Flying on the Ice: Nordic Skating in Sweden

Nordic skating in Sweden

Every year, there is a short window of time when the temperatures drop and before the snow begins to fall. This is the perfect in-between season: the time of year to search for the perfect black ice. Nordic skating is surely one of closest feelings you can come to flying. Nordic skates are a mix between normal ice skates and cross-country skis. With an extra-long length blade, they are made for natural ice and they allow you to fly over rough ice and cover long distances in a day. 

The season begins when the small inland lakes begin to freeze over, and this is the best time for Nordic Skating. This is when you can start to get your skates sharpened and all your equipment in order. Its important to always have proper safety equipment including a throw rope, ice picks to get out when you fall through, and most importantly a backpack with a change of dry clothes. When the ice is still only a few centimeters thick it bends and flows with any wind instead of cracking. These conditions can lead to the dreamed of perfect black ice where the ice is mirror-smooth. As fall began to turn to winter this year, I had a hectic few weeks trying to search out all the best lakes in the area for skating. Early season skating when the ice is still thin, however, has its risks and it’s important to always be prepared to fall through the ice. It’s great to practice falling through and getting out of the ice so you know how to react when it happens unexpectedly.

A group of friends nordic skating in Sweden

As the season continues, more lakes start to freeze over, and it opens up a whole world of exploration to find out what lakes are good for skating. Towards the middle of November this fall, we went to a lake with a perfect little island right in the middle and skated out to set up camp. With the short days the moon came up early and after we got the tent set up we set out to skate around the frozen lake under the stars. The next morning, we awoke to snow in the air and the end of the inland lake skating season. 

In Umeå, just as in Northern Wisconsin, the lake ice soon becomes covered by a blanket of snow, making skating hard. However, the Umeå river runs straight through town and freezes slightly later than the lakes and can break up and refreeze several times throughout the year. This can lead to fabulous skating tours setting out from the city and skating a 40 mile or so route through the river delta, exploring through all the different inlets and channels, before coming out to the sea. Much of the river delta is a protected nature reserve and so is a great spot for wildlife and bird spotting while skating by. Of course, a stop for coffee and cinnamon buns is a must. 

The last water body to freeze over in the area is the Baltic Sea. Sea skating is an amazing feeling with the freedom to go an incredible distance on wide-open ice. Outside of Umeå is an archipelago of islands that make for the perfect skating destination. One of the best tours this year was when a friend and I went out one afternoon to do a 35-mile loop through the inner islands. As we skated out towards the open sea we passed by an area full of grand historic houses where the timber barons used to live during the first logging frontier to come through the area. Now they have been converted into historic sites and the beautiful sweeping docks going out into the water made for a great spot for a coffee break before heading out towards the sunset. Because of the salt content, sea ice is much softer than lake ice and that combined with the wind coming into the coast can break up the ice into large chunks that can still be several feet thick and plenty strong enough to walk in. This made it a bit like a hopscotch game jumping between chunks of ice and making it out to the open water. Here we were treated to a simply fantastic sunset. 

Ice ridges on a lake near Umea, 

As spring is nearly upon us now the ice has finally broken up for the year and blown out to sea. It’s time to pack away the skates, put storage wax on the skis, and get ready for a great summer of bike riding. The amazing thing about seasons is that you always have a new sport right around the corner to look forward to.    

Interested in more on Nordic Skating? Check the video below!