For over 30 years Norway native and Utah transplant Tom Cammermeyer has shared his passion for the natural world with younger generations in the mountains of Utah. Founded in 1980, the Norwegian Outdoor Exploration Center (NOEC) has been a platform for Cammermeyer’s teachings on the Norwegian friluftsliv philosophy of interacting with nature.
Though NOEC no longer exists, the Norwegian friluftsliv philosophy lives on through Tom’s commitment to getting into the outdoors. Recently Cammermeyer partnered with White Pine Touring and Jans Mountain Outfitters here in Park City, and will be leading hiking and snowshoeing adventures with the simple goal of strengthening an appreciation of the natural qualities this area has to offer.
What is friluftsliv? Not so much a defined lesson plan as a general guideline for respectful involvement with your natural surroundings, friluftsliv (pronounced free-loofts-leave) translates from Norwegian as free-air-life. The interpretation, however, is more aptly understood as open air living. It is, in Cammermeyer’s words, a way of life based on “living the unselfish and simple life in nature.” The friluftsliv philosophy is not about going out, but rather in and into nature. It is about slowing down and getting in tune with the rhythms of the natural world, and by doing so, getting a little more in tune with ourselves.
During many years of operations in Utah, NOEC shared the lifestyle of friluftsliv with over 18,000 Summit and Wasatch County youths and University of Utah students. Cammermeyer taught a younger generation in the Wasatch Mountains both an appreciation of the surrounding wilderness, and some very practical lessons on safe and responsible ways to enjoy everything the mountains have to offer. From avalanche awareness, to weather preparedness, to the routes we take into the mountains, the best way to safely recreate in the outdoors is by patiently and respectfully gaining an understanding of the unharnessed power of Mother Nature.
More than a lesson for youth, the friluftsliv approach to wilderness recreation is sound philosophy for all of us who live in the mountains. As we enter avalanche season here in Northern Utah, the idea of individual responsibility is of heightened relevance. Respecting the humbling capabilities of the mountains in winter does not entail staying away from the backcountry that we love, but instead takes the form of patience and attentiveness. In true friluftsliv dialogue, Cammermeyer notes that by “being humble in your relationship with the mountains, you will develop a respect for nature, and you will inevitably end up working in better harmony with it. It takes Mother Nature a while to settle after any natural moment. Be patient.”
Even if your involvement with the mountains does not involve potentially life-threatening scenarios or exposure to Mother Nature’s more destructive movements, the friluftsliv philosophy may guide your interactions. The wilderness you choose to enter can take many forms, from the tops of the surrounding mountains, to the peaceful quiet of a wooded trail behind your house. According to Cammermeyer, wherever your adventure takes you, all can “benefit from gaining a respect for the natural world by getting out and experiencing it firsthand.”
In a rare opportunity to experience friluftsliv in action with a man who has dedicated his life to patiently and attentively interacting with nature, join Tom and White Pine Touring for a hike into the mountains, a snow shoe trek, or simply a walk-about in the quiet of the woods. Slow down, simplify, and take the time to be in tune. It is the true form of personal responsibility in the backcountry to get in tune with our surroundings.
Nate Tomlinson, Content Writer