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February delivered magnificent ice

Lucky us! Just when our guests from UK, Sicily and Germany arrived the weather cooperated with us and blessed us with marvellous skating conditions. The thick, black ice was polished by a thin layer of water.

In the borderland between Sweden and Norway small lakes gave us unforgettable memories.

During our 3 to 5 days together we skated on five different lakes.

The foggy weather made our days to a mysterious experience – sometimes like a fairy tale.

The temperature was above zero every day so we were lucky the sun didn’t shine. It would have destroyed the ice.

For two days we had company by a Norwegian family – their first nordic skating experience.

All members of the family made really good improvements.

Getting the last out of February on skates!

Nedre Bolsjön – Lower Lake Bolsjö – gave us two wonderful skating days. The ice is struggling against sun shine and temperatures above zero.

Visible ice again – time for skating

After two weeks of heavy snowfall all lakes were “snow closed” in Sweden. No possibility of skating. Then it happened. Thaw and loads of rain. It felt like March. Rivers and streams were filled with water…

… snow melted to slush and the stable ice was visible again. Many of the lakes are difficult to get on because ice has melted along the shore line.

Today’s check by the little pond had strong surface after last night’s minus degrees. Tomorrow we will try a bigger lake.

Lake Tåkern – Paradise for Birds, Birdwatchers and Skaters!

Lake Tåkern is a very shallow lake situated in a historical landscape, surrounded by big agricultural fields and Mount Omberg rising in the west. Today the lake was covered with a thin layer of snow, but big areas was just powdered like dust – so we could often observe the ice quality. Do we skate if there is snow on the ice? We had prior knowledge of stable and smooth black ice under the snow so we decided to try it . But you have to be cautious, because if you can’t see if there is open cracks in the ice, it can cause you serious problems. If you fall – e.g. high risk, especially for the shoulders!

  • Swan traces - the swan is a symbol for Lake Tåkern

It was overcast and everything seemed grey, but the white surroundings enlightened the scenery. A big Sea Eagle rose majestic from the ice with heavy wings, quite a long distance in front of us. Maybe it just have had its lunch – perhaps a swan. Thousands and thousands of birds (especially swans, geese, different ducks and cormorants) inhabit the lake during the “open” season. Right now the lake had just a little “opening”. Other overland predators as foxes and minks take advantage of the “ice age” – to enlarge their hunting area – during the winter. We passed numerous traces from foxes and some minks.

  • Covered with snow
    Sun break through

When the whole lake is frozen – and all birds have migrated – it’s not easy either for a predator or its prey to find suitable nourishments. On top of the food chain we find our earlier eagle mentioned, who has a hard time. The authorities of lake Tåkern Nature Reserve give special support for eagles – to increase the population to a reasonable level, in a suitable nesting habitat. They feed them with slaughter waste.

  • Support feeding place for eagles - wild boar

A big part of the lake area is covered with huge reeds. You find reed islands and a lot of channels and open parts – many of them skatable – bu its very easy to get “lost”. The reed zone stretches all around the shoreline. In the skatable reed zone you have to be aware of “methane holes” – can be very difficult to recognize them when they are covered with snow under thin ice!

  • Frozen pressure ridge

Obstacles often occur during a long tour – of many kilometers – as for example pressure ridges and open cracks in the ice. Today the pressure ridges were frozen and stabilized. No cracks at all and we skated on most all of them on very smooth black ice. Luck! However, on grey thick ice covered with snow – there are often open cracks.

  • Lake Tåkern
    Pause after 15 km skating

After about 30 km of wonderful skating on lake Tåkern we felt very satisfied, even if the weather was grey and foggy – what an experience – to be right in the middle of a Bird Nesting Paradise “off season”.

Bartmeise.JPG

The Bearded Tit is another character bird for Lake Tåkern. It’s metallic sounds followed us in parts of the lake. They stay in the reeds all year round and feed on reed seeds. Wonderful birds!

Next day we did a new try – “Snowskating” – in a deep forest region called Tiveden. A vast wild area with almost no human population. Quite another habitat! We had good skating, but both of us fell in grey ice cracks hidden under the snow. We were lucky not to get any serious problems this time, but our shoulders hurt a bit for some days or may be for a week?

  • Black ice under a thin layer of snow
    Last year's reeds

Covered with snow

A skiier longs for snow, a skater finds snow as a hazard. If it hadn’t been a slight snowfall some days ago the northern part of Lake Vättern had offered splendid skating conditions today. Anyway, our trip today gave us a lot – as always. – 5 degrees below zero, wind about 5m/s south east and cloudy. Was the snow frozen on the surface?

  • Foggy day - a palette of grey colours

Under the thin layer of snow we had smooth ice 🙂

  • Tensions in the ice due to temperature changes between day and night causes cracks

We headed towards open water. What a great feeling hearing the waves far away.

  • Pay attention - weak ice!

While skating on natural ice you always have to pay attention. Pressure ridges are quite easy to observe. You have a lot of choices, to pass over, pass around them or return. This one we had to return. Another danger is open areas called “wind wells” which can occur anywhere.

Tomorrow new adventures are awaiting. We are planning to discover new lakes for us further south, hopefully not covered with snow.

Black, black ice…

Weather conditions right now makes the south of Sweden to a skating paradise. Today we experienced a sunny, calm, – 4 degrees C day in total wilderness on lake Långvattnet (Bohuslän) on black ice framed by a rocky conifer forest landscape.

The surface was just perfect! Along the huge rocks by the lake nature has formed enormous icicles.

