Monday, 23 February 2009

Out On Thin Ice – Swedish Style

While winter seems to be finally upon us we can never be too sure how long these colder temperatures will last. If anything can be said about the weather in Stockholm these days it is that it is unreliable. Gone are the cold winters of yesteryear, the mounds of snow and the ever-reliable Vikingarännet – the skating competition that once ran from Uppsala to Stockholm every year around about my birthday. There is no longer any guarantee that the ice will be thick enough for the 100s who compete.I share this Swedish love of ice-skating and as soon as my kids are old enough I am going to have them out there on cross-country skates gliding around on the lakes. I haven’t done a whole lot of it and at this stage would only go out on an organised tour. The thought of going through the ice is more than scary and the possibility very real. I may not know anyone who has been attacked by a shark but I do know those who have gone through the ice. Not all lived to tell the tale.
If you want to do more than skate on your little local lake that at times might have half a metre of ice, and like me you do not have the knowledge, experience or courage (stupidity?) to head out in a private group then organisations like Friluftsfränjandet or Alliansen are your answer. There are also a number of other organisations around the country dedicated to cross-country skating.
Friluftsfrämjandet is membership based with local groups all over Sweden. They offer a range of activities such as family days, courses and longer tours - and that is just a few of their winter activities. Alliansen is a local organisation, part of Friluftsfrämjande, for the hard-core skaters. They offer courses for beginners to tour leaders as well as guided or leader-led tours for members. Their site is a wealth of skating resources such as where there are ploughed tracks (a nice smooth track on the open ice), information on how to get out if you fall in, an equipment guide, as well as general ice information. Unfortunately it is all only available in Swedish so you might need some help with this one.

It is a fantastic way to enjoy winter in Sweden. If you are not yet convinced, watch this film. I am heading down the cellar to get out my skates and dust them off before it is too late!

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