Driving in arctic Lapland wintertime

Kiruna is located 200km north of the Arctic Circle and we have snow for around seven months of the year. Driving a car on winter roads differs a great deal from driving during summer. Here we give tips on how to stay safe on the roads during the winter.

In Kiruna Municipality the roads are ploughed regularly, and it is seldom a problem to drive along the usual major roads. But of course winter driving still requires that the car is equipped with winter tires. Studded tires are allowed during the period October 1 – April 15. However, studded tires may also be used at other times if it is or is expected to be winter roads, which often happens in Kiruna.

By law you are required to have winter tires between the dates December 1 and March 31, if there is ice, snow mud or frost on any part of the road and it is always the police who decide if there are winter roads. You can rent a car on site in Kiruna to be sure that the car is fully equipped for winter driving.

Since we live in an area with subarctic climate, weather and road conditions can change significantly from day to day. Therefore, it is important that you plan your driving so that you have a good time margin to get to your destination. Also, be aware of the time of day when driving a car, especially at dusk and dawn many animals are on the move and you should be especially vigilant for moose. These giants weigh several hundred kilos and can enter the road faster than you can blink. There are also plenty of small animals, and reindeer that can show up on the road a bit everywhere. Therefore, drive a little slower so you can pay close attention to your surroundings. To reduce the risk of a collision with wild animals, go slowly. It’s the best way to improve your chances of seeing something approaching the road.  During polar night in December we do not have much daylight, so try to plan for a mid day drive.

Consider this!

  1. Dress warmly, according to layer upon layer principle.
  2. Adjust your speed to the road surface conditions and weather, plan your driving.
  3. Allow for greater stopping distance, think twice the normal distance. It takes a lot longer to come to a halt when there is ice on the roads.
  4. Be careful of slippery roads and do not underestimate the road conditions! Some signs of icy roads are frost on the car windows, glare in the roadway and frost on the trees / surroundings. It is also often icy on bridges, shadow areas, roundabouts, near lakes and streams, and open landscapes.
  5. Use the engine to brake, especially in downhill slopes and in good time before curves, it reduces the risk of the wheels locking and you slide.
  6. Steer with gentle steering wheel movements and be easy on the foot when accelerating, the more you push on the gas the worse grip you will get.