There are many lakes and tarns, and the exiting thing with nordic skating is to skate around one lake and then walk to another one. We heard a drizzling sound and followed the creek by foot. Wonderful ice sculptures in the running water showed up. A dipper showed itself on the iced stones. Down stream we skated round a little woodland tarn – not bigger than 1 km circumference. We had a feeling of March when we sat in the sun for our packed lunch.

As always in our part of the world we find traces from our last ice age. Grounded rocks and bare stones from old sea level, before the land rised after the high pressure of the inland ice 10 000 years ago, shows up. Before sunset we headed back home and hoped to observe some animals. This morning we had a wonderful meeting with a giant elk just by the road!

Three months of skating adventures are awaiting

Five different lakes in three days offers five different conditions. Ice and nature is amazing. From one day to another nothing is the same. When temperature varies over and below zero the most different phenomenas occur.

  • Testing ice quality +5 degrees C

  • Tiveden, great bolder
    Huge boulder in Tiveden - ice age remnant
  • What's around the corner?

Foggy ice adventure into the unknown

Nights are still long and days are short one week after the winter solstice. We woke up in the dark foggy morning eager to skate on a lake we never had investigated before. Lake Ölen is a rather small, oblong lake lying in a landscape scattered with boulders. We had hoped a sunny day to admire the scenery but what we experienced was a mysterious misty day with so many special impressions you never can get a sunny day

  • nordic skating, foggy adventure

Minus 2 degrees below zero. The sun was struggling to get through the fog but the fog overcame the sun. We were both a bit doubtful about the ice conditions and this day we really had to use our ice poles a lot to be sure. There had been black ice, then snow and thaw…

  • skater's road choice

Along the cracks water had been pressed up and “built” excellent skating roads. Sometimes we were in the middle of nowhere just skating around following the lake almost anti clock wise. By the north western part we observed some huge boulders – remainings since the last ice age.

  • Foggy island, skating

Suddenly – there it was! The black ice, thick enough for skating (about 5 – 6 cm). What a joy. Before we realized we were back at the starting point after about 20 km. You really need to use all your senses while skating – especially in weather like this. We followed the map to know where to avoid inlets and outlets as the ice is thinner there. And of course we used our ears. To listen to the sounds of the ice to decide if it is thick enough. One of the most impressive moments was when we heard the sound from a waterfall in the distance.

  • Tysslingen, Kilsbergen, ice

On our way back home the weather cleared up and as we passed Lake Tysslingen – a famous bird lake – we couldn’t resist to meet the evening on skates with a wonderful view west over Mountain Kilsbergen. The whopees accompanied us in the sunset.

Some of county Värmland’s 10 000 lakes

This year we experienced a very early start of the skating season in Värmland county. A long time of high pressure and cold air from the Arctic and Russia gave us exceptional good possibilities. When lakes freeze it happens gradually. The smallest and shallowest lakes with little water flow will freeze first. The land area of Värmland county is slightly smaller than half the size of the Netherlands. Värmland is the landscape of forests, rivers and lakes. There are about 10 000 lakes from small forest lakes to huge lake Vänern. Värmland is used to be called “the country of glittering lakes”. The south western part of the county is exceptional rich of small lake systems connected to each other by rivers and creeks – a wonderland for nordic skating.

It’s very interesting to follow “the succession of lakes freezing from small to big waters”. All possible parameters as local climate, topography (landscape above and below the water surface), altitude, wind, currents, snowy or not etc, affect the icing process. Ice is perishable, it differs in quality from day to day, even in a few hours. This is clearly visible on large windswept lakes.

Before the first snow fall we had a marvellous time to explore the small waters. Snow on ice is the worse case for a nordic skater.

  • Inviting forest lake for skating

Just before noon we found our first “possible” lake. A wonderful feeling walking out in the frozen marshland covered with rim and realize that the ice was thick enough. Black, transparent ice!!! About 6 – 7 cm.

  • Ice phenomenon

The temperature was 8 degrees Celcius below zero, but as the sun was shining from a clear blue sky and almost no wind we had a wonderful lunch in the sunshine. The lake needed a few more days of cold to be frozen all over, so we skated round in a little part of it with joy for a while.

  • Ice not thick enough for skating

We decided to look for some new lakes. A little bay of a bigger lake was skatable. The sound of thin black ice with its different tones is just delightful music. Just before sunset we explored two tiny lakes situated on a higher altitude. The ice was over 10 cm thick.

  • Purple morning hour

New day, new experiences! The night had been really cold. Our plan was to investigate lake Sandsjön. By the shore the ice was only 1 cm and out there the lake “steamed”. A sign just before the ice sets. So – our plan didn’t work. BUT – we followed the road along the crevice that formed a smaller lake. And there we were lucky! After checking the thickness of the ice we were ready to skate.

  • on the black smooth ice

A divine feeling heading the sun towards open water. A big moment of peacefulness and joy.

 

We skated north into a nature reserve. This area has been inhabited since stone age and you can find a lot of settlements and pitfalls. The reserve was established to preserve, nurture and restore fire affected forests in different successional stages. Brännan

  • Steaming lake, frozen moment

So much to explore in total wilderness without any sounds of human activity.

  • frosty gem

A new gem by the road that we couldn’t resist – a woodland lake only a circuit of 3 km – well worth for a tour in the sunshine.

  • Rövattnet, Östervallskog

The end of these two skating days was more than we could wish. Another rime enveloped forest lake with black ice in the middle of nowhere.

Follow us in search of black ice in our wonderful Nordic Skating country!