Outdoor Ice Skating

One of the best early winter experiences is heading to the nearest lake for outdoor ice skating – experiencing the smooth glide of skating along on a frozen lake in the middle of the wilderness is an adventure out of the ordinary. Ånnsjön in Jämtland Härjedalen is a popular place for locals to head to when the mercury drops below zero, and after a few days the lake is sufficiently frozen over enough to enjoy a day out. The mountains surround you 360 degrees and it feels as if you could fly from one peak to the other as you glide over the ice. The lake is shallow and early ice is often clear enough to allow you a chance to spot the fish below and skate along with them as they dart about.

Outdoor Ice Skating | Photo: Anette Andersson
Photo: Annet Andersson

Outdoor Ice Skating on Lake Ånnsjön

The late autumn sun sits low on the horizon and faintly warms us as we sit on the edge of the lake strapping on our ice skates. Taking a deep breath, we heave ourselves up and on to the ice, gingerly at first as we find our balance. Skating on natural ice just feels happier than it does on an ice rink, but it also has an element of excitement and danger. There is the ever-present risk of falling through the ice that plays on the back of the mind. For safety sake we tie ourselves together with a length of rope and head off as a group towards the Bunnerfjällen mountain range in the distant west. The morning is silent, the silence broken only from the sound of our skates grinding and rasping over the black ice. The water is clear under the newly formed ice and it’s possible to see the bottom of the lake. Some of the younger skaters in our group notice some fish under the surface and excitedly skate about looking out for them dashing around the bottom.  

One of the skaters notices open water and warns the rest of us. He starts hacking and testing the ice with his ice pick as we all slowly creep along. A great deal of attention must be paid to the ice when you are outdoor ice skating. The ice-pick cracks the ice and it sounds like a cannon, but today the ice is thick enough and poses no real threat. The lake has many small bays and eddies and the surface freezes over solidly enough to be safe. Even so, it’s worth remaining alert when skating, for any signs of open water. Common sense also says that if the ice is thin, it’s better to skate spread out, not all clumped together as a group. Finally, if the ice does start cracking, everyone should skate as fast as they can in different directions.

The small bays around the lake also mean that there are lots of tight small turns that are fun to see how fast you can skate before having to turn at a high speed. Natural obstacles, like a half-submerged pine tree becomes an obstacle to try hop over, or glide under, depending on how lithe you feel on your ice skates and soon enough we all worked up a sweat with the energy being burned. We decide to take a break and stop for some hot chocolate and grilled sausages that we brought along. After a short stop we continue staking as the sun slowly sets behind the mountain peaks of Snasahögarna.

Outdoor Ice Skating | Photo: Anette Andersson
One of the best early winter experiences in Sweden is heading to the nearest lake for outdoor ice skating – an adventure out of the ordinary. Photo Anette Andersson

Safety & Outdoor Ice Skating

Safety is the fundamental element for skating in the outdoors. It highlights the importance of Knowledge, Equipment and Company when heading out. The right knowledge makes you a smarter skater, knowing how thick the ice is and what the conditions are like. You also need to have the right safety equipment and most importantly, never ever go out skating alone; always have company with you.

Outdoor Ice Skating on lake Ånnsjön | Movie: Friluftsliv

Outdoor Ice Skating with the Family

Ånnsjön, in western Jämtland, lies between Storlien and Åre. It is a popular lake for ice skating for the local population and many locals try be the first ones out when the ice sets. The lake is situated at 525m above sea level and is relatively shallow, meaning that it freezes often as early as October and if the snows come late in the year it’s possible to skate until December. The edge of the lake is a long beach and makes for fantastic stops for a family picnic. On a calm, sunny day there are often over 100 cars in the parking lot. Furthermore, the lake is easy to access, it’s only a 5 minutes’ drive from the E14 highway.

The lake has a surface area of approximately 57sq kilometres so there is plenty of room for everyone keen on ice skating. It is important however, to keep in mind the inlets and outlets of the lake, which can be dangerous as the ice is always thinner where there are currents and caution needs to be shown when skating around them. Those who are looking for longer challenges are advised to take a tour up along Rekån towards the mountain side skating on a genuine high altitude river.

Outdoor Ice Skating | Photo: Anette Andersson
Outdoor ice skating at lake Ånnsjön is a perfect family adventure. Photo: Anette Andersson

Download more info on Ånnsjön and other protected areas of Jämtland Härjedalen, Sweden

HERE’S THE SKINNY

ACTIVITY

Ice skating

SEASON

Late fall, winter

Skating seasons are normally short and it’s hard to predict when the ice is at its best. The lake can freeze as early as October and the period between the first ice and heavy snowfalls are the best season.

START

The small village of Ånn in western Jämtland, located between Storlien and Åre. Head towards the lake Ånnsjön, towards Fiskbodarna.

GETTING HERE

Go by train to Ånn and walk down to the frozen lake, or by rental car from Åre/Östersund airport or Trondheim/Vaernes airport.

MAP

Z6 Storlien-Ljungdalen

SUITABLE FOR

Ice skating is suitable for all ages and Ånn is recommended for families as there are picnic areas and benches right at the lake.

EQUIPMENT

Touring skates (or regular skates for children), together with safety equipment (ice spikes, ice-picks and safety line) are requirements. Helmets, knee and elbow guards can be good to have. A backpack with a change of clothes in a waterproof bag is recommended. Backpacks also work as a good flotation device.

RENT SKATES

The Lundhags outlet shop in Järpen offers touring skates for rental, together with the prescribed safety equipment.

ACCOMMODATION

Camp Ånn (in Ånn and not far from the lake Ånnsjön) is the perfect place for skaters, especially if you like to skate for more than one day. Otherwise take a daytrip from Åre, Storlien or Östersund.

ICE-WISE

If there is any uncertainty surrounding the thickness of the ice then extreme caution should be taken. Rather err on the side of caution and don’t head out. Contact local tour skaters to be sure on the various social media forums to be extra sure.

FOLLOW SOMEONE WHO KNOWS

If you are interesting is trying tour skating, join an organised tour. Åreguiderna arranges tours. For more information check Åreguiderna.

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