As it is winter, the possibility an active holiday out in the snow may be on your mind, a chance to let go of all the stresses of your working life and experience something different and unique. In that case, do something different and go to the north of Sweden where you can swish down long systems of slalom slopes through bare mountains above the tree limit, glide down into quiet and mysterious forests, stop to rest in cabins with log fires blazing and enjoy all the other aspects of wintertime activities in an amazing landscape! There are a lot of fantastic places to choose from, but the absolute favorite among the ski resorts of Sweden is Åre, with a long tradition harking back to medieval times as a stop on the pilgrimage to Saint Olavs tomb in Nidaros. In the 19th century the pure air and untouched nature began to attract visitors, so-called “air guests” from all over Europe. Hiking through the mountains in summer, and skiing in winter quickly developed Åre to what it is today – a top resort with all the facilities you could wish for. Here, the ski slopes range from the easiest possible for beginners to the really difficult ones for the pros.
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Actually Åre offers three different, linked together ski resorts, each one with its special character. If you want to experience the peaceful mountain nature, and if you don’t want to stand in a line at the lifts or be crowded on your way down, Duved is the place to go. Here you can choose between 27 different slopes, passing from one to the other on your way down through untamed nature, stopping at cabins with a fire going for your winter pick-nick. If you want a touch of old world skiing culture, you can also make your way to the oldest mountain restaurant in Åre to enjoy their hot waffles with cloudberry jam. In Åre Village you find instead a night life rivaling the large cities, with nightclubs, shows and restaurants in a picturesque, alpine-style village. The skiing is even more fabulous here, as it makes use of the slopes of the main mountain, Åreskutan. Go to the top with the famous cable-car and use the extensive system of linked ski slopes to get right back to the village square! There are slopes for every taste, lots of different lifts to take you to the starting point of your choice, facilities for snowboarders and of course a children’s area and funparks. In fact, you will have to be active around the clock if you want to test everything there is during a holiday week! Finally, the children’ own paradise is at Åre Björnen – Åre the Bear – though don’t worry, bears hibernate in winter and the ones you’ll meet are a kind bear family from a fairy-tale, on a winter holiday just like you and your children. Take a trip to meet them and get lots of surprises along the way! There are also ski schools for kids, and a club where a day is happily spent with new friends both outdoors and indoors, while mum and dad explore the more demanding slopes.
How to get to this three-in-one skiing world? There are direct trains from Stockholm, dropping you off right on the spot – much easier than negotiating winter roads in a rented car, and really to be recommended! Both the train journey and accommodation should be booked in advance, but once this is done everything will run smoothly. Ski gear in all sizes can be rented (of course there is touring ski equipment available for those who want to go exploring on well maintained tracks in the horizontal direction), and once in Åre you will be overwhelmed with offers of other activities to choose from, ranging from snow scooter tours to elegant after ski or some hours at a top quality gym. Depending on your budget and your taste you can stay in hotels ranging from luxury to plain hostel, or you can rent a cabin.
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Of course there are plenty of other ski resorts to choose from. A runner-up to Åre are the resorts in the Funäsdalen mountains with their numerous high peaks. Just as in Åre, mountain tourism started early, and the old world charm can still be experienced today. There are two Sami communities and you can get to know their crafts and the history of Sami culture in Sweden. With some luck you might see a small herd of musk ox in the distance, although usually these large beasts are shy and don’t get near places frequented by humans – but they are also dangerous and should only be observed at a safe distance! An added attraction is that these mountains are the most snowsure ski area in Sweden! The tourist information (FunäsdalsFjäll) handles the extensive booking in hotels, cottages and cabins – finding somewhere to stay is not difficult.
Wanting the really spectacular, you might go to the most northerly ski resort in Sweden, Riksgränsen in Lapland, to enjoy guided and not to difficult off pist skiing. This is also a splendid place to take off for discovery of a stern, untouched and very beautiful mountain landscape, and a special sport reception at the resort will help you plan your activities. You might be old fashioned and walk with snowshoes or use a dog sleigh, or make use of the latest transportation mode and be dropped off at a remote, pristine slope by helicopter. This resort usually opens in the middle of February, as it is too cold in December and January, so be advised that it will be rather freezing later on too.
These areas and resorts may not be as famous as Åre, but they still might have everything you want, and sometimes there are special offers at a better price. Take a look at skistar.
com, for instance, or stromma.se (sites in English) to see what your choices are! A final word of warning, though – don’t go during the last two weeks in February, as these coincide with the Swedish schools “Sporting vacation”. Busloads of eager youngsters will be unloaded at each and every slope in every part of the country, and unless you really like this chance of rubbing shoulders with the Swedes, avoid it!