Tour skating opens up new adventures for Norwegians
Fun and excitement—but not without danger
All over Norway, the sound of “ritch-ratch” is heard from the ice, as ponds and lakes are filled with happy skaters.
In recent years, tour skating—ice hiking in the open air on natural ice—has become more popular, but according to England’s University of Oxford, the sport has been around for about 3,000 years.
Yet Norwegians only discovered tour skating a few years ago, and since then, it has grown in popularity, not in the least because it is a sport for just about everyone, from age 2 to 90.
The sun shines down on the sparkling ice sprinkled with powdered sugar snow. Here and there, the tracks of a deer can be seen. Ice formations have built up around the rocks sticking up. Several miles have been cleared out for the tour skaters. And even with just a little practice, people are getting out on the ice to join in on the fun.
Tour skating, or Nordic skating, is also known as “Swedish skating” (långfärdsskridsko), because the skates are actually a Swedish innovation. Some people even call this kind of outdoor skating “wild skating.” It is a recreational type of skating on natural ice that is becoming increasingly popular, especially during the time of the coronavirus.
Now that the sun is back, people have the need to get outside. Entire Norwegian families, regardless of age, are taking part in this new type skating imported from Sweden, which make use of long-distance ice skates. These tour skates are not the usual skates we know; navigating the outdoor ice tracks requires a more stable skate that enables you to go mile after mile, preferably with the sun on your face and the wind at your back.
Tracks are cleared out on waterways with thick ice, and some are miles long. But it is important to note that recently a tractor clearing out tracks for skaters went through the ice. Fortunately, the driver made it, but it underlined the dangers of this new outdoor sport.
While enjoying the design of the Swedish ice skates, skaters can experience the roughness of the ice—but not without danger. For this reason, it is common for people to share their experiences regarding safety when skating outdoors on a frozen body of water. To stay safe, most people choose to skate in pairs or with family and friends.
If you’re unlucky, it can be difficult to climb back up on the ice, one of the reasons why it is so important to skate in a group. And safety equipment is a must. As of Feb. 1, there had been 45 incidents in Norway, with 30 people having fallen through the ice, according to the Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate. Going back three years, there would be even more accidents to report.
Experienced skaters advise that one should always bring along ice claws, a pair of metal spikes with handles for hauling yourself out of holes in the ice, should an accident occur. A safety line or cable and a meter to test the ice thickness are also musts. And to be fully prepared, Norwegians will not just bring along hot chocolate in their rucksack but a change of clothes in a waterproof bag as well.
When it comes to the actual skates, having the proper equipment is important, too. Long distance ice skates are 18 inches or 20 inches long. The skating boot is secured by a hoop in front and a strap behind the skate. The boots should be fairly stiff and provide good support around the ankles.
New adventure in the fjords
Norway is famous for its fjords, and now, this applies to the popular new sport of tour skating. Tyrifjord / Holsfjorden, Krøderen, and Vansjø are popular destinations. But unlike in Sweden, where it is possible to rent them at various locations around the country, you will have to bring your own skates.
If you are interested in learning more about tour skating in Norway, the Norwegian Skiing Association, Skiforeningen, has a Facebook page with tips on tour skiing, icy waters, and security: www.facebook.com/turskoytegruppen.
All photos courtesy of Tove Andersson.
This article originally appeared in the Feb. 26, 2021, issue of The Norwegian American.