Written by Charlotte Garbutt
Have you heard of Sportlov? Basically, it’s a week off from school to ski, snowboard and sled. Across Sweden, thousands of people wax their skis and pack their bags for a week in the mountains. I can’t think of a better way to spend this time of year. Don’t like winter sports? Not to worry, Sportlov has something for everyone.
A need to celebrate
Sweden’s calendar is full to the brim with interesting and culturally rich traditions and holidays. The national days are very close to the hearts of the Swedish people. And for good reason! Santa Lucia celebrations are the light in the dark that help us manage through the long dark winters. Whereas Midsommar allows everyone to make the most of the wonderful Swedish summers. As a result, there is always something to look forward to.
Sportlov is the perfect celebration for coming out of our (TV binging) winter hibernation. Both the daylight hours and the temperatures are increasing, so what better time to get outside and enjoy the snow? For these reasons, Sportlov is one of the Swedish events that you don’t want to miss as a newbie in Sweden.
How it all began
The week-long holiday began in the 1940s. In order to save money and fuel, the Swedish government was advised to not heating schools at one of the coldest points of the year. Outdoor activities were organised for the children (and grown-ups) and so began Sportlov. Across the country, it is held from February to early March, depending on which region you live in. All because those clever Swedes don’t want to overcrowd the slopes.
Here in Skellefteå, known as the gateway to Lapland, the winter activities are endless. The local slopes (Vitberget) even hold a day of free activities for those who want to try out a new sport. These days are absolutely perfect for expats, who may not have grown up on a pair of skis like our fellow Swedish friends. There’s downhill skiing, to cross country, snowboarding, sledding, winter cycling, curling and orienteering. Something for everyone to try!
Something for everyone
Of course, the Swedes are also wonderfully inclusive and offer many options for para sports with great facilities for those who need them. You will also find plenty of family oriented events. Speaking of which, many families can be seen at the Grillstugas (grill houses) in the forest during Sportlov. Grillstugas are usually an enclosed shelter, with benches, a large fire pit and a store of (free!) ready chopped wood. You can find them around lakes, fields and in the forests.
However, if you’re into adventure sports, it’s also a great time to be a spectator. Vasaloppet is a yearly 90 km cross country skiing race, held on the first Sunday in March. This year the number of participants over 16,000! You can stay nice and warm inside with a coffee and a semla, as the whole event is broadcast live. Another great thing about this time of year.
So, find out when Sportlov is happening where you live and get planning. A week of sports, grilling and eating lots of semlor is going to be just perfect after the long dark winter.
About the author
I am a foodie and feminist with a strong sense of adventure. I moved, with my husband and little black dog, to Skellefteå, Sweden from England in August 2018. I have since been eager to explore and learn more about the Swedish culture and language.