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Column By Kaare Askildt Formerly known as The Farmer in Training

One of Merriam Webster Dictionary’s definitions of winter is “period of inactivity or decay.” That’s very descriptive for most of the human race, as we lay on the couch and fall apart! The word “winter” comes from an old Germanic word that means "time of water" and refers to the rain and snow, as well as low temperatures of the season. However, in defiance of the definition, we should all be active during the cold and snowy days of winter, unless you do like W.C. Fields and lay on the couch until the urge of being active goes away.

There are words that we associate with the winter months, such as “dormant” which could be describing some people (reference W.C. Fields), but it usually refers to plants, seeds and some animals. “Hibernate” is another winter word, especially referring to bears, but could also describe some humans (reference W.C. Fields). According to Noah Webster, the word was first used in 1802 by Erasmus Darwin, grandfather of Charles Darwin, probably while Erasmus was stretched out on the couch during a cold January.

The word “ice” was initially associated with winter, but is now also used to cool the drinks of those that are hibernating. However, skating is usually done on the “ice,” but if you are skating away from authority, or skating on thin ice then you are in trouble. The word “skate” was originally plural and comes from the Dutch “schaats.” The word appeared in the English language in the mid-17th century.

Various sports are played on the ice, and Canadians usually excel in these sports. Hockey for example has been around for hundreds of years, and it takes good skating skills as well as puck handling to be on top of this game. Somebody ought to tell that to the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Canadian Junior Hockey Team. Canadians have always featured prominently in figure skating, and also harvested some precious metal in speed skating.

Of course the word “snow” which appeared in the English language around the year 1200, is what we mostly associate with winter. Snow might be revered by skiers and cursed by homeowners and janitors. Children love it and play in it. Husbands take their families to ski resorts, or they participate in one of the distances in the Canadian Birkebeiner cross-country skiing event, which is a re-enactment of two Vikings skiing an infant prince 55km over two mountain ranges in Norway to save his life. The Canadian version was Brian Peters’ brain child. He involved a group of dedicated individuals to ensure success and I obtained permission from the Norwegian Birkebeiner organization and we re-created the event here. Visit the website:

The word “ski” is an old Viking word that became part of the English language by the year 1755, and skis were used by several expeditions to the arctic areas of the globe. There are various forms of skiing, the original being what we today call cross-country skiing. The first ever competition held on skis was actually a biathlon. It was a contest for testing the skills of both skiing and shooting by the Norwegian and Swedish Royal Guards, it took place in Stockholm, Sweden and the Norwegians were declared the winners. The Norwegian farmer Sondre Norheim introduced skis with camber and side cut, as well as a toe-and-heel binding. He performed a Telemark style skiing demonstration for the Royal House in Christiania (now Oslo), Norway in January of 1845, and from this new equipment grew the sports of slalom and downhill.

Luge is another “old” sport which grew from sledding or tobogganing down a steep mountainside. The first ever “sled” race down a mountainside was recorded in Norway in the 15th century. In luge the competitor lays on his back with his feet first and the head at the rear on a small flimsy sled and he slides down an icy chute at speeds that at times exceeds 100 mph! Not me! I’ll lay on my back on my comfortable couch and go nowhere! In skeleton, the sled is smaller, lighter and faster. It is where the racer lays on the stomach sliding down the icy chute head first!

Skiing season is upon us, and here are some tips for the downhillers to get in shape:

10. Visit your local butcher and pay $30 to sit in the walk-in freezer for an hour. Then burn two $50 dollar bills to warm up.

9. Go to the nearest hockey rink and walk across the ice 20 times in your leather-soled street shoes carrying two pairs of skis, an accessory bag and poles and keep dropping your car keys.

8. For ski boot simulation, put a pebble in your street shoes and tighten a C-clamp around your toes.

7. Buy a pair of gloves and immediately throw one away.

6. Buy another pair of gloves, soak them in water and chill them in the freezer for two hours before putting them on. Repeat the process often.

5. Clip a lift ticket to the zipper of your jacket and ride a motorcycle fast enough to make the ticket lacerate your face.

4. Drive slowly for five hours in a snowstorm behind an 18-wheeler.

3. Fill a blender with ice, hit the pulse button and let the spray blast your face for conditioning.

2. Dress up in as many layers of clothes as you can and then run ice-cold water on your fingers to stiffen them before you start taking the clothes off again.

1. Repeat all of the above every Saturday and Sunday.

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