Snow is something more than frozen water to the Sami people. It’s a way of expressing the foundation of their existence – the migration of the reindeer. To a skier, snow is also more than snow. It’s the way you experience life.
It was the best skiing of the season. From the top of the chairlift and down to the forest line the snow was deep as a ski boot and completely virgin. But how would you define ‘the best skiing of the season’, more precisely? As far as I’m concerned, the answer is a given: snow! Or muohta, as the Sami say back home in the Lulesami dialect. You can be staying in a good ski resort or a bad one. You can have good weather or miserable weather. You can have sharp edges or blunt ones… In short: a good or a bad day. What will decide whether your skiing is good or not is the snow? But to the Sami, as well as the skiers, good snow means different things on different days. But good muohta always means good jådåt, that is: good skiing conditions and good skiing.
People say that the Sami have more than two hundred words for snow, but what they actually have are two hundred words describing the quality and condition of the snow – it’s soul.
People say that the Sami have more than two hundred words for snow, but what they actually have are two hundred words describing the quality and condition of the snow – it’s soul. The holy grail we call powder is habllek in Sami. A frozen crust is called sabekguottát. What this means, more precisely, is a frozen crust that just about carries your skis, but breaks if you have to do anything else, like making a turn. We avoid sabekguottát. There is no word for artificial snow in Sami. Because just like Inuits have 20 words or more for snow and no word for war, the Sami have no time for such modern follies.