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What is Winter like in North Sweden?

Updated: Feb 3, 2023

One word... WHITE !!

So it may not come as a surprise that life in the far North of Sweden is very snowy, very cold and very beautiful. While many people think that living so close to lapland means that it is snowy all year round with reindeer trotting by and Father Christmas on speed dial it is actually only like that for around 5 months of the year (where I live). The rest is a glorious mix of Spring, Summer and Autumn as you know them, but on steroids !!




Typically, we can expect the first snowfall to come at some point in November and it tends to come and go perhaps three times before the real permanent stuff arrives in December. November can be a pretty grim month and I think it s fair to say that it is most Swedes least favourite month. The days are dark and wet from the ever falling and melting snow and rain and the ground absorbs any light that there may be. The whole month can make you feel like you live in a dark cave!



It is no wonder then that around this time you will start to see twinkling lights appear in windows, gardens and around doorways as people try to add a little light and joy to what can be a really rather depressing month. Swedes know very well how to 'do' cosy or should I say 'Mys' (pronounced mees) -the essence of which is the feeling of warmth... like being wrapped up in a fluffy blanket, surrounded by soft candlelight, sipping cocoa and watching an old movie. They seem to do this with ease and decorate their homes in such a way that makes you feel like you are walking into a familiar and welcoming hug, and in the winter months this spills from the home into the garden also.




Whilst driving through the small villages that are dotted along the road we take to come home from the city you will see fences, trees and bushes speckled with glimmering lights, fairy lights splaying out to the ground from the top of flagpoles to create a glorious golden Christmas tree shape and pretty little displays of old butter churns and flowerpots filled with evergreens twinkling and glistening in the darkness. And in true Swedish style its all done with simplicity and understatement... no multicoloured, garish carry on here !


A perfect display to brighten up the winter darkness. An old milk churn stands on a wooden sleigh that sofia's father used as a boy to transport milk churns from the barn and probably his siblings too for fun in the snow. Now it stands with evergreen and glowing lights.
My neighbours beautiful display. Photo taken by Sofia Vallgren.




Finally, once the good snow arrives it's fun times ahead ! As the snow stays for such a long period of time there is no way of staying tucked up inside the whole time sipping cocoa. That is why here in North Sweden there are plenty of activities and amenities ready and waiting for you to make the most of the season. From groomed snowmobile tracks to pristine ice skating rinks, Cross country ski trails to ice bathing holes carved out in the lakes.


I must confess that I am not a sporty person and don't get my kicks hurtling down hills on a pair of skis... nor do I have the balance to speed along through field and forest on cross country skis BUT I do love being outdoors in the winter.

For me I have an immense feeling of peace and wellbeing in the depth of Swedish winter. I am by nature a little bit of a hermit and find that being cosied up at home brings me lots of creativity and pleasure. I love nothing more than a walk with Kya in the cold fresh air before returning home to hunker down !





However, as idyllic as all that sounds, life must go on. People still need to travel and get to work or school and go to the supermarket too. And here we come to discussing the fantastic network of snowploughs that clear the main routes and the local farmers who help out their neighbours by scooping and carrying away monumental amounts of snow from driveways, school playgrounds and village social areas.





Our first Swedish winter in 2020 was quite the spectacular sight for us brits and was pretty mega for the Swedes too .. our neighbour in his 80's says that the snow came down faster and thicker then anytime he can recall before that for many, many years. We had metres of the stuff fall in a few short days, long awaited too as it didnt arrive until Christmas eve in its true element !! Now we had only arrived a couple of weeks prior and didnt yet have the kit and caboodle required for removing said snow from our fabulous but somewhat long driveway... and this is where our outstanding neighbours came in to their own !




They would turn up with an amazing machine , a snow slinger, snow blower or what ever you wish to call it. A machine that you push in front of you rather like a lawn mower, with rotating blades that slice, churn and scoop up the snow before projecting it upwards and out of a funnel flinging it in whichever direction you desire. The result is a beautifully smooth and cleared path with much less effort than the traditional shovel !! Our superhero neighbour Torbjörn would head over early morning and evening to ensure we could get in or out of the property, never once mentioning it, but just doing it ... because he knew we couldn't and he cared. When the snow was too deep for the trusty snowblower our other neighbour would come with his tractor and simply plough his way down the drive leaving a huge pile of snow at the end of it, much to the girls delight, a perfect sledging slope in their very own garden !


And again it was done without ceremony, infact the first time it happened while we were out and we had no idea on our return who had cleared our driveway. It wasn't until someome else told us that we discovered who had done it. No fuss, no charge ... just a "Welcome to Vebomark" !




As you may know our girls go to school in the city now, a 50 minute drive away leaving home at 7am each day. Back in england I hated driving in snow and would avoid it at all costs but here it doesnt bother me at all unless it is super icy after a warm spell followed by a cold snap. The reason I have less fear here is that the roads are cleared and gritted (generally with gravel rather than salt) and cars are required by law to have winter tyres on from December 1st ... often sooner as the weather usually demands it before then. We have metal studded winter tyres and they are great, they make such a huge difference and in my little trusty toyota yaris hybrid I can zip along quite happily. we also have a big 4 wheel drive but I have to say that Beryl the Yaris handles the roads much better in terms of sticking to it !




Another thing to mention aswell of course is frozen eyelashes !! Now and again the temprature dips so cold (minus 20 degrees and colder) that while out for a walk your lashes and hair will be coated with a thick white frost ! Generally the air is very dry here which is why it often does not feel as cold as you would expect ... no damp, yet the beautiful ice crystals form making you look quite spectacular !!


I mentioned earlier the fun activity of ice bathing !! Well, if you want to take it to another level you can participate in the winter swim in the Skellefteå river in town every year...this year it takes place on February 11th and we will be there to watch it. Races such as 25 metre breast stroke, freestyle and butterfly take place aswell as 50 metre breast stroke and 100 metre freestyle. There is also a 25 metre relay race where both genders must be represented ! If you fancy it check out this website ...



I took these photos at last years race!



So, I hope that reading this blog has shown you that winter in North Sweden is breathtakingly beautiful and thriving even in the colder, darker months. In fact I would go so far as to say it is as wonderful if not more special in the summer ... which is like another world again !! If you are wrapped up in the right clothes and you are ready to embrace the cold then you will absolutely love Skellefteå or any other place in Northern Sweden... it is something very special.






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Love this blog Nic and after spending four weeks with you over Christmas and new year I wholeheartedly agree that where you live is a truly magical place in the winter.

Love where you live 💕💕💕

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nicolafoleher
nicolafoleher
Mar 29, 2023
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It was such a magical time wasn't it ? However, after waking to another 6 inches of freshly morning snow I am now ready for Spring to arrive !

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