Magazine article The Spectator

SWEDEN - Ice Pick - Now Is the Time to Skate Stockholm's Archipelago, Says Fraser Nelson

Magazine article The Spectator

SWEDEN - Ice Pick - Now Is the Time to Skate Stockholm's Archipelago, Says Fraser Nelson

Article excerpt

There are two times to visit Sweden: the height of summer or the depths of winter. If you have to choose, go now. Diving into the waters of Stockholm's archipelago is a joy you can more or less imagine: skating across them, and having a snow barbecue afterwards, is something that has to be done to be believed.

Every year, British lovers of winter sports do head off to the slopes in Italy, France, Austria or Switzerland - it doesn't really matter what country, because the set-up is the same. But Sweden is unique.

The Stockholm archipelago boasts something like 30,000 different islands and at this time of year you can skate between a lot of them. Doing so has become more popular over the years, due to less snowfall in winter. The lakes have stopped becoming arctic wastes, and started being superhighways.

If you can stumble your way around an ice rink, you can long-distance skate in Sweden. The skates are longer, about 40-50cm, but you'll pick it up within half an hour. Nor does it need to be remotely dangerous.

Skaters are given a bloodcurdling piece of safety equipment: a pair of mini ice picks, to be worn around the neck. If you fall through the ice, the theory is that you unsheath the grippers, stab the ice and pull yourself up.

But that is for those brazen enough to skate over 2cm of ice in shaky weather.

If you're smart, you'll be skating over 20cm of ice - strong enough to have been polished by a council snowplough.

Last Sunday was the skaters' marathon, the annual Viking Run between Uppsala and Stockholm. …

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