Holiday On Ice – The Real Thing
Mid January. Light is returning: it’s dawning around 8:30 now, but even if the sun keeps shining the next seven hours, it doesn’t yet provide any warmth to my face. The foot deep snow we had before Christmas disappeared before New Year’s Eve, and the ground lies barren, frozen a second time.
The sunshine over the lake is reflected in the shiny ice cover and makes me squint and smile. A week ago, the ice was covered with an ich of water from the snow that had melted away. Now it’s an even, polished blue-black surface that reflects the sunlight with eye-hurting intensity. I want to get out there, on skates with a backpack full of inflated plastic bags, a thermos flask with coffee and a few cinnamon rolls or sandwiches. And my trusty, unfailing partner Ziggy lightly trotting by my side!
Lake Vänern is large – if it wasn’t for the channels held open by the iceboats, you could skate about 100 km in a straight line to the opposite shore – theoretically, that is. In reality, it wouldn’t be a good idea, since you would probably encounter areas with weak ice and “wind wells”, even if the ice where you start is 30 cm thick and safe for a car, or a truck.
But before I can even think of getting out on the lake itself, I need to have Ziggy re-trained. The first tours have to be short and slow, allowing him to adjust his gait to running on ice. And I might need some training too. We’ll have to do the refreshment on a mile-and-a-half-long pre-prepared loop on one of the bays close to town, no more than two laps the first day, then three, and so on. Ziggy loves it and barks of pure joy when we approch the ice. But running on the slippery surface will strain muscles he hasn’t used much since last year. He’ll be awfully sore the next 24 hours, with hurting muscles and joints. But the soreness will be gone next day – dogs recover amazingly fast! And remembering last year’s ice outings, he’ll get hang of the technique pretty fast, soon covering distance in a fast and steady trot.
But we won’t try to cross lake Vänern when we’re ready, instead we’ll settle for shorter tours between the islands, avoiding places where creeks run out, known shallows, and capes, where the ice always is thinner. Still there’s always a risk: there are lots of shallows I don’t know about… That’s why my backpack is full of inflated plastic bags, to keep me afloat if the ice should break. The iceprods on my chest will enable me to get back up, and I have dry clothes in some of the plastic bags. And this year, I’ll buy a life vest for Ziggy, with a handle on the backside, just in case. We’ll be prepared, in many ways.
On the lake, all troubles are forgotten. The wind carries me forward effortlessly, and I don’t bother to worry about the struggle in the opposite direction. I’ll take a break for fika on a distant island, and, of course, there will also be a sausage for Ziggy.
What if? What if we get lots of snow next week? Well… there are things like skis. Cross-country. Different, but similar.
Tried Nordic skates? It’s fun, and easy to learn! Nordic skates are low and long, extending in front of and back of your foot. They’re made for high speed over frozen lakes, not suitable for tight turns. But be careful – don’t try this on unknown waters without the correct equipment and most important of all, an experienced companion who knows…
Socks aren’t usually something I consider important. I don’t really think about them and therefore they don’t usually match.
In Sweden, winter Swedish socks are important obviously during the cold winters.
But sock style in Sweden is important and is something that should be considered with every outfit. Because most likely, at some point, you will need to take off your shoes.
For example, I was dressed up for a very important job interview in December. I took careful care to dress professionally. And when I got there, I needed to take off my shoes.
These are the socks I had on.
Another example is a party I went to all dressed up…
I forgot to remember to wear cute socks…
Flash forward to Bozeman, Montana. Socks are no longer an issue. Most people wear shoes in doors. Yep, they do not take off their shoes at all!
Suddenly socks are no longer so important. Which is good, because I never got used to remembering to pay attention to my socks!
So far there has been no recorded snowfall in Sweden. For Norrland, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t white! Over the weekend the temperature dropped below 0C multiple times. And with the mist in the air, what did we get? Frost, everywhere! It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. I don’t think words can do it justice, so I will simply stop writing, and start uploading the pictures I took. HD images will be available on the SwedishFreak Fan page on Facebook, as well as images not posted here. Enjoy!
Winter Wonderland without Snow
All I can say is that nature is beautiful! And it is no different here in Sweden.
So last year I was a wimp, and ran away for all of November and February, the “worse” months in Norrland, at least according to a few Swedes that live here. Last year we had lasting snow from October 15th. This year? No snowfall yet! Which I have to say, makes the fall a little more bearable. It is still warm out (around 3C, or 37F). Oh, and I mean warm as in not -40C/-40F Long underwear is needed, but I find myself that I can overdress a bit. Which is always a nice surprise in the winter.
So what is the hardest part? The darkness! I find myself exhausted at 5pm. It feels like 10pm. I’m hungry by 3pm. What gives? Well, we are loosing the sun, and quickly! It is weird, because if you actually measure the time the sun is in the sky, it isn’t so bad. But then you remember that 2 of those hours are sunset, and you realize that the sun is going bye-bye for the winter. And without the snow to reflect the light, it seems so much darker!
An example? Today we had a fabulous sunset. At 3:47pm. And it this is only the beginning.
A full winter in Norrland. I will survive?