Ice Swimming in Finland
Cold-water immersion can alleviate stress and depression and help tackle autoimmune disorders. It has also been linked to pain relief, and a reduction in inflammation. But even the most 'hardy' wild swimmers might draw the line at ice swimming. Lakes in Finland are frozen quite a lot of the year: in Lapland usually seven months, in Central Finland five months and in southern part of the country at least four months. Read on for the benefits of ice swimming and where you can try it.
Image: Visit Finland. Photographer Mikko Nikkinen
Why do it?
I have written in previous blog posts about the benefits of cold water swimming. Cold-water immersion is a positive shock to your body. When you do it regularly you will be able to stand better stress and your immune system becomes stronger.
It enhances the blood circulation, lowers blood pressure, is the ultimate tool against cellular ageing and loss of skin elasticity
I tried ice swimming recently in Finland and found it incredibly exhilarating swimming in a beautiful snowy wonderland. I had to get my daughter to help me get dressed afterwards though as my hands were numb!
How to do it
In Finland the practice is to dip in ice water after the warmth of a sauna as the combination of extremes like hot and cold is said to be very healthy and the feeling you get is euphoric.
The extreme temperature change gets your blood circulating and releases many pain-relieving and pleasure hormones. Entering into cold water straight from sauna is not the healthiest thing to do, so you ought to cool off a bit in between. Usually this happens naturally, when you walk outside in frosty air from sauna to an ice pool.
You could even try the traditional making a snow angel in the nude, and roll around in the snow before or after the dipping, if there is snow to roll in! And then, back in the sauna, enjoy the tingling sensation on your skin when it slowly starts to warm up again.
If you have any doubts of unidentified health problems, ice swimming is not recommended without any doctor´s opinion.
Image: Visit Finland. Photographer Juho Kuva
Where can you do it?
In the UK
Newcastle-based adventure company CBK Adventures has partnered with Red Original to offer 'Ice Dip Socials'. The experience combines a series of cold water dips in a local beauty spot (a coastal location within one hour of Newcastle upon Tyne) with the chance to enjoy a traditional Finnish sauna right on the water’s edge.
Images: in collaboration with Red Original https://red-equipment.co.uk/
A guide will lead you through a cycle of ice dipping in the invigorating cold waters of the North Sea, followed by periods of heat therapy in our therapeutic Finnish tent sauna. The sauna offers both dry heat and steam. Groups will also have access to a 10-person Finnish Army tent with its own log burning stove throughout the day. This is designed to be a relaxing space to connect and tuck into delicious local food cooked over an open flame. All of the food is prepared to order by the camp chef, who is provided as part of the experience. This is the perfect opportunity to reconnect with friends in an unforgettable setting.
Costing £99 per person, this is exclusively for small groups, adults only. Min 8 people, max 10 people. Available from Sat 29 January to Sun 27 March 2022. Friday, Saturday or Sunday.
Image: in collaboration with Red Original https://red-equipment.co.uk/
Winter swimming (or ice hole/pool swimming, when done in an ice hole) is a traditional Finnish outdoor activity.
Image: Visit Finland
There are several places to try ice swimming in Finland. Here are some of them:
Allas Sea Pool in Helsinki (opens again in May 2017): Urban treasure. A seawater 25 m pool with unique city view. Also a heated fresh water 25 m pool, children’s pool, saunas and a restaurant. I wanted to try there when I was in Helsinki but it is currently being repaired.
Karu Lodge in Luosto. At the foot of the Fell and next to the national park you will find a well-being resort - Karu Lodge. This is where I swam, in a beautiful snowy setting. I didn't get to try the wonderful smoke sauna but I would definitely love to go back to try it.
Fell Centre Kiilopää in Lapland, Northern Finland. Swim in Kiilopuro fell brook and then relax in a smoke sauna afterwards.
Löyly in Helsinki: Sculptural architecture and windy winter swimming in the Baltic Sea. A beautiful smoke sauna and good food.
Winter Swimming Centre Joensuu Polar Bears in Joensuu, Eastern Finland. Open all year round, this active open-air swimming centre and sauna are about 3 km from the centre of Joensuu, near the Vehkalahti beach.
Rauhaniemi Ice Swimming in Tampere, Central Finland. Rauhaniemi public spa is situated by the lake Näsijärvi, where the sauna and the cosy swimming beach offer a lovely experience.
Herrankukkaro in Turku area, Western Finland. The world’s largest smoke sauna and outdoor heated baths situated right along the archipelago shore.
If staying in a cottage with Rock and Lake, they will dig a hole in the ice (“avanto”) in front of your cottage for you if you want to swim in the ice. Available at Lempi, Soukkio, Tiilikka & Kiviniemi.
Dressing warmly afterwards
Read the Outdoor Swimming Society's tips for acclimatising to cold water.
The safest way to rewarm is to:
Dry off and remove your wet clothes as soon as possible
Dress in dry warm clothes, including hat gloves and thick socks – ideally lay these out in advance so you can do this quickly
Have a hot drink