The White Ribbon - 9 Weeks ‘Indulgence’ on Skis
"I have come up with a plan A, but the one thing I know is that it will change." 1300 km alone on skis is not for everyone. But Sara Wänseth, who has just completed her term as Secretary General of the Scandinavian Outdoor Group, is looking forward to the challenge. Finally, she has the time, desire and opportunity to take that ski trip that, according to plan, will take about two months.
After almost 20 years of working in the outdoor industry, it’s time for Sara to put all the outdoor products she has worked with for so many years to the test. For real. And herself too, of course. On February 11th she starts her adventure at Grövelsjön, and nine weeks later, on Good Friday, she will lay her hand on the yellow lump of concrete at the Three-Country Cairn. If everything goes according to plan A, which she already knows that it won’t.
Mad about nature
Sara lives in Jämtland and has been a ‘jämte’ ever since she was a kid. The interest in the outdoors is something she was born with, just like the love for nature. “I get a little panicky and feel restless on days when I don’t get to come out. Luckily I have two dogs, so no matter what my day looks like and no matter the weather, I have to go out for a couple of hours every day. I almost always enjoy the outdoors, I get the recovery I really need, and a feeling of freedom. Also, I feel good when I’m active.”
Ready and up for the challenge
The White and Green Ribbon means that you go from Grövelsjön in Dalarna to Three-Country Cairn in Lapland, or vice versa, completely on your own. The journey must be carried out as a continuous tour without longer breaks or outside help. It’s called the White Ribbon in the winter and the Green Ribbon in the summer, it simply refers to the color of nature when the route takes place.
Sara has spent many nights in tents during her time as project manager for JOE (Jämtland Outdoor Experience) where outdoor brands, including Lundhags, bring retailers to the Jämtland mountains to learn more about their products and outdoor life. In other respects, however, she has only done solo tours in summer and weekly tours in winter, so for her both the tough distance and the long solitude will be new challenges to handle. Not to mention what the weather might do.
How have you planned the route?
“I plan to ski about 25 km every day, with the exception of some planned days of rest, when I’ll pick up food and other things, or shop for the next stage. But, since I will be traveling alone, I plan to have a slightly larger margin and rather stay in the tent/cottage and take an extra day off if the weather becomes too challenging.
And the planned 25 kilometers will sometimes be significantly less. On the days when the snow sticks under the skis, or if I have to pulse in deep snow, or when I have a day with 800 meters uphill. And on other days I might go 40 km, especially when I have been skiing for a while.”
Why do you want to complete the White Ribbon?
“I have worked in the outdoor industry for almost 20 years, including three years as marketing manager at Lundhags. Now I have completed all assignments and have the time and opportunity to complete the White Ribbon. Now I get to test all the outdoor stuff I have worked around for so many years.
I see it as a wonderful and exciting challenge, mixed with adventure and unforeseen events. A great experience that I look forward to. Imagine being able to be outdoors for nine weeks and ski exactly where you want!”
What does nature mean to you?
"Recovery. Happiness. Freedom. I have a great need for open spaces. I love the wilderness and perhaps, above all, the mountains. I like it best outdoors. I am not extreme in any way but I am often and happily out in nature, by myself, or with friends. I hike, ski, fish, set up my tent or just go for a short walk with my two dogs. It's easy here (Jämtland) when I can take the skis from the door.”
What challenges would you say you face?
"I am convinced that it will be a physical challenge, of course. It will be incredibly hard, but other days fun and easy. I am also aware that the tour will be a mental challenge. To be alone for so long, to perhaps get bored during diligent skiing, to solve all problems by myself. To cope with small and big setbacks without giving up. I’m sure that I’ll both cry and swear, a lot.
A small challenge for me will also be to not stress or be in too much of a hurry. Not to see it as a competition, which of course it’s not… To enjoy nature and take time for an extra day of rest when needed. Lay in the sled and catch some sun for a couple of hours, or take time to meet interesting people during the trip.”
What are you looking forward to the most/the least during the tour?
“I look forward to the challenge, the unforeseen adventure. The thought of going 1300 km all on my own, along the entire Swedish mountain range is powerful. I picture white expanses, blue skies, fast skis, wonderful evenings in the tent with kitchen, and fixing with equipment. And a lot of chocolate.
But, I know that there will be hard days with snowstorms, low temperatures, loneliness and lots of meters uphill. I think I tremble for the cold the most. I see myself skiing a whole day, and I’m so tired, cold and hungry, and I have to get the tent up. Cold fingers, that icy cold in my body before I’ve changed my undergarment, have had some food and can relax.”
Sara’s tips for tough trips
- Don’t rush. Make sure you have time to fully enjoy the experience, and be patient and stay calm and methodical when adversity and problems arise.
- Prepare mentally. Imagine what problems you might have to face and think about how to overcome them.
- Bring good equipment. It’s vital that things work, especially during a winter trip. And make sure you test the equipment beforehand, of course.
- Prepare physically to cope with long days of movement. Before a route of this type (long distance during winter), it’s important to practice skiing with a sled and pulling about 30 kg, so that the muscles and body get used to it.
We look forward to following Sara's adventure! You can too, on our Instagram!