Winter in Sweden

Why I can’t wait for a proper Swedish winter

Why I can't wait for a proper Swedish winter
Northern Sweden in the winter. Photo: Ulf Palm/TT
As others break out the vitamin D supplements and start dreaming of next summer, our northern Swedish reporter Paul Connolly is excited about the prospect of a proper cold Swedish winter.

This is the time of the year when I start paying attention to my weather app. I check it at least twice a day, looking for those lovely little minus symbols, that mean winter is on its way. You see, I have a confession. I love Swedish winters.

I used to live in London. But I hated English winters. They were dark, wet and dank. Every three or four years we’d get a mild dusting of snow which paralysed the nation for a few days (understandably so as it’s simply not cost-effective to prepare each year for a phenomenon that only occurs sporadically) but otherwise it was just mild and damp. It was a boring, depressing time of the year.

On the other hand, our first winter in Sweden was sensational.  We had 1.5 metres of snow, temperatures of -5C to -25C, and lots of clear sunny days. I was out most weekends on my snowmobile, exploring parts of the forest I’d never seen before and riding across the lake at the bottom of our garden.

But it’s not just the recreational activities. Out in the country, the hours after a heavy snowfall are magical. The snow absorbs all sound and, if it’s cold enough (around -10C should do it), the snowflakes are like big, elaborate sequins – unlike snow I’ve seen anywhere else. My partner and I would just walk around our village, smiling. It was like Christmas every day (although I’m fairly certain our Swedish neighbours thought we must’ve been a little simple).

IN PICTURES: Paul Connolly's snow scooter adventure

Another reason I love Swedish winters is the utter absence of insects.  We live in a relatively mosquito-free area – even after the wet spring and early summer we endured this year we weren’t inundated with the little pests.

But if I go for a walk in the summer I still end up engaged in some strange, wild semaphoric dance routine as every insect in the immediate area makes a beeline for my tasty flesh. I’ve been in the middle of a group of six people chatting in the garden as five horse flies settled on me and sank their fangs in while the others remained utterly untouched.

In the winter you can leave your windows open to air a room without the need to hurtle round the room afterwards pursuing insects while brandishing a rolled-up copy of the latest Biltema catalogue. Winters in southern England are generally so mild that you’re never quite free of flies.

And summer heat, well, it’s just too hot. I don’t want to be sweaty all day. Recent summers up here have been very hot – even the summer just gone had a two-week run of days above 30C. That’s just too hot. The “glorious” summer of 2014 was almost unbearably warm for me.

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The worry I have is that we might be in for a repeat of the last two disappointing winters, where the temperature seemed to perpetually hover around 2C to -2C. The roads were treacherous, the snow was wet and thin and the snowmobiling poor.

They were almost like English winters. Even the locals found the weather annoying. My Facebook feed last winter regularly featured pleas from my local friends for “proper” winter to get its skates on.  The northern Swedes love their winters too.

This year the local amateur forecasters and even some international meteorologists are predicting a very cold, snowy one.  But I’m not so sure. My weather app is still resolutely refusing to offer up a minus figure for the days ahead. It could be a long wait for a long, cold winter.