“It’s something we’ve been considering for a while, but this winter’s heavy and prolonged snowfall brought the issue back onto the planning table,” said the chairman of the council’s Streets and Traffic Committee, Martin Olofsson.
“We have snow and we have some steep streets. This will make the most of that combination.”
In the first year of the scheme, winter 2006/2007, only six streets will be converted into ‘city pistes’. But if the public response is positive, said Olofsson, that could be doubled the following winter.
“Next winter will be a trial – but I’m confident that Stockholmers are going to love it.”
The hilly Södermalm area has been earmarked for the conversion – the first of its kind in the world – with work beginning in September in time for an inaugural slalom race and freestyle snowboard exhibition at the beginning of January.
The central piste will be on Götgatan.
“Götgatan is the obvious focus of the urban ski project. It was pedestrianised in December 2004 and the disruption will be minimal.” Olofsson told The Local.
Stockholmers will be able to ski around 500 metres from the summit of Götgatan down to Södermalmstorget, the square at Slussen station, where they will be greeted by “urban waffle cottages”.
The area’s widest and longest piste will also end in Södermalmstorget. Some 900 metres of Katarinavägen, a broad, curving road overlooking the harbour, is pencilled in as a ‘blue run’, by Ski Stockholm, the company formed to design and manage the network.
“Since this piste will be so long, it’s the only one which will be serviced by a chairlift,” said the chief planner for Ski Stockholm, Sara Lindholm.
A ‘green’ nursery slope area designed for beginners, on three roads to the north of Hornsgatan, will have button lifts. Götgatan and Glasbruksvägen – which will link Katarinavägen to Nytorget – will use drag lifts.
Lindholm said that Ski Stockholm anticipates a three month season starting on New Year’s Day, and portable snow machines will fill in if nature fails to come up with the white stuff.
“We’ll have a number of snow canons mounted on rooftops, but most of them will be mobile,” she said.
“We intend to make the most of the short season.”
There may yet be obstacles to the scheme, however. Moderate Party councillor Elin Hammar is the most vocal opponent, arguing that the cost of the scheme – budgeted at around 120 million kronor – makes it impossible to justify.
“Stockholm taxpayers will foot half of the bill for this scheme – and they’ll face months of traffic disruption for the benefit of very few skiers,” she said.
But the Streets and Traffic Committee chairman Martin Olofsson rejects Hammar’s criticism.
“Stockholm is an active city. Our research suggests tens of thousands of residents will enjoy the benefits of the urban ski project, either directly as skiers or indirectly as streets become cleaner and quieter,” he said.
“And for most of them it will be free, since monthly and annual transport cards will be used as lift passes.”
If the scheme is a success, Stockholm hopes to be the first capital city in the world to host a World Cup skiing event.
“Stockholm could be to skiing what Monte Carlo is to motor racing,” said Olofsson.
City pistes? Chairlifts on Stockholm streets? Snow machines on rooftops? We hope you enjoyed our little April Fool’s joke…