Streetlamp Lucozade (orange_fell) wrote in little_details,
Streetlamp Lucozade

[ANON POST] Medieval Winter Travel

Part of the plot in my story revolves around the fact that my characters really need to travel to a specific place - but they live in a very snowy, northern climate, and when the story opens winter is already closing in. To make matters worse, there's a mountain range between them and their intended destination, which they can theoretically travel around but will make travel time that much longer.

All of this is based on my own personal experience of walking in the snow, on something I read once that claimed many medieval European villages more or less shut down and hibernated in the winter, and on the knowledge that military campaigns pretty much took the winter off back in the day. What I am really looking for, however, are specifics. How did people actually get around in the winter during the High Middle Ages (1000-1300)? Sledges? Nordic skiing? Was there any kind of system for keeping roads clear of snow? How deep does snow have to get before traveling on horseback, or by horse-drawn sleigh, is impractical?

I've done a lot of googling ("medieval winter travel," "winter travel middle ages," "winter horseback riding," "history of Nordic skiing," etc). Found some fun and interesting stuff, including an article about what it would take for Robin-Hood-esque outlaws to survive Sherwood Forest in the winter, but nothing about the large-scale effects of winter on medieval infrastructure in northern Europe.

Any help or personal anecdotes would be appreciated!
Tags: 1000-1099, 1100-1199, 1200-1299, ~animals: horses, ~middle ages, ~travel: pre-modern overland

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