Winter swimming regular Sally Goble doesn’t fear the cold, though a trip to Skellefteå in northern Sweden for the World Cup – air temp -3C, water temp 0.3C – tests her nerve. Still, she gets to wear a woolly hat
Most winter tourists to Sweden choose to wrap up warm and take a sled or snowmobile ride – or watch the northern lights somewhere remote but close to a roaring fire. Or spend a night in the Ice Hotel. Not me. As I’m a regular winter swimmer in the UK, the obvious, if daunting, choice was to get into my swimming costume and plunge into icy water, courtesy of the International Winter Swimming Association’s World Cup, which holds one of its five stages in Skellefteå, a small town in north Sweden.
Ice-swimming may be a niche sport but it is growing in popularity in the northern hemisphere: in the UK the Big Chill Swim in Windermere, the only World Cup stage held in the UK, took place on 6-7 February and attracted 1,000 competitors, despite only being in its the third year. The 2016 World Cup event in Skellefteå was a more modest affair, but still attracted more than 300 competitors from 17 countries.