Skating party in Lödöse

The Lödöse Museum in Sweden hosts an annual skating event—on bone skates! This year, the skating is scheduled for February 11 from 1 to 3 PM; the details are here (in Swedish).

Skating on bones in Lödöse, Sweden. Photograph courtesy of Marie Schmidt, Lödöse Museum.

There are videos of previous years’ skating events on the museum’s Facebook page. They are quite interesting to watch. The skating is done on synthetic ice (unless the weather is cold enough for natural ice to form), and the children don’t get to use metal-tipped poles for safety reasons. Out of necessity, they’ve figured out how to push with their feet on bone skates, and some even learned to spin on them.

Spinning on bone skates is easy on smooth ice in an indoor ice rink, with a pole. All you have to do is give a good hard push around and stand up straight. The skates have very little friction and spin quite easily once they get going. In fact, Formenti and Minetti showed that bone skates had less friction than metal-bladed skates for about five hundred years after metal-bladed skates were invented (1826).

The written descriptions of bone skates don’t mention tricks like this. Skaters seem to have focused on speed over style, but surely some enthusiastic medieval or early modern skaters figured out how to spin on bones. Edberg and Karlsson found that longer skates were more likely to have holes for attaching them to the skaters’ feet at two sites in medieval Sweden. They think this means older, more experienced skaters “may have had more challenging excursions in mind” (50). Could they have needed the extra control provided by bindings for spinning or doing other tricks? What other tricks might they have been doing?


Rune Edberg and Johnny Karlsson. 2015. Isläggar från Birka och Sigtuna. En undersökning av ett vikingatida och medeltida fyndmaterial. Stockholm Archaeological Reports 43. Stockholm: Stockholms universitet.

Federico Formenti and Alberto E. Minetti. 2007. “Human locomotion on ice: the evolution of ice-skating energetics through history.” The Journal of Experimental Biology 210:1825-1833.