Sweden and skiing: two words that are not often placed side by side. Sure, Sweden has got many of the pre-requisites for a top quality ski scene, such as a healthy dose of snow, plummeting temperatures in winter and a populace who know how to look good on the après ski terraces. However, most of us are still likely to head to the more familiar slopes of the Alps in search of our luxury ski kicks.
But increasing numbers of skiers are choosing to give the Central European mountain range the cold shoulder. After all, they’ve been there and done that and are now in search of something new. So it’s no surprise that the burgeoning ski resort scene in Sweden is receiving rave reviews from the hordes of snow-seekers who dare to venture north.
While resorts in the Alps can lay claim to some of Western Europe’s most altitudinous peaks – Mont Blanc, for example, is comfortably double the height of Sweden’s loftiest point, the remote Kebnekaise – what the Scandinavian nation’s resorts lack in height they make up for in luxury, character and dynamism.
The jewel in the crown of the Swedish ski scene is undoubtedly Åre. Not exactly wet behind the ears, Åre’s experience as a top-notch ski resort stretches back over a century to when the Åre Bergbana funicular railway was officially opened. It took a while to gain recognition on the world stage, but the resort at Åre finally got its due when it was selected to host the 2007 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships.
The 2007 Championships marked Åre’s transition from national treasure to international resort du jour. The introduction of some petrifying black runs gave the resort a bit of spice for more seasoned skiers, while the multitude of beginner and intermediate pistes – some of which run beneath the black slopes in specially built tunnels – ensure that the needs of skiers of all abilities are fully met.
Åre has the reputation of being one of the most diverse winter tourist destinations in the whole of Sweden. When you’re done with the pistes, activities such as dog sled tours, heli-skiing trips and paragliding sessions are sure to keep you amused.
There will come a time when some downtime is required. When this occurs, retreating to one of the resort’s highly rated restaurants for some expertly prepared Swedish cuisine should provide just the ticket. A traditional sauna is also a must for piste-hardened ski veterans returning from a day on the slopes.
With Christmas out the way, many of us are turning to the pistes as a sure fire way to beat the January blues. This year, maybe it’s time to look north rather than south.
John Burns is Editor at My Holiday Caravan.