Nordic Skating is a recreational form of long distance skating on natural ice that forms on lakes, rivers and seas. For safety ice claws, a boyancy aid in the form of a rucksack, throwing line and ice poles for probing the ice are used. To protect against the cold and possible immersion also a set of exchange clothing is carried. Tour leaders develop their probing and route evaluation skills by participation in teory training and practice over the years. 

Here a group of students are on tour to gains experience on Nordic skating. The ice looks goog and is good in most places, while in other areas the worm of skaters take turns to avoid the weakest spots by following the leader.

It had been snowing for days and the old ice was mostly covered with wet snow. At the same time wind and shipping had kept water open along the fairway. The ice to the left on the picture was 4-5cm thick while water wash had impregnated and hardened the snow on the old ice. The thinner ice is darker, while the old ice has more air bubbles and is less transparent. I followed the edge. A border between new and old ice

Heavy snow presses watern onto the ice

Another section on the same day was full of snow and water. Dry snow insulates the water and no icing occurs. You can see tracks from my footsteps. The tracks are full of water. The visible line is a crack in the ice, which has let seawater melt on the snowsheet from below.

Weak spot - heat from the sea below radiates up

Another spot of the same ice field is actually without ice or very weak. Perhaps only covered with snow. The crystals are different, more course. There are some dents and channels in the snow layer that say "water may have been sucked down the open drain hole" underneath. You can actually see two holes beside each other. That is an indication of a bigger area of weaker ice. 

Southern waves and wind from north causes loosely drifting ice

Where water and ice meets in the sunshine is the most enjoyable art of nature. I was on my way towards Hanko (Hangö). One short section had been blown apart and ice drifted to sea. I had to go ashore and quickly found consistent ice again.

Here I avoid the wet and snowy, thrust the dark

If the ice forms during snowfall and with wind - soft spots may be formed and they would normally be humid and collect more drifting snow, that in turn isolates. I did stop here and poke with my poles in different places to learn about the ice. I concluded that the dark ice was ok and also readable. The wind prevented me from hearing the ice. I avoided the snow. Even the dark ice was still a bit soft with captured salt in it.

Long distance skating is something special, and as always when moving on ice - you should take into account that there is also thin ice never mind how many cars and people you may see on the ice. Moving water, currents, wind, snow and seabed shapes affect how ice is forming and how it melts away. Join a skating group or a class to learn more and quickly about the basics, keep icepicks around your neck to pull yourself out of the water, and learn how to test and know more about ice.  Attached is a map outlining the closest waters to Ekenäs and what to expect. We may refer to this map in other articles. Be safe - join someone who knows and has accurate information for today!

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A three hour presentation will present when and where ice will be strong enough to hold a person and how to probe ice for Nordic Skating on lakes and the sea. Skating on natural ice is a phenomenal nature experience. Because of the speed and potential weak ice the theory session prepares and builds understanding for what to expect and how to prepare for skating. You will get a basic understanding of how ice is formed, why some spots may differ from others, and how wind, snow and water currents may cause uneven ice formation, or almost secretly weaken the ice.  A trained person with experience will be able to almost unnoticed collect information and make correct judgements on route selections.

Skating in a group

Follow up I: Get outdoors and get Nordic Skates and equipment tried and adjusted for you (not included).

Follow up II: An introductory tour to get a feel for how far you can go (not included).

  Participation fee: 30 euro/person/session.

Available in Swedish, Finnish and English.

Finding skatable ice is often a larger effort, unless you are prepared to depend on reports from other people and skate on consumed ice. Weather reports, forecasts and observations from previous weeks, shipping ice reports, wind directions, satellite images and experience are part of the sources to study before you decide on where to look for good ice. After possibly good ice has been located by desk work a tour leader would go and observe the ice before taking a group out. It may require travelling, skiing or using ice roads. In the best case scenario one is ok with going to the closest shore to take a spin of tens of kilometers.

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Subcategories

A few videos from skating tours primarily in the Ekenäs neighborhood.

Nordic skating is about recognizing and avoiding the soft spots, and being equipped for swims between tours. While you may stay on top for years and miles. Here appears some articles on what a tour leader will be looking for and have knowledge of. This is by no means a handbook, but will give guidance.