Sunday, February 2, 2014

Ice Skating and Cross Country Skiing

We have been back for almost a month since our trip home.  The first couple of weekends it was nice to just relax after 3 weeks of seeing family and friends but after the first two weekends of relaxing Jake was getting antsy (and I was too for that matter). Our goal was to go on a trip once a month while we are living in Stockholm but it is hard to find a place to go in January. So we decided to try to explore a little around Stockholm.

Last weekend we went ice skating and cross country skiing.  I've been ice skating before but it had been a while.  We went to Kungsträgåden (a park in the middle of Stockholm) to ice skate on Saturday, January 25th.  It was -3°C (or 25°F) which isn't too bad if you wear the right number of layers.  We got bundled up (I wore my outside pants) and headed to the ice skating rink.  There were lots of people ice skating.  Most people here own their own ice skates and helmets.  Kids always wear helmets and some adults do too.  We were able to rent ice skates for about $9 an hour for each of us.  We skated for about an hour before heading back home.  Ice skating was a fun reason to get out of the house but it was hard.  It used muscles that aren't used to being worked out but we had a good time.

Jake found a place where we could go cross country skiing that was about 40 minutes away from where we live so we decided to give that a try on Sunday, January 26th.  We had an early lunch and then took the metro to Slussen and then took a bus to Hellasgården.  You can rent cross country skis and ice skates there.  They have several tracks that you can follow and it was beautiful.  When Jake first suggested we go, I wasn't super excited about it.  I'm still going to claim that I am not adventurous, even though I'm typing this from our apartment in Stockholm.  I am not naturally adventurous.  It takes some convincing for me to try new things.  We talked about cross country skiing Friday night and Saturday and on Saturday night I watched two YouTube videos about how to cross country ski and it looked pretty easy so I told Jake I'd give it a try.

We got to Hellasgården around 12:30 and tried to rent skis but they were out.  They kids, who were probably in middle school, that were running the ski rental said to come back in about two hours.  Well that didn't sound like much fun since we were planning on our whole trip to travel there, ski and travel back to be about 3 to 4 hours.  I decided to go change into my outside pants and then we could walk around for a little while before heading back home to try skiing another day.  After I put on my outside pants we saw some people returning skis and we checked and they had some that would fit us.  So we rented skis for about $45 for 3 hours and went to find a track.  I was kind of expecting a short lesson on what to do but we didn't get one so I guess it was a good thing I watched those two 4 minute videos on YouTube :).

We decided to start with a kid's track that was 1.3 km long (.8 miles).  In the videos that I watched it basically looks like you walk/glide but on skis.  You put your opposite foot and pole out at the same time and glide a little before switching sides.  I went about a minute before the first time I fell.  I was not expecting to fall while cross country skiing.  That is like falling while walking.  But it happened and it kind of hurt.  Good thing the video showed me how to get up with skis on :).  I got back up and kept going.  This time I was a little more aware that I could actually lose my balance and fall.  Jake fell twice when we first started going.  Then I got into a groove and was doing okay.  We stayed on our little track and stopped a few times to take a break and a few pictures.
I liked the Mickey Mouse picture on our km marker :).  This was when we were on the kids track obviously.
While we were skiing I noticed when I was ahead Jake was usually a little ways behind me.  I thought he was just trying to give me space.  But then when he was in front of me I was right on the back of his skis. I realized he wasn't giving me room before he was just having a hard time keeping up. I had to slow down and give him lots of space before skiing again so I didn't catch up to him too quickly.  Jake asked me a few times if I wanted to take a break and I said no because I was fine and then I realized he wanted to take one.  He was getting frustrated because it wasn't as easy for him as he thought it would be and I was having an easier time than he was.  He said the reason why I was doing better was because I watched the YouTube videos and he didn't and if he would have known we were going than he would haven't watched them and been more prepared.  I was just excited that we were doing something outside that I enjoyed more than he did.  That never happens.

We decided to try another track before returning our skis since we had them for 3 hours and had only used them for about 45 minutes.  We picked a track that was 2.3 km plus 800 m there and back so 3.1 km total (about 2 miles).  That track was good.  It went by the lake that was frozen (some people were cross country skiing and ice skating on it) and we went through lots of trees.  The track we were on also had lights so you could do it at night which would be cool.  The only frustrating thing with this track, which we also had on the first track, was low snow during parts of the track.  We hadn't had snow in a while but it had stayed below freezing so the snow hadn't melted but there were some low spots which made it difficult to go over in our skis.

After about 2 hours we decided to take our skis back and head home.  We had fun and I could see us doing this again sometime.

Dressing for the Winter
I have talked before about how they use inside shoes and outside shoes.  Now that I've been here through the winter I can definitely tell why we need inside and outside shoes.  All of the snow, water, sand and dirt that you bring in from the outside would not be fun to clean up.

Before winter started I had also heard that people wore outside pants.  I was curious as to what those might look like.  They are basically ski pants over your regular pants.  Kids about 12 and younger wear outside pants anytime they are outside. While they are traveling to school, walking outside or playing they have on outside pants.  Little kids are in one piece snow suits.  Babies are also outside in strollers.  They are bundled up with lots of layers and then they are placed in something that looks like a sleeping bag before then are ready for the cold.  Just because it is below freezing does not mean babies stay inside.  I am surprised every time I see a stroller being pushed through the snow but they can't stay inside for 6 months straight.
Kids at school take off their outside pants and shoes and put on inside shoes before heading into the classroom.
I thought I would also see adults wearing outside pants while walking around Stockholm but for the most part you won't see that.  There might be a few people in them (some older ladies wear outside skirts which are made out of the same material as pants) but if people are just commuting and not planning on standing outside for a long period of time they just wear their regular pants plus a coat.  Teachers do bring outside pants for the one hour break they have with their classes throughout the week.

Although I am not a fan of going outside when it is cold it is different being in Sweden in the winter and still having outside recess.  There is no way we would have recess in Olathe if we had snow on the ground or if the temp drops below 20°F with the wind chill factored in. And kids are definitely not allowed to play in the snow if they are outside.  They can only play on the green top (or basketball court area) that has been cleared.  Not in Stockholm.  Kids are dressed appropriately and they can play in the snow or go sledding during their outside break.  They don't throw snow balls.  I don't know if that is because they are told that they can't or because they see so much snow that it isn't that big of a deal anymore.  The way Swedes handle being outside in the winter makes me think we could learn a thing or two, at least in Kansas.   If anyone from up north is reading this, how do you guys handle recess during the winter?  Why can't kids in the US go out and play in the snow?  If they have the appropriate clothes wouldn't it be beneficial?  In Sweden they know if kids don't go outside and play during the school day in the winter than they won't see the sun except on the weekends since it is light for such a short amount of time (the shortest day = sunrise at 8:45 am and sets at 2:45 pm).  I still don't like the idea of being outside in such cold weather but if I wore my outside pants and outside shoes I would be just fine.  And there is a good chance I will start wearing them to recess once we move back :).

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