Normally, a home has a wall of windows to bring the outside in. For Frida Waara, it's the opposite. It lures her out. On snowy, starry nights as cold as 30 below, she'll easily bypass a cozy seat in front of her fireplace for a campfire and tent along the frigid Lake Superior shoreline behind her house. "Everything gets better when you're outside," she insists. "Especially in winter."
You can read her beliefs by looking at her. A strong, broad back gives away a lifetime of bending over gripped ski poles -- sometimes she'll downhill in the morning, only to cross-country in the afternoon. Her tousled hair and ruddy complexion indicate an extended relationship with winter winds -- she was even part of the first all-female expedition to the North Pole in 2001. Her eyes light as she points out an absence of jewelry. "Just good gear," she says, and then comes her characteristic bold, easy laugh. It, you could say, points to an openness that allows Frida to try darn near anything. Especially outdoors. Especially during winter.
She first saw the UP during her favorite season on a trip up from lower Michigan. "I said, 'Oh my God, I've never seen so much snow in all my life.' I couldn't imagine living anywhere else," she says.
So she went to Northern Michigan University in Marquette. There she met her husband, Ron, an avid downhill skier and snowmobiler, in a snowball fight. Their first date was on Marquette Mountain. Their kids, Eryka and Ian, traded diapers for skis. Forget Disneyland. During summer vacations, the family has always, always gone in search of snow.
Once, years ago, Eryka complained that her mother acted as if skiing were more important than school. Frida replied that it, in fact, was. "Listen," she told her daughter. "Some of the most precious places in the world, you have to ski to see."
If you're really lucky, though, a fine version of one might also be right in your backyard, constantly calling your name.
Try a UP Adventure
Frida's Ski Spots
Downhill Marquette Mountain. (www.marquettemountain.com)
Cross Country Blueberry Ridge Trails. (www.noquetrails.org)
Three overnight styles
Cushy The Landmark Inn, downtown Marquette. Restored historic hotel. (www.thelandmarkinn.com)
Rugged Harlow Lake Cabins. Outdoor vault toilets, hand pump, wood stove, no electricity. (www.michigan.gov/dnr)
Roughing it McCormick Tract Wilderness Area. Tent camping only. Free. Self-register at trailhead. (www.fs.fed.us/r9/ottawa/recreation/rogs/index.html)
Down Wind Sports,
downtown Marquette. (www.downwindsports.com)
Northern Michigan University Outdoor Recreation in Marquette. (www.nmu.edu/recreation/orcp.html)