold, yet it is an important time for people of the north. I happen to like using snowmobiles, zooming around town, going out to check snares or traps and picking off ptarmigan with my trusty .22 (some guys cheat and use shotguns). Still, winter lovers are balanced by the ones who cannot stand the cold or short daylight hours, usually spent indoors in front of the boob tube or computer.
Why is it an important time? Well, for one thing, you don’t need roads to get where you want, as the entire territory is accessible by snowmobile (for the lazy ones like me) or by snowshoe (for those who still have the stamina and the muscles to boot). Tracks of animals are a lot easier to see and to establish their whereabouts, making our traditional foods easier to find.
Kids seem to really like playing shinny on the road or sliding downhill at breakneck speed, causing parents to scream at them until they are hoarse from the cold dry air. Sometimes it gets so cold, that the exhaust expelled from your lungs immediately freezes into ice crystals and falls to the ground, but I have yet to witness that phenomenon.
However, one of the biggest thrills is to get on a snow machine and travel wherever you want. In Quebec, snow trails are made for the rookie rider throughout the province, extending as far as James Bay communities. Only one problem with that scenario is that you have to comply with laws and regulations to even use the well groomed trails or face fines and some form of punishment. Many of our people do not use helmets, since they are considered to be more of a hindrance rather than a safety mechanism. I don’t bother with helmets as I am naturally hard headed and can take crashes up to 100 kilometres per hour, as long as there is snow to soften the blow, I’ll be okay.
Skiing is another sport that southerners partake in, usually either in the Laurentians or the Himalayas, but donning skis to get around is a rarity up here, usually carried out by skin tight clad goggled humans, who seem to make the sport an easy exercise. But I understand that it takes nearly all your muscles, so I guess that for me, that would mean I would probably last a few metres of exhausting effort.
I understand that at the time of this writing, Montreal is enjoying a balmy plus 13, while we still chatter the teeth and ache the bones until spring comes around again. Our brethren cousins, the Inuit, have many, many words for snow. But I have only three: white, cold and yellow, the latter created only by the brave. On many occasions, life in winter is an enjoyable one, and after the last snowfall, it’s like someone came by with a broom and swept away all signs of human activity, leaving only a pristine view worthy of the best postcard in the world. This is the life we love and winter can be taken with either aspirin or hot toddy to ward off the cold or flu, depending on your taste or doctor. I prefer both. Where else in the world can you say (with pride) that I’m going for a snowmobile ride in June?