Swedish Language Blog

Swedish Winter Activity Verbs Posted by on Jan 29, 2021 in Culture, Swedish Language, Vocabulary

Photo: Fredrik Schlyter/imagebanksweden.se, Norrköping, Östergötland.

Have you heard the Swedish saying Inget dåligt väder, bara dåliga kläder / there’s no bad weather, only bad clothing? It’s essentially a Swede’s way of saying, “Bundle up, we’re going outside!” Even during the coldest months, Swedes manage to get out and enjoy the natural world. In this blog entry, we’ll cover some common winter verbs, and highlight three activities that are unique to Sweden and the Nordic Countries. 

A verb that accompanies many Swedish recreation verbs is åka. This verb works in English as “to go” or “to ride.” Now, I should mention that åka is the verb we use to say “go” by means other than our two feet. “Go skating” for example in Swedish is åka skridskor. There are loads of åka variations for activities but first, let’s look at the different forms of åka:

infinitive: att åka

Vill du och Johanna åka längdskidor med oss nästa helg?
Do you and Johanna want to go cross-country skiing next weekend?

present tense: åker

Förskolebarn åker spark varje dag
Preschoolers go kick-sledding every day.

past perfect: har åkt

Jag har aldrig åkt långfärdsskridskor, men jag vill gärna testa det!
I have never gone Nordic skating, but I really want to try it.

past: åkte

I julas åkte vi skidor i Åre. Det var fint med det var mycket folk.
This Christmas we went skiing in Åre. It was nice but there were lots of people.

imperative/ command form: åk!

Åk inte om bräda utan hjälm!
Don’t go snowboarding without a helmet.

Below is a list of åka verbs. Practice each verb with all the conjugations of åka to help you memorize them!

Photo: Helena Wahlman/Image Bank Sweden.

åka skidor                             go skiing(downhill)
åka längdskidor                  go cross-country
(or Nordic) skiing
åka bräda/snowboard     go snowboarding
åka snöskoter                      go snowmobiling
åka skridskor                       go skating
åka långfärdsskridskor  go Nordic skating

Now this one takes a bit of explanation. Långfärdsskridskor are, as the word lång in the name implies, longer in length than typical ice skates. Commonly done once as soon as the lakes are freshly frozen and the ice is still relatively thin, this type of skating is about covering a lot of ground quickly. You use stavar (poles) as you skate so the stride looks a bit like that of cross-country skiing. Here’s a demo on Nyhetsmorgon on TV4.

åka pulka             go sledding

Photo: Fredrik Broman/imagebank.sweden.se Camp Södergren, Jämtland

åka spark             go kick-sledding

This winter activity is quite unique to the Nordic countries. Kick-sleds are commonly used as transportation in the winter. Many folks trade their bicycles for kick-sleds as soon as the snow falls. Oftentimes, sidewalks and roads are not shoveled down to the cement, rather, fine gravel is laid into the snow so the snow becomes packed, but not slick. This creates a hard surface perfect for gliding. Kids take them to school, and people use them to do their errands around town. 


Okej, how about some verbs that have nothing to do with åka?

gå med snöskor                     go snowshoeing
skotta snö                               shoveling snow
bygga snögubbe/person   build a snowperson
bada bastu                              take a sauna
kallbada                                  cold bathe

…the last two are often paired together. Folks in the Nordic countries love a good sauna and a brisk swim. Some people even dare to take this concept a step further, dunking themselves into freezing cold, icy water. The kallbada concept has gained a bit of speed in recent years. There is a website called kallbad.nu that serves cold bathing enthusiasts. You can learn the benefits of cold bathing, find listings of local groups and kallbada-friendly locations around Sweden.  Svinkallt! (This translates literally to “swine cold,” but means VERY cold!)

What winter activities do you enjoy? Has anyone done a kallbad this year? Share in the comments below!

Photo: Helena Wahlman/imagebanksweden.se

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About the Author: Chelsea B

Chelsea is a Swedish language instructor and translator living in Minnesota, U.S. She has a degree in Scandinavian Studies from Gustavus Adolphus College and has experience living and working in Sweden from north to south! In her free time, she enjoys cooking, hiking, listening to music, and practicing slöjd, the Swedish word for handcraft.