For the reliable assessment of past climate variability, quantitative reconstructions of seasonal temperatures are required. Currently, reconstructions of cold-season temperatures are scarce, because most biological proxies are biased towards the growing season. Here we test the potential of chrysophyte stomatocysts (or simply ‘cysts’; siliceous resting stages of the golden-brown algae) as a proxy for cold-season temperature. Climate reconstructions based on biological proxies are commonly constructed using transfer functions derived from calibration in space. However, the performance of these reconstructions is rarely tested by direct comparison with meteorological data due to limitations of sample resolution or chronological control. We compare a cyst-based near-annual reconstruction of ‘date of spring mixing’ from the varved sediments of Lake Silvaplana (Swiss Alps) spanning AD 1870–2004 with climate variables from the same period measured at the lake shore. The high correlation between cyst-based ‘date of spring mixing’ and cold-season temperature demonstrates the ability of chrysophyte cysts to archive cold-season temperature variability. Lake eutrophication, which was extensive during the last 50 years, had no obvious effect on the cyst-based reconstruction. This study underlines the high potential of chrysophyte cysts as a quantitative proxy for cold-season climate reconstructions. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.