Our long-term goal is to develop a Swedish winter oat (Avena sativa). To identify molecular differences that correlate with winter hardiness, a winter oat model comprising of both non-hardy spring lines and winter hardy lines is needed. To achieve this, we selected 294 oat breeding lines, originating from various Russian, German, and American winter oat breeding programs and tested them in the field in south- and western Sweden. By assaying for winter survival and agricultural properties during four consecutive seasons, we identified 14 breeding lines of different origins that not only survived the winter but also were agronomically better than the rest. Laboratory tests including electrolytic leakage, controlled crown freezing assay, expression analysis of the AsVrn1 gene and monitoring of flowering time suggested that the American lines had the highest freezing tolerance, although the German lines performed better in the field. Finally, six lines constituting the two most freezing tolerant lines, two intermediate lines and two spring cultivars were chosen to build a winter oat model system. Metabolic profiling of non-acclimated and cold acclimated leaf tissue samples isolated from the six selected lines revealed differential expression patterns of 245 metabolites including several sugars, amino acids, organic acids and 181 hitherto unknown metabolites. The expression patterns of 107 metabolites showed significant interactions with either a cultivar or a time-point. Further identification, characterisation and validation of these metabolites will lead to an increased understanding of the cold acclimation process in oats. Furthermore, by using the winter oat model system, differential sequencing of crown mRNA populations would lead to identification of various biomarkers to facilitate winter oat breeding.