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Enjoy the outdoors this winter with tips from Long Islanders who embrace the 'free air life'

The Johansson family, of Smithtown, bond together by hiking. On Tuesday, Dec. 22, they took a walk in Blydenburgh County Park Credit: Newsday / Steve Pfost

Torun Reduto, 78, of St. James, won’t be hibernating indoors this winter like some of her fellow Long Islanders, even when the temperature dips below the 40s. Instead, like her Norwegian ancestors, Reduto plans to enjoy the cold weather according to the philosophy of friluftsliv, which in the Norwegian language translates to "free air life."

"I love the cold; it’s nice and crisp," explains Reduto, who immigrated from Norway at age 8 and grew up to become a past president of the 253-member Sons of Norway Loyal Lodge 252, a cultural organization in St. James.

Daily at 4 p.m., weather permitting, Reduto will be enjoying the free air life sitting at a table in her backyard, sipping hot coffee, munching pastries and imported Gjetost brown goat cheese from a nearby King Kullen, relishing what she calls "the wonderful fresh air."

LIVING FRILUFTSLIV

Friluftsliv, a word coined in the 1850s by the playwright Henrik Ibsen to describe the Nordic passion for going outdoors year-round, is still a popular philosophy more than 150 years later, both in Norway and among Long Islanders of Scandinavian descent. It is one of the reasons Norway regularly tops the World Happiness Report, despite having the longest and darkest winter in Europe, and no direct sunlight from the end of November through January 20, said Harald Hansen, the Norway tourism agency’s public information manager.

"It’s ingrained in us that we want to go out," says Hansen, who explored the free air life by taking winter hikes at the Fire Island National Seashore while he lived in Manhattan for 27 years.

Enjoying the Long Island winter during outdoor adventures is a family tradition for Meredith Johansson, 51, of Smithtown, a preschool director and Girl Scout leader of Norwegian and Swedish extraction. Johansson and her daughter, Kiersten, 17, recently camped on a winter overnight at Hither Hills State Park in Montauk. "We made a fire, toasted s’mores and sat by the fire as long as our eyes stayed open," Johansson says.

Johansson also takes walks in the deep of winter at the Mashomack Preserve on Shelter Island with her husband, Eric, 62, a college professor and former Boy Scout leader, who is of Norwegian, Swedish and Danish descent, who currently serves as the president of the Sons of Norway.

COME PREPARED

The keys to enjoying friluftsliv — on Long Island or in Norway — include dressing and snacking like a Norwegian, experts say.

"If the weather is bad, you dress accordingly, embrace it, enjoy it," Hansen says on a telephone interview from Oslo, Norway.

Neil Kornblatt, the proprietor of Sno Haus ski stores in Hempstead and Huntington Station, agreed, saying, "If you dress properly from head to toe, you can basically fight any weather condition." Kornblatt recommends starting with a pair of wool-based thermal socks, then putting on thin layers of clothing, beginning with a first layer of thermal underwear and adding a cashmere or Norwegian wool sweater. Top off your ensemble with a wool cap. "Fifty percent of our heat goes out through our head," Kornblatt explains.

For internal heat, Norwegians traditionally bring along chocolate and an orange as a winter hike snack, says Anbjorg Knutsson, acting general manager at the Norwegian Seamen’s Church, a Lutheran house of worship and cultural center in Manhattan.

The authentic crispy wafer and chocolate Kvikk Lunsj (Quick Lunch) bars made by the Norwegian company Freia are apparently hard to find on Long Island, but the Kit Kat candy bar sold at Long Island sweet shops is considered a reasonable substitute.

Other popular friluftsliv fortifiers range from a thermos of pea soup to a flask of Aquavit, a Norwegian liquor distilled from potatoes and flavored with herbs and spice, which is available at Long Island liquor stores, at about $25 for a 750 ml bottle.

Says Reduto: "Aquavit is good for the cold."

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