Stockholm on ice – part 1

Day 11 in our ChristmasCalendar2019
Food: this activity will make you hungry?

It is the most wonderful time of the year… because the ice skating season is (almost) here!

I know, I know, Stockholm has been cloudy and dreary this past November (with almost as little sunshine hours as the very first November month I ever spent here). There are many reasons to just hide inside the lab with experiments or at home with glögg and Netflix, but… I am extremely excited winter is finally approaching, and you should be too! I have learned that I best deal with the dark winter times by embracing all outdoor activities, and ice skating is high on my list of favorites.

Not a surprise perhaps, since I come from the Netherlands, a tiny country packed with lots of people all obsessing over ice skating in winter time. Friesland, the region where I was born, has its own notorious 200 km long ice skating race: the Eleven City Tour (Elfstedentocht). Skating across ditches, canals and lakes, the skaters battle wind and cold on the way from and to the main city Leeuwarden. All participants are received as heroes, while the winners become national treasures. Even our current King Willem-Alexander is proud to have finished the race when he was 18, using a pseudonym.

However, insert global warming, and this race hasn’t taken place since 1997. Still, every year, after every stretch of ice cold nights and frosty mornings, TV talk shows discuss the slightest hint of the possibility that the event might happen this year and that the organizing committee would finally say the magical Frisian words again: it giet oan (freely translated: “it’s on”). The warmer winters with only a few days of natural ice every year also meant that I actually didn’t learn how to skate very well, despite having had (indoor) ice skating classes in school. 

I have actual school diploma´s for ice skating.. very Frisian!

But ever since moving here, I do enjoy the lengthy ice skating season that Stockholm has to offer, and I suggest you to do the same!  Stockholm provided me with excellent opportunities to further develop my ice skating abilities, from artificial ice rinks to plowed tracks on natural ice. Whether you are a beginner or an advanced skater, in this blog post I will give you an overview of some of the places to go to get the season started, even if there is no natural ice to speak of just yet!

Kungsträdgården

Located in the heart of the city and decorated with Christmas lights, this is the ideal place to try out skating for the first time, although it can be crowded. The skating rink is for free if you already have skates, but you can rent them here as well. The skate rental is open until 20:00, the rink itself until 21:00.

Vasaparken

Unfortunately, this small ice rink has so far been closed for the 2019/2020 season due to technical problems. Let’s hope that the engineers of Stockholm City can fix the problem soon, so we can enjoy this rink again, as it is located conveniently close to the KI campus in Solna and has no closing times! Skate rental is not available, so hunt down a pair of skates on Blocket before it will start operating.

Early morning at Östermalms Idrotssplats

Östermalms Idrottsplats

Coming from a country that won all but one of our 130 Winter Olympic medals on ice, I am still surprised that speed-skating just isn’t much of a thing in Sweden. Sweden is world-class in ice-hockey and performs well in figure skating too, but famous Swedish speed skaters? I can only name Sven Tomas Gustafson. Maybe this is the reason why the Swedish National Championships in Speed skating are held on the same ice as where I like to do my training rounds: Östermalms Idrottsplats, very close to the old Olympic stadium Stadion. Check the opening times of the current week here. Skates are available for rent, and can be sharpened as well. The middle part can be used for ice hockey and figure skating, and there is a 400 meter track to speed up on your fast skates!

The real deal

Every long distance ice skater ́s wet (okay, frozen) dream: natural ice! Let’s leave this for my next post in January, when there is hopefully finally some real natural ice to enjoy. For now, please remember: safety first on the ice, and go outside this Christmas!

Image: Pixabay

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