Mårten Ajne has over 30 years of Nordic skating experience. He often spends about 40 days a year on natural ice in Sweden and abroad. He has written books on the subject and participated in the product development of Lundhags’ new Nordic skating products. Few people can describe the technique behind and show the fascination of gliding over frozen water like Mårten.
Southern Sweden has a winter climate that hovers around the freezing point. Perhaps you’re thinking of a long, grey slushy winter with occasional cold spells, but it is also a prerequisite for snow-free natural ice that makes for long skating tours. Similar conditions are found in Norway and Finland. During cold winters, ice can freeze on Danish bays, Northern German plain lakes and all the way south to Holland. You get the chance further north for warmer winters, otherwise you have to take the opportunity before the snow closes the lakes for the season. But middle Sweden has the best conditions with slushy winters, numerous lakes and expansive archipelagos in the Baltic Sea. The best place on Earth for Nordic skating.
Skating is done around the world, but it is almost only here in Scandinavia where we go on skating tours, long tours. Together with the canal skating Dutch, Swedes have also developed equipment and ice conduct in the last century. The special requirements, with long skating tours mixed with walking, place particular demands on detachable skates and walking-friendly boots. Nordic skating is in many ways a Swedish phenomenon.
In Holland, you skate on shallow canals in the middle of civilisation. Here, the skating has been developed with a focus on speed and technique. Safety and other aspects have received less attention. When there is a lack of ice, you stand on the canal floor, wade to shore, crawl over the river bank, get warm at a café and take the train home. In Sweden’s wilderness, the focus has been on perseverance and safety, while the skating technique itself has been neglected. This has occasionally led to skates and boots that are unsuitable for a relaxed, efficient and pleasurable skating technique.
Performed well, skating is a beautiful, flowing soft motion with a pleasurable feeling of speed. The low friction between the blade and ice makes skating the fastest and most efficient of all non-mechanised human transportation. But it demands good skater technique and skates that make performing a correct skating technique possible.
The steel is hard enough for the edge to hold its sharpness, and soft enough to avoid the blade breaking and a much too rigid gait. The blade is narrow with low friction, but still thick enough to not get stuck when carving or bend. The blade’s skating surface has a flat enough curve for a stable course, while it is crucial to steer the blade when carving. The skate is sufficiently long for an even gait and efficient thrust, and short for comfortable recovery and smooth cross over. The height provides ample clearance for the boot and snow without unnecessary strain on the ankles. For the best balance, the binding allows for a boot placement with the centre of gravity right over the blade, both in the length and side directions. At the same time, the skate is light, sufficiently torsionally rigid, will not alter its shape in cold or warm weather, ergonomic in its handling, will not rust in demanding damp environments, and of course, not fall apart during normal strain from ice’s unevenness.
A Nordic skate that handles of all these demands is so much more than a piece of steel and aluminium. It is the work of art and handicraft of an engineer, careful in its choice of materials and manufacturing – and a joy to skate on. You will have train yourself in the skating technique. You still have to find your way to the ice. But with a pair of well-made, properly prepared skates with an adapted length, all the conditions exist for an experience of pure skating enjoyment.