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Sparkstøtting: Norwegian Winter Transportation

January 9, 2011

Because I chose to study abroad in Norway, I knew that I could expect a snowy, wintry climate not unlike the one I left back in Wisconsin. However, I did not know how winter would be different in Bø. Over the course of the week, I learned one key detail that makes Norwegians different from Wisconsinites. When it snows in Wisconsin, large plow trucks will work day and night (in the cities) to clear the the roads and spread salt or sand. People drive trucks or vehicles with all-wheel-drive, and they use whatever resources possible to work against the snow.

This is not the case in Bø. In Norway, they cohabit with the snow. The snow is a part of everyday life, and they don’t fight it. Although they do have tractors that occasionally plow the roads and sidewalks, they do not do it with the same urgency felt by Americans during a snowstorm. There has been a continuous downpour of snow since my arrival last Tuesday, and the roads and sidewalks are deep in fluffy, white powder. This makes walking quite difficult since the paths are rarely plowed. Thus, Norwegians make use of skis, and a unique form of transportation called a sparkstøtting. 

A “spark” is a kick sled used by many Scandinavians as a convenient way of getting around town. Since many of the sidewalks and bicycle paths are difficult to tread through without snowshoes, these kick sleds (much like a scooter sledge) allows people to get from point A to point B by just gliding across the snow. I do not know how common it is for the average Norwegian to own one of these, but I have seen some older women take them to the grocery store.

Driving during the winter in Norway is also unique. The Norwegians speed down the icy roads faster than anyone I’ve ever seen drive in the states. I have not seen any car accidents, despite the winding slippery, steep roads that carve their way through the mountains here in Bø. In Wisconsin, snowy days tend to make for slower traffic and more car accidents, but that is not the case here. Everyone drives quickly and expertly. However, there is less traffic in general in Bø due to the small population, but their driving skills show how unaffected they are by snowy conditions. The Norwegians don’t see this form of precipitation as something to “clear up” and deal with. The snow is just there. And so are the people.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Mary Kay permalink
    January 9, 2011 5:38 pm

    I want John to push me around in one of those little sleds! Could the cars all have all-wheel drive?

  2. Mom permalink
    January 9, 2011 6:50 pm

    I’d love to have one! I could see myself pulling into Wal or IGA on my spark!

  3. Terje permalink
    January 10, 2011 10:59 pm

    This is rubbish! Stay longer and you will discover Norwegian roads are cleared of snow and ice more efficiently than in any other European country, and better than in most US states. In fact most Norwegians do not have a 4WD. They don’t need it. Also in Norway you will almost never experience closed schools or public institutions because of the weather, although weather conditions often will be what elsewhere is described as severe. A few years ago we had one meter (40 inches) of snow falling in 24 hours, and the next day everything worked almost as normal. But you are right about the “sparkstøtting”. It is a convenient way of getting around, although it is no more as common as when I grew up in the 50s and 60s.

    • January 11, 2011 12:43 am

      Thank you for your feedback, but many people can attest to the fact that the roads in Bø are not quite cleared. I know it is possible that they are cleared quite quickly in cities like Oslo and Bergen.

  4. Leila Lucero permalink
    January 11, 2011 6:21 pm

    Hi Lisa, I’m friends with your mom here at work and also friends with Kate’s mom, Diane. Guess there are some adjustments to make as you’ve posted, but the adventure is well worth it. My daughter spent some time in Spain and went back a second time and wouldn’t mind living there. She loved it. Take care and we’ll keep checking your blog.

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