Introduction in English
The Stockholm Ice Skate Sailing Association
(The Stockholm Ice Skate Sailing and Touring Club)
Stockholms skridskoseglarklubb, SSSK, founded in 1901, is the largest and oldest skating association in Scandinavia and the largest skating organization outside The Netherlands. It has about 13,000 members. In the beginning, ice skate sailing dominated, but today tour skating is the main activity. Each week a large number of tours of between 30 and 100 kilometers are organized for the members.
Tour skating on ice (in Swedish "långfärdsskridskoåkning") is now a popular sport in Sweden. Maybe the best conditions in the world are those found around Stockholm with a considerable number of both large and small lakes plus the extensive nearby archipelago in the Baltic Sea. The smallest lakes may freeze normally in November, although the main season usually starts in December and lasts until March or April. Snow is not a major problem in this part of Sweden because in cold periods there are often areas of unfrozen water that can still freeze, and in mild periods the snow melts down to slush in the daytime and freezes to ice during the night.
The Baltic around Stockholm does not freeze every year, but when it does skating there is a very special experience. The lakes also offer outstanding conditions for great tours. On the large Lake Mälaren it is very popular to skate between the many towns situated along the shores and experienced skaters may skate 100 kilometers or more in a day. Most medium-sized and small lakes are located in very beautiful forest landscapes, giving skating there a special character.
Stockholm and its surrounding have a very good public transport system with many buses, trains, and boats, which can be used to get to the ice. Some good places for skating can even be reached in a few minutes on the subway from the center of Stockholm. By using public transport there is no need to end a tour where you started, so with a little planning you can have the wind behind you for a whole day. For longer tours this can be achieved using chartered buses.
The way lakes and the sea freeze is rather complicated and the freezing takes place over a long period of time. This means that the ice situation is often hard to predict. The thickness and quality of the ice vary a lot and weak areas are common. Skating on natural ice is therefore risky and safety issues are of great importance. Every year there are a number of severe accidents caused by people misjudging the thickness and strength of the ice. However, the skating can be made very safe. The golden rules are: never skate alone; never skate without at least one person in the group with proper experience; never skate without the proper safety equipment.
Safety equipment you always should have with you:
- A floating aid. A life jacket or a backpack with spare clothes in waterproof bags. The backpack should have a waist belt.
- A complete set of spare clothes. In case the ice breaks and you end up in the water.
- Ice-prods (Swedish "isdubbar"). These are a pair of screwdriver-like spikes. They are used to get a good grip when pulling yourself back on to the ice and they should be fastened high around your neck and secured with lines to prevent loss.
- A whistle to attract attention.
- An ice-pike (Swedish "ispik"). Used to check if the ice is strong enough. It looks like a heavy ski stick.
- A rescue rope in a weighted throwing bag (Swedish "räddningslina"). Very useful in helping to pull people out of the water.
A group on the ice should preferably consist of at least three people at least one of whom should have sufficient experience of skating on natural ice.
Other links in English about ice tour skating in Sweden:
- Linköpings Långfärdsskridskoklubb (LLK), http://www.llk.se/english/index.htm
- Friluftsfrämjandet in Vällingby, http://www.utsidan.se/ff-vby/
- Ulf Helmerson in Linköping also hosts a page about tour skating, http://www.ifm.liu.se/~ulfhe/skridsko/enginfo.html
Pages in English: