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‘The perfect workout’: gym clears snow for free

A gym in northern Sweden has turned this week’s monster snowfall into “the perfect workout”, sending its members out for an hour on Saturday to shovel snow around the city for free.

Daniel Muotka, who runs Crossfit Holistics in Luleå, one of Sweden's most northerly cities, took a class of ten from his gym out between eleven and twelve on Saturday morning to clear snow from driveways across the city.  
 
“We went all out for one hour, so it was a pretty hard workout," he told The Local. "It’s the perfect training. You get the cardio and you get the strength. You can make it as hard as you want or as easy as you want depending on your fitness level. And it’s fun.” 
 
Muotka had the idea earlier this week after the city received almost metre of snow in four days. 
 
“It’s obviously chaos in Luleå because of all the snow that’s fallen, and we have a gym full of people that love to sweat and work out, so I thought why not do something useful with all the energy?” 
 
Muotka posted a message on his Facebook page on Friday lunchtime offering to shovel snow for anyone who’d make him and members of his gym a cup of coffee. Close to a hundred people responded, who Muotka  then ranked according to need, putting old people whose grandchildren were away living in southern Sweden ahead of the local companies who applied. 
 
“We did what we could with the people we had,” he said. 
 
Muotka has now launched a campaign, "Snöhjälpen" (or 'snow help') on  his company's Facebook page, which he hopes will inspire other gyms across Sweden to run similar snow-shovelling 'workouts'. 
 
"We want to attract gyms from all over Sweden to do the same thing," he said. "Everyone can help out it doesn’t have to be a gym. We can't do it all ourselves. Some people are really snowed in. I don’t know when we’ve had as much snow as this.” 
 

WEATHER

VIDEO: Meet the rooftop snow clearers keeping Stockholm safe

Stockholm's snow-topped buildings may look charming, but heavy snowfall can be dangerous. An army of 'sweepers' take to the city's rooftops to clear them of snow in a carefully managed operation.

VIDEO: Meet the rooftop snow clearers keeping Stockholm safe
Rooftop snow cleaner Andrei Pilan clears buildings in Stockholm's picturesque old town. Photo: Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP

Teetering on the edge of a black tin roof ten metres (33 feet) above ground, Andrei Plian and Alex Lupu clear a thick white blanket of snow off a building in Stockholm's historic Gamla Stan (Old Town), while their colleague on the street below keeps watch to warn pedestrians passing by.

While to many the job would be vertigo-inducing, for Plian and Lupu – two roofers by trade – it gives them a chance to admire the view.

“Being here on the roof and looking up at the sky, you feel that freedom,” Plian tells AFP, seemingly ignoring the biting subzero chill.

Secured with ropes, carabiners and a safety harness, he climbs the few remaining steps on a ladder attached to the roof and breaks the serene quiet of the sunny February morning with a clank as his shovel hits the tin roof.

Click on video below to watch:


The constant clearing of snow from the city's roofs is first and foremost done for “the safety of the people”, but also to maintain the buildings, many of which are hundreds of years old.

“If there is too much snow on the roof it is too heavy for it so you have to take it off,” the 36-year-old says

A ten-year roofing veteran, he moves around fluidly and with confidence. Getting the job done quickly is key as more roofs are waiting, but safety remains a top priority.

“Every time you have to think about safety, it's the number one rule. You don't have room for a mistake here. If you make one mistake it could be your last,” Plian says.

In early February, another snow clearer was seriously injured while clearing a roof in the northern Swedish town of Umeå, with initial findings showing he wasn't wearing his safety harness.

Under Swedish law, property owners are responsible for clearing snow and ice off their buildings if it threatens to fall and injure someone, but accidents are rare.

“As far as I can remember there has only been two deaths in the last 20-30 years or so,” Staffan Moberg, spokesman for the insurer industry group Svensk Försäkring, told AFP.

In one case in 2002, a 14-year-old died after being struck by a large block of ice that broke off a building on Stockholm's main shopping street Drottninggatan.

Moberg added that they don't keep statistics on incidents since they are rarely requested, and while accidents do happen on occasion, “the consequences are mostly not lethal and very seldom even severe”.

But after every fresh snowfall, signs immediately sprout up on sidewalks and facades warning passers-by of the risk of falling snow and ice, awaiting the arrival of the “snowploughs” in the sky.

While Plian and Lupu are busy at work on the roof above, Fredrik Ericsson is tasked with ensuring the safety of pedestrians down below.

Using a high-pitched whistle, he signals their comings and goings: when he blows his whistle once the shovelling stops to let people pass, and two whistles signals the all-clear to resume work.

Ericsson concedes that it can be a tricky task as people are often oblivious, sometimes wilfully, to the work going on.

“They don't show that much respect, they just walk past, so I have to stop and yell at them,” he explains. “They don't see the danger.”

By AFP's Helene Dauschy

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