Sparks fly across Norway
The Norwegian spark (kicksled) is an efficient and fun mode of transportation during the winter months
By Line Grundstad Hanke
Growing up in Norway, we used the sparkstøtting or spark as we called it, during the winter time for transportation. I have fond memories from my first child-sized spark – I put my dolls on the seat and went kicking it around my neighborhood with friends. All my friends had a spark, and it worked well when we went ice skating on the frozen Oslo fjord. The daring thing to do was to line them all up like a train and go fast down the hill, something that always resulted in a big fall and lots of laughter. My mother used an adult-sized spark to go to the grocery store and I was resting on the seat holding on to groceries on the way home.
The first known history of the spark is from Piteå, located in northern Sweden, in 1872. It came over to Norway at the turn of the 20th century. Aschehoug’s lexicon from 1925 describes the spark as eagerly used by youth. The spark was made by bygdesmeder (village smithshops) until 1930, and then a few factories took over the industrialization of the spark.
The kicksled is driven forward by the driver standing on one runner, kicking backwards on the ground with the other foot, hence the name. The flexibility of the runners allows the driver to steer the kicksled by twisting the handlebars. One can have a passenger or luggage on the chair seat. The kicksled can also be used as a dog sled.
We still see the spark today in Norway, Sweden and Finland. It is ideal on new, compacted snow or on the ice, but in the cities, ideal spark conditions disappear rapidly due to heavy traffic, snow plowing and salting on the roads and sidewalks. With its excellent handling on the ice, it is often used for ice fishing.
The spark has sold very well this season due to a cold, snowy winter – sales increased by 60 percent from last year and many sports stores have sold out already. Norax at Tynset is one of the sparkstøtting factories in Norway, and they cannot keep up with the growing demand for more deliveries to the stores.
Fun facts about the spark
- The Nansen spark is the only product that polar explorer and humanitarian Fridtjof Nansen personally gave permission to carry his name.
- In Geilo, the Spark World Cup has been held annually for 30 years at the end of January, drawing 500 competitors from different countries. For more information, visit www.geilo.no/spark.
What is your experience with a spark? Write to us at Norwegian American Weekly, 7301 5th Ave NE Ste. A, Seattle WA 98115, or email email@example.com. We would love to hear from you!
This article was originally published in the Jan. 21, 2011 issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. For more information about the Norwegian American Weekly or to subscribe, call us toll free (800) 305-0217 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.