EXT MORNING, the sky had cleared. Kenth Fjellborg, the proprietor of Fjellborg Arctic Lodge, showed up on a snowmobile, and as Espen had done with the sleds, he kept it simple. “This is your machine. Here is the ignition, the throttle, the brake. Keep your feet tucked in here in case you tip over.” Big smile. “Let’s go!”
Kenth is a master dogsledder and a consummate storyteller. At age 19, he apprenticed under the legendary dogsledder Joe Runyan, in Alaska. Kenth ran the Iditarod in 1994—about 1,600 kilometers through Arctic Alaska— and finished in the top 20. In 2006, he guided Prince Albert II of Monaco to the North Pole. Kenth’s family has lived in the area for nine generations, and it’s second nature for him to make camp at 30 below. I asked him what he did in his free time. “Moose hunting. It’s my Arctic-male version of yoga.”
Off we went. The forest shimmered with rime, and the trees cast shadows that were long and blue. We throttled out of the woods onto the white expanse of the lake, where two reindeer were sunbathing. We zoomed onto the river Torne and along a well-beaten track marked with storm poles. Our faces froze, our eyes squinted against the blast. There was Kenth’s village, Poikkijärvi, just a string of small houses along the southern bank.
Across the river was the hamlet of Jukkasjärvi, home to the Ice Hotel, the famous hotel that melts every spring and is rebuilt every autumn, when artists from all over the world come to each carve one of the dozens of rooms. There is an ice bed with a reindeer skin inside each of these ice sculptures—essentially an ice cave with a steady temperature of around minus 5° C.
Kim and I walked into a room with a bunch of ice sheep jumping over an ice fence, their fluffy wool made of thousands of little ice balls stuck together. We laughed. The artist, Luca Roncoroni, said he created it so that guests who were worried about sleeping in subzero temperatures could count the sheep and fall asleep more easily.
In the Ice Bar, we sipped elderberry juice from ice glasses, then drove back as night overtook the forest. Above us, stars began to glitter like ice chips. It got seriously cold. As the machine surged, and my cheeks burned with frost, I felt a profound sense of glee.
That night, no aurora. The next morning I woke very early to see if I could catch it. The Swedes have a name for the polar twilight, usually at its most pronounced around dusk, when the long shadows merge. They call it blå timmen, the blue hour. At dawn, as I stepped out of the cabin and walked to the edge of the lake,