Long-distance skating

The Åland climate is such that there are many winters when the ice is free of snow. Here you’ll get not only ice, but skilled guides to lead the way as well. The guides can also arrange courses and everything from picnics to equipment.

Åland’s lakes, inlets and amazing views are made for long distance skating. The most eager skaters already start skating on the lakes in November – new landscapes open up after the ice starts to settle along the coastline. First you can skate on the inner sea bays and if there is too much snow, you can continue out towards the sea. In some cold winters you can even skate on the ice on the open sea.

Skaters have been known to make it all the way to the Finnish mainland. As far as we know only one skater has ever gone the whole way from Sweden to Åland. That was in the 1950s.

Suggestion for a long-distance skating excursion

Safe beginners’ ice or daring tours at the edge of the open sea? By the end of November the ice on shallow inland lakes in Åland is strong enough to carry the most eager long distance skaters on the premiere tour of the season.

From inland lakes to the rim of the sea

In a normal winter in Åland the conditions for long distance skating are good and the skating progresses according to the same pattern during the season.

First there is skating on shallow inland lakes on the main island, for example Bjärströms träsk that is near the main road in Finström. All it takes is a few windless nights with clear skies and temperatures falling below zero for some of the lakes to become skatable. When the ice has settled on the inland lakes, it’s time to skate on the innermost sea bays, for example Vandöfjärden, that also is near the main road in Finström and easily accessible.

When the ice has thickened the skaters try out other sea bays that are wider and deeper, among them Svartsmarafjärden and Ivarskärsfjärden.
“Then we gradually move further out as the ice settles. In February and March there is usually wonderful ice in the northeast of Åland, for example on Simskälafjärden,” says Mikael Wennström, one of Åland’s skating enthusiasts. Normally the conditions of the sea ice in the northern parts of Åland are better than in the south.

A cultural tour

Mikael gives a tip for a fun cultural tour on skates. Start off from the castle in Kastelholm in Sund and skate on Lumparn to Bomarsund’s fortress ruins, about two to three hours. If you like, you can continue north towards Tengsödavik in Saltvik.

Great skating ice is not something you get on command. Nature makes all the decisions and what is good ice today may be bad ice tomorrow.
“That’s why you have to seize the opportunity and skate when it’s possible to do so,” says Mikael Wennström.

Åland as a skating world has its advantages. There are areas in the archipelago that are scarcely populated and lacking channels made by boats in the ice. But civilisation and roads where a taxi can pick you up are rarely very far away. That way you can vary your round tour with going from one place to another.

Practical information

How do you handle a situation where the ice breaks? The answer is simple. Try to brace yourself against the cold, which isn’t too uncomfortable, calm down, breathe as usual and try to think. If you can do that you have already overcome the situation, especially if you have friends on the ice.

Clear your thoughts this way:

1. I’m not in a hurry; I can float on my backpack at least 10 minutes. I breathe calmly and I’m not especially cold. I will remain as calm as I can and I will try not to tread water.

2. Now I will slowly turn towards the right direction, the way I came from. There the ice is stronger and there are my friends. I’ll try to stop my legs from floating up under the ice in front of me.

3. When I’m up we look for a place with wind protection where I can get help to change to the clothes that I have kept in a dry bag in my backpack. At the same time the rest of the group takes a hot cup of coffee.

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