Monday, January 27, 2014

Vigu Nordic Skating 1

It was finally time for another Vigu (the Wilderness and Nature Guide eduction of Axxell) course, Nordic Skating 1. An attempt two weeks earlier was cancelled due to the lack of ice. This time the conditions were ideal, though. It had been very cold for almost two weeks and very little snow. The course was also moved to the Turku region, because of the better ice situation here, which suited me fine.

Nordic skating is a fairly big sport in Sweden, but it has gained popularity in Finland as well. I'm a total newbie myself, having only done some 80 km of it this year in preparation for the course, but I really looked forward to it.

We started in the Friday morning with a few hours of theory, covering the background, gear and basic safety before going to Pitkäsalmi in the afternoon for some basic practical technique training.

Having skated a little back and forth it was time for a safety exercise. At the winter swimmer's place there was a little open water and we were to get down in the water, get up again using the ice prods and change into the dry clothes packed in a waterproof bag inside the backpack. I went first to get it over with.

The cold water itself wasn't too bad, but changing into dry clothes was a race against the clock, before the fingers would become unusable from the cold. A good and necessary exercise.

The others went to the base camp at Rymättylä for the night, while I went home. They did have some ice theory lectures later, but I read up on the subject instead. There are several good books on the subject in Swedish as well as some online material.

The next morning we met at the Röölä harbour in Rymättylä at 8:30 and soon started skating.

Checking out one of the potential dangers fora sea ice skater, a part of the ice that froze later and is hence weaker (a "wind well" directly translated).


Checking out the thickness of the ice when it changes. In these conditions the border between different ice sections is clearly visible.

It took four or five hard hits by the ice pike to get through, so it is more than strong enough, probably around 15 cm.

Hencka found a nice comfortable seat.

Danni trains for the Swan Lake.

An efficient technique in head wind. Hold each others ice pikes and skate with exactly the same cadence. I tried it with Eddie and it was really efficient, though somewhat hard to keep the same cadence.

Stålhatten / Toolhattu

The first lunch.

The ice ahead was no longer possible to skate on. A shipping route made the ice somewhat less stable.

Danni gave it a little try, though.

Thin ice. Visually it didn't differ from some of the ice we had been on, which only shows how important it is to check the ice on between different regions. A single hit with the ice pike went through. It was around 4 cm thick, basically strong enough to skate on, but almost impossible to get up from, should it break.

Continuing. The ice next to land has broken because of wakes from the nearby shipping route.

A larger ship happened to come by fairly near us and the instructors came up with the brilliant idea to get closer. It was quite a peculiar feeling to see and feel the waves from the ship's wake move in the ice, which was some 10 cm thick.

Due to the shipping route the ice was a little less solid in one section, but everybode made it without problems.

Coarser ice, difficult to skate on.

Most of the participants had borrowed gear, which meant some maintenance was required.

The last feathers of a dead swan.

Oh no, the ice monster has caught Simo again.

And on we went.

A boat had almost cut off our return route. It had passed a few hours earlier and the ice had frozen enough that we could get over.

After that we soon arrived at our starting point, after having skated 45 km during the day. Not bad, considering most of us were newbies.

A dinner and some more ice theory followed, before I drove home again.

We met again at a different place in Rymättylä on the Sunday morning and started skating again. The ice was better here.

A throw line exercise...

... followed by lunch.

My Lundhags blades with a Salomon XAdventure binding (previously under the name SNS BC) worked well.

The ice pikes worked well, except for the grip coming loose. Some epoxy glue should fix that, but it should have been fixed from the start.

Now we arrived at really nice ice.

Thinner (meaning newer) and smoother ice still.


This was an exceptionally nice section. Tail wind and smooth ice meant that with you almost flew with next to no effort.

Our merry gang.

A second lunch.

Going on.

Our instructors, Danni and Henrik, check our position.

The last section.

The distance of the day was 44 km. I didn't have any real problems, but my ankles were pretty sore, probably because not being used to skating that much. It is also possible that my orthopedic insoles would have helped. Otherwise skating felt quite easy and natural and it definitely is great fun.

Thanks to the participants and instructors for an excellent course. I had fun all the time, which seems to be a recurring pattern in the Vigu courses.

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