Det finns ingen vinter här = There is no winter here (thoughts on snow, ice, roller skis and joy)

I don't want to write this post. But at this point, I'm resigned to the fact that we won't get a true winter in southern Sweden. The Swedes also seem to be resigned to this, as do the flowers. A bit hard to see but the crocus and other spring bulbs are already starting to push through the dirt in the picture to the left.

I love winter. I love snow. One of the reasons we moved to Sweden for the year was to really get to experience winter- to be able to put on cross country skis and go ski out our door. We keep laughing at ourselves, as it turns out Stockholm doesn't actually get that much snow in the winter. A bit of geography research and we could have figured that out.

As November grayed into December, we enjoyed the holiday lights and were assured that come the new year, the temperatures would plummet. We'd get plenty of ice and even maybe some snow. In August, Chris and Stephen were running around a nearby lake: people were training on how to self-rescue from ice by hurling themselves off a plywood float fully clothed, then using ice picks to haul themselves out. At our nearby ice skating rink (another post on that as it's worthy of its own), classes have assembled to practice skating and self rescues across the flat of the rink.

In the fall, we watched videos of skating on "thin ice" - it is beautiful and ethereal sounding. While gorgeous looking, I had no desire to do this- I fell through the ice on a golf course pond growing up. To this day, ice underfoot cracks and I jump. I like my ice thick.

Just wait, people said. Perhaps it will freeze enough to skate from Stockholm to Uppsala (more than 50 km). Cool, we thought... we want to do that.

We have a new appreciation for what it means to be 3 degrees Celsius warmer: it doesn't freeze. Temps have been ranging from about 3-9 degrees Celsius most days. Pleasant for biking, not so good for skating on the ponds and lakes.

I gave a talk about climate change to Elizabeth's 4th grade class just before the holidays and started looking into climate change impacts in Sweden: warmer temps = less ice. Good news is that the coal burning power plant visible from our neighborhood is being shut down 5 years early, in May 2020. Sweden is fairly far ahead on addressing climate change issues, in part due to the oil crisis in the 1970s and the very expensive costs of importing oil then. Better news- if you feel down about climate change, go talk to a class of 4th graders. they know their science and were positively bubbling with ideas on what to do.

Warmer temps are already here. We went to the Natural History Museum just after the holidays. Their exhibit on weather and climate had the picture below of skating. The caption: "global warming will lead to more rain and less snow in Southern and Central Sweden. White winters will be more rare, and thick ice more uncommon. Skiing and long-distance skating will not be be possible to the same extent as today." Indeed. Another local paper headlined with "Will Sweden get a proper winter this year?" I think sadly the answer is no.


In February, my dad is coming back to Sweden to ski the 30 kilometer version of the Vasaloppet with Stephen and I. The regular Vasaloppet is 90 kilometers and is one of the largest (if not the largest) ski race in the world with thousands of people doing it. For our part, 30 km of cross country skiing is a long way... and takes a bit of training. The neighborhood paper ran an article in January: Mörk prognos för skidspår på Östermalm (dark prognosis for ski track at Östermalm). The City of Stockholm staff assured people that as soon as it gets cold, they'd make snow so that people could train on a 1 kilometer track in the 1912 Olympic Stadium. It would just take a few days of 3-6 degrees Celsius below 0. Hasn't happened yet. 

Colleagues assured us that if we need to train for skiing, we could also just go north 5 hours to snow. We have thoroughly enjoyed not having a car, but a 5 hour car trip is a bit far... while the trains would work (and I've seen plenty of people on the trains with skis), we've not pulled this off. 

What to do?  Lots of ice skating at the artificial ice skating rink near us.

And roller skis. Skis on wheels. Yup.

Stephen has been indoctrinated into the world of pavement for skiing... something I did a lot of in college and just after. I swore once I'd never roller ski again. Hit a rock, you hit the pavement. I have a scar on my shoulder from hitting the ground. However, here we are.

The folks who sold us the roller skis were quite dubious when we told them we were going to roller ski home. They checked to make sure we had helmets. Yep. When I went back a week later to get something at the same store, they had been worried that we wouldn't make it. Slow we were, but we had survived. On our trip home, one Swede suggested we'd better turn left and head north.

In between all of this, I just finished a book called "The Book of Joy." It's a conversation between the Dalai Lama & Archbishop Desmond Tutu with a lot of brain science mixed in. 

The basic premise: bad things happen but you can control how you respond, and can respond with joy.  You can also do practices that help build joy. I recommend it (both the book and finding joy no matter the circumstances). 

Joy is apparently a running vs. roller skiing race in the garage of our apartment building!


Pictures from us cruising around the neighborhood. Stephen now appreciates smooth pavement with no ice and no horse poop... things he never noticed before. We had a long conversation with a Swedish police officer on a horse- he also looked dubious that we knew what we were doing. 



Another day of practice, with sunshine this time. There is a lot of gravel on the roads, but we've found a few clear roads. 


While the crocus may think the season is at end, so do the stores. The streetscapes are rough with gravel and the holiday decorations are coming down. Stores are marked with signs of sales and the colors of clothes shown in store windows have switched from red and silver to greens and pinks.  There is a transition underway in weather, and in light, and in the season. In the meantime, we'll skate and rock climb and run around the neighborhood, seeking joy where we find it.  



  1. Recent report: January 2020 is the mildest January ever in Sweden with a national average monthly temperature of 6.2 ° C beating the 5.9 ° C of January 1989. This is the case in many cities including #Stockholm (measurements since 1756): 4.1 ° C in Jan 2020 against 3.2 ° C in 1989.


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