I’m 27 years old and I’ve never been a fan of winter sports. I’ve never skied or ice-skated, or done any other winter-related sports. I like snow when I’m in my warm house with a cup of hot chocolate.
So you can imagine my struggle during my first winter in Sweden! The problem is not the cold or dark (it turned out that I’m ok with those), but the problem is winter sports. They are at the heart of Swedish winter. Here, it’s not just a vacation you planned months before but it’s a regular Sunday activity. And I like Sweden and want to be a part of it, understand its culture fully – which brings us to this post of a newbie and winter sports!
You gotta do what you gotta do
Imagine someone who isn’t even eager to join a snowball fight – that is me! And here I am, trying almost every common winter sports in Sweden in one month. Am I crazy? I’m still asking myself that question.
Walking on a frozen lake
Obviously, this is not an actual sport but it is a good starting point. Taking a few steps on the frozen lake with my winter boots was very exciting, a little scary and also fun! (I can hear Swedes laughing at me, but all these things are new to me).
One thing to consider – Swedes are very good at deciding whether a lake is safe to walk on but you probably aren’t. So if you want to try this, be sure to walk on a safe lake where Swedes are walking at the same time as you.
My next goal was ice skating because I figured it would be easy to reach. We went to Östermalms IP since it’s less crowded. My first time on the ice rink was a disaster! No surprise there 🙂 I spent exactly one hour just trying to stand up on the ice and maybe taking a few steps – not sliding, just standing and trying not to fall.
One week later I headed to the rink again – this time I had even bought ice skates rather than renting – that’s how serious I am about winter sports! The second time, I still wasn’t sliding but I felt more confident on the ice and could move forward a little.
One lap around the rink took me 1 hour and 40 minutes (now you start to understand my struggle with winter, right?) I was not happy but I imagined my future winters here and I know I should figure this out. So the third time, I managed to do a lap in 40 minutes. This is what I call progress 🙂
I’ll continue with this challenge and next winter I hope I’ll blend in with the Swedes. You can see me ice skating flawlessly in 2018 or maybe in 2019 – not sure yet!
The next challenge was skiing. I managed to avoid all ski holidays before moving Sweden but this time I couldn’t escape. I will go on a whole week of skiing and have no idea of the concept. So, we decided that I needed practice before going on a ski vacation, so we headed to Hammarbybacken and got ski lessons. It’s actually easier than ice skating – at least to stand on the piste and slide down slowly as a beginner. Of course, I fell or let myself fall purposely to avoid crashing into a tree many times, but I was in the children’s slope so it was okay! Those little children were really cute – looking at me with their “why this adult can’t ski and is making those ridiculous moves” look 🙂
Cross Country Skiing
You have probably seen people doing some cross country skiing (both during the winter and, strangely, in the summer as well) So that was a must try! I’ve tried it for one hour and it turns out to be a lot of effort for very little movement! You try to slide on a flat surface without any downhills. So I think I’ll put this on hold for the next 5 years and try it later – maybe 🙂
It’s not an actual sport but I think it’s close. And it was fun! (At last, there is one thing I can do and have fun without too long a practice period) We went to Kiruna where the weather was -20. And although snowmobiling was fun, it’s also icy. I mean not on the road but on your clothes! Even our scarves were frozen (not cold or wet, literally covered with ice!). Don’t forget to cover your whole face – any exposed skin will get ice burned.
Not sure if this is a sport? Maybe not for us but for dogs. It was not hard but you need to be balanced to stand on the sledge. The dogs already know the route so no need to direct them. You just need to brake to slow down and try not to fall off when the dogs make sharp right or left turns. It was an amazing experience!
I think I have a few more sports I should do. The first one is cross country skating (once I’ve managed ice skating) Snowboarding looks a little tricky although some people claim it’s easier than skiing – so I think I will put it on hold as well. If you have any other suggestions, please let me know 🙂
Overall, the whole months experience was challenging but productive. I am still terrible at some of them but who cares 🙂 In the end I felt good about myself while I got new experiences and explored a new culture.
One thing I’ve learnt in Sweden – Hard work is the key to everything! And just putting four layers of clothes and socks, and a jump suit just to survive in -20 while driving a snowmobile is hard work all by itself 🙂 What is more important is you may need lots of hours of practice if you’re a newbie at winter sports.
If you’re like me, just keep in mind that you need many many many hours of practice and then you’ll be great!
Written by Busra Zenging
Hej! I am a Newbie who is close to become an Oldbie in Sweden! I’ve been in Stockholm nearly for six months, I already did so many “fika”, swam in cold waters of Sweden, walked barefoot in Stockholm’s parks during the summer and, of course, had too many interactions with the Swedish bureaucracy 🙂 So far so good! My next challenge is job hunting – we’ll see how this will go 😉