How about hiking with snowshoes under the Midnight Sun in June? It’s not impossible. In the Arjeplog mountains, the snow is still there most of the summer.

“It’s so easy to walk with snowshoes! It was really much easier than I could imagine,” says Maria Marklund, who has just tried a walk in the Arjeplog mountains. Even better, she was hiking on her home mountain, Tjeäksá, in brilliant sunshine.

“This is actually a fantastic alternative to skiing and snowmobiling.”

Snowshoeing is on the increase in many places in the world, mostly in the northern states of the USA and Canada and in the Alps. In France snowshoeing is the second biggest winter sport after downhill skiing. Italy has a sprint race every year with 6,000 entrants. Sweden holds a snowshoe championship, and more and more people are testing this new way to get out into the terrain. People with snowshoes are coming to the Arjeplog mountains in increasing numbers, winter and summer alike.

One of the advantages is that there is no need for any instruction before you can walk, no need for ski wax, the foothold is good, with big cleats to grip the surface, and because you have a loose heel it is just like walking in ordinary – somewhat wider – shoes.

Several people who take part in this winter’s Top of Arjeplog used snowshoes to cover the last part up to the longed-for summit. The point of the competition is to reach ten winter summits, which most people do with skis, but the alternative of snowshoes is attracting more and more people who perhaps don’t feel secure skiing fast downhill.

In Sweden, there is one enthusiast promoting the sport. Sixteen years ago Bengt Klingheim, from Kristianstad, tested snowshoes for the first time in the Alps. His daughter had got a job with a company in France that manufactured them.

“It was a glorious feeling! I decided to try to launch snowshoes in Sweden,” he says.

“It hasn’t been easy, at least not at first. In the first year we sold 200 pairs, but now it’s 4,000, and if you add the others who sell snowshoes, there’s definitely a new trend. Something is happening on the hiking front.”

He has just come from Idre where he was with a group who took a moonlight walk in snowshoes.

“It was a marvellous feeling to walk with a headlamp and simultaneously have the full moon in a snowy landscape.”

Snowshoes go back a long way. When Olaus Magnus, in his Carta marina from 1539, illustrated the Nordic peoples with a story of a horse and a man with snowshoes, he explained in the German legend to the map that:

“Hie binde die leut under ihn und der rosser fuesse braite taffel uie ain schayblicher schildt das sy nit im schne undergeen”.

Which means that people tie “broad tablets” (snowshoes) under their own and their horses’ feet so as not to sink in the snow. The historian Dick Harrison has written about this in a column where he wonders if it might actually have been snowshoes, not skis, that King Gustav Vasa used on that famous journey in 1520, which later became the model for the Vasa Race.

In Scandinavia snowshoes were known as trygor or skarbågar and were mostly used by forestry workers. People could also put these trugor – as they say in Arjeplog – on horses to make it easier to get around in the snow. In America, the Native Americans were early in using snowshoes.

Today’s snowshoes take their shape from that long, narrow type which is slightly upturned at the front. When the Europeans came to America they too started to use snowshoes, which were especially popular among fur trappers.

Maria Marklund grew up in Gautosjö and lives in Skellefteå today. She is often in Laisdalen, especially for the hunting. She had never tried snowshoes until this winter.

Together with her husband Lars Nilsson and daughter Wilma, age 10, they went on a hike and all were surprised that it was so easy.

“It’s so easy to walk with snowshoes! It was really much easier than I could imagine,” she says.

“This is actually a fantastic alternative to skiing and snowmobiling. In view of how difficult it can be on skis in snowy mountain terrain, this can be the solution if you want to get out, both summer and winter.”

Learn more
Snowshoeing is a form of hiking. The snowshoes distribute the weight of the person over a larger area so that your foot doesn’t sink through the snow. To learn more about hiking with snowshoes under the Midnight Sun, go to silverresort.se.

At Kraja in Arjeplog there is a firm called Experience that rents snowshoes and arranges tours with a guide.

“We hope that more and more people will discover snowshoeing. Even if it isn’t the main reason for coming here, it’s fun to give it a try,” says Joakim Armgren.

For experience, the main thing is snowmobiling in the winter, but Joakim Armgren thinks that the shortage of snow in the world will attract more people to test new ways to experience the Arctic climate.

“Snow is unique and so natural those who live here that we forget how exclusive it is. I can especially picture snowshoeing in the midnight sun. It’s definitely unusual to be able to use every hour of the day during the summer.”

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