Did you know there are two types of snow? Swedish snow and snowman-building snow. (That’s what we reckon anyway)
In the UK the snow tends to be wet. It is rain that has fallen and frozen as it falls. When it melts, which it does in the warmer days, it forms slush which then freezes at night when it gets cold again. This gives you that horrible slush and ice that is just a nightmare. Roads and pavements quickly become treacherous, black ice is common and the whole system grinds to a halt.
In Sweden, however, there is another type of snow – rarely seen in the UK (in my experience – yours may differ). Because the air temperature is so cold in the winter *any* moisture in the air is frozen. What this does is gives you the weird experience of sunny days, blue skies and snow falling. That is any moisture instantly freezing and falling as snow. The texture of the snow is weird to us Brits. It is dry snow. Think of a powder between icing sugar and caster sugar. It is super-dry. This means that it does not really stick and is really easy to deal with. It is simply swept to the side of the road by the snow ploughs. Any snow left on the road has the consistency of sand. It really is strange. It is also useless for making snowmen with as it has no moisture so won’t stick together – look – here is me showing you…
Oh how I hate hearing my own voice. Did you notice the ice-skater behind me on the lake? That is Lake Mälaren, which I think we have mentioned before. They were testing the thickness of the ice. We suspect that as a result of these tests the annual race was cancelled.
The Viking Race (Vikingarännet), the largest skating race in the world, was scheduled to take place on February 16th, but organizers pulled the plug after forecasts of more mild weather and temperatures above zero.
“This means that solid ice along the track will thin out and the surface will soften. This could result in conditions that put the skaters at risk, resulting in falls and injuries. In addition, the snow ploughs cannot move freely on the ice,” they said.
Around 3,000 ice skaters take to Lake Mälaren each year for the race, which follows an old Viking transportation route southwards from Uppsala to Stockholm, a distance of roughly 80 kilometres.
It has been interesting seeing how the Swedish deal with the snow. Admittedly we happen to have moved in a very mild winter. Everyone has been telling us how unusual it is. I found an interesting site showing averages of weather – this is Stockholm.
The cold season lasts from December 3 to March 6 with an average daily high temperature below 3°C. The coldest day of the year is February 14, with an average low of -8°C and high of -1°C.
Firstly the Swedish deal with the snow. The snow ploughs and gritters are out throughout the day. School paths are gritted, footpaths are gritted, the roads are gritted. You can frequently see piles of grit in residential areas that you can help yourself to to grit your path/drive.
Everyone owns a snow shovel and deals with their own snow.
On our street there is this sign:
Basically it means do not park on the road on a Friday during the Winter months. Why? Because the whole road is going to be ploughed. Any car left on the road will end up covered with/surrounded by snow. Like this one which had been left on the road just round the corner from our house. Whoops!
Secondly the Swedish dress for the snow. Children are dressed head to toe in warm, waterproof clothes. We are talking boots, gloves/mittens, coat, hat, goggles, over-trousers – the works. At school they strip off and get on with their day. There is a wet area at school where they take their boots off. No mess inside thank-you. Then they strip the other layers off near their classroom. There is plenty of space to hang everything. When 3-4 months of the year are under snow you have to be prepared. I can only imagine what it is like further north. It is just a part of life here. No panic.
Adults wear boots, warm clothes, hats, gloves, big coats and gently steam on the T-Bana. The elderly can be seen using Nordic Poles. Everyone has good boots. Solid boots. If not then there are over-shoes you can use – not the rubber crampons I have seen in the UK but an actual rubber grippy shoe thing.
Finally, and most importantly, the Swedish are damn good at warming up. And no, I don’t mean like that… I mean like this…