How to master winter
Light up the dark
A lot of people, maybe everyone actually, would say that the hardest part of the scandinavian winters is the darkness. It starts to get dark as early as September and culminates in December when the sun sets at 13.30. You have to wait until April again to see the sun in the afternoon here in Norrland. Not seeing the sun for more than a couple of hours each day, and if the day is cloudy you don’t see it at all, does something to you.
But there are things you can do, more than running outside when the sun shows itself. The best thing to do is to embrace it. Embrace the darkness and make the best of it. If we may be that cheesy: find the light in the darkness.
Light some candles inside wherever you hang out. Light them in the kitchen when you’re eating, or in the living room when you’re relaxing after a long (dark) day. But remember to put them out when you leave the room! No need to light up the whole house just to escape the dark!
Go to a fire pit outside and light a fire. If you don’t have a fire pit of your own, don’t worry. The municipality of Skellefteå have several public fire pits that you can use. Gather some friends as well, and give your soul some light while you’re at it.
Go outside in the middle of the day, and catch the light that do exist. This helps by making you realize that it’s not completely dark all the time, and getting some fresh air and exercise makes you more relaxed when the light has gone for the day. Plus, a snowy Swedish Lapland bathing in sunlight is just so, so beautiful.
Conquer the cold
It can get really cold here in Scandinavia, especially in Swedish Lapland. It’s not unusual to have between 10-20 degress below 0 (Celcius), sometimes it even goes below -30! But just because it’s cold outside doesn’t mean that you have to stay inside all the time. Except for when it’s -30, then it’s okay to stay inside and snuggle up in some blankets.
The trick to hanging out outdoors without freezing to death is your clothes. Layer up, and use materials that breathe. Wool is really good.
- Thin wool socks
- Regular pants
- A warm sweater
- Wind-proof and stuffed jacket, preferable with a hood
- Cover pants
- Warm, waterproof shoes, preferable with a high shaft if you plan on walking in deep snow
- Wool hat
- Waterproof gloves
If all this sounds way to much, then go for atleast a warm jacket and waterproof shoes and gloves. Trust us, if your feet and hands stays warm everything else will feel better as well.
Say hi to the sun
Do you recall what we said earlier about the sun almost never being visible here in Skellefteå? Well, when it actually shows up it’s like a magnet. Everyone gets dressed and goes outside to greet it. We highly recommend it. Get that vitamin D, and just feel the joy that the sun brings by just shining. Go for a walk, or maybe layer up in warm clothing, bring something waterproof to sit on, and find a place to just sit and bask in the sun. That feeling of beeing warm in the sun and at the same time cold in the snow is actuallt quite satisfying, almost cozy. Try it, you’ll love it!
But don’t forget about your sunglasses! They are not just for the summer, and they can be a life, or well eye saver in the snowy North. The sun can be quite strong, especially for eyes used to darker times. The sun also reflects in the snow, and you can get snow blindness if you’re not careful. Snow blindness happens when strong sunlight exposes your eyes to too much UV radiation and creates wounds on your corneas. The easiest way to prevent this is to use, you guessed it, sunglasses.
Walk safely on the ice
It’s not enough that it’s cold and dark, it can also get quite slippery. Yes, it can get quite icy on the roads and sidewalks when temperatures fluctuate between plus and minus, causing snow to melt and then freeze again. And, we're sorry to tell you this, but it may then snow on top of the ice, causing the ice to be hidden and sidewalks to be quite dangerous. But! We’re here to help and guide you through it.
Our main tip is of course to be careful. If you suspect that it might be slippery outside, don’t walk to fast. Walk slow and light, and try to place your feet straight down. Don’t slide your feet when you walk, that will not help.
Buy spikes to strap under your shoes, they work really well on ice but remember to take them off when you go inside, even inside stores.
Walk on gravel or sand if you see it. Most sidewalks in Sweden are sprinkled with gravel by the municipality to help you be safe.
Take a bath in ice cold water
A new trend in Sweden, especially in Swedish Lapland is to take baths in the cold water during winter. As crazy as it seems, it's healthy and invigorating. It is said to relieve stress, among other things. But you have to be careful and take it slowly.
- Do not stay in the water for to long, 5-20 seconds is enough.
- Get used to it gradually by starting in early spring or during autumn.
- Don't put your head under water.
- Wear as little as possible, wet clothes cools you down afterwards.
- Never bathe in cold water alone.
The love for bathing in ice cold waters have resulted in the annual Winter Swimming Championships in Skellefteå. The competition takes place in february every year, in a 25 metres long track that is opened in the ice in the centre of town. The competition attracts houndreds of swimmers from around the globe.