Our next interviewee has provided us with our favourite "toothbrush-oriented" definition of winter and brings us our first Swedish perspective on best practices for winter cities. Before sitting down to read our interview with Daniel Firth, project manager for the Stockholm’s Sustainable Urban Mobility Strategy, we recommend brewing your own steaming mug of glögg to set the tone. Skål!

1. How does your city or community celebrate and/or embrace the winter season?

Stockholm is a northern city – a couple of degrees latitude further north than Fort McMurray – so winter means darkness as much as snow and ice. For most of December the sun goes down before three and doesn’t come up again much before 8:30. So we generally embrace anything that generates light: Christmas decorations start to go up early and homes are filled with candles. We get through a lot of tea lights: that’s why the Swedish furniture chain IKEA sell them in mega-packs! 

Sweden, like Canada is a big winter sports country so as well as hockey and downhill skiing, lots of people both watch and take part in cross country skiing, bandy or skating on one of the many frozen lakes.

Snowfall is not always reliable in Stockholm anymore. Although as I write this we just broke a 100 year record for snowfall in November – around a half metre of snow fell in less than 24 hours which caused some pretty severe disruption. But the snow reflects the light so even if it’s been a pain, many people welcome it – especially as sledding weather is forecast for the weekend! So we wrap up warm and get on with it: as the Swedish saying goes “det finns inget dåligt väder, bara dåliga kläder” – “there is no bad weather, just bad clothes”. 

2. If you could do one thing to improve winter life in your city or community, what would it be?

In the summer with long days and warm weather Stockholmers spend time outdoors and socialise more in public places, cafes, restaurants. The city organises events and is actively working to encourage tactical urbanism. In winter the socialising tends to move into people’s homes. That’s great if you have a large network, not so great for people who have newly arrived in our city. So I think getting more social activities open to more people winter time would be a great initiative. We’ve recently been given a political objective to develop a strategy to make Stockholm come alive in the winter – inspired by some of the work done by the City of Edmonton. 

3. What is your favourite outdoor winter activity; what makes you want to get outside when it’s below zero?

A perfect sunny winter day, with snow on the ground and frost in the air I like to go for a bracing walk and soak up some vitamin D before the sun sets – when I can retire to a pub with an open fire and test some of the latest winter ales from local breweries

4. What is your favourite childhood winter memory?

I grew up in England where we didn’t get anything like as much snow but I have a clear memory of an unusually snowy winter, must have been in the early 1980s, building a snowman in the garden at home and trying to protect it from my brother who wanted to knock it down with snowballs.

5. What is your favourite winter beverage?

Apart from the winter ales I mentioned earlier, I like glögg, a kind mulled wine, in our house usually drunk accompanied by gingerbread and blue cheese. A new version of glögg is produced every year with different flavours – last winter there was a rather lovely Earl Grey-tea flavoured glögg.

6. How would you describe winter to someone who has never experienced it?

At its best winter makes everything feel fresh, like when you’ve just brushed your teeth after a long flight. At its worst it’s like being stuck at the airport waiting for that long flight which is very very delayed – without a toothbrush.

Daniel will be joining out last featured speaker, Bartek Komorowski, in the session entitled "Plenary - Vision Below Zero: Walking and Cycling in Winter Cities" on Friday, February 17. Follow him on Twitter @JoliUrbaniste.

1 Comment