Skiing in Sweden has plenty to offer aside from the famous ski resorts in the mountains of the north. If you are looking for a combined outdoors and sightseeing holiday, if you think ski slopes are nice, but not your only passion in life, you could actually be content to stop in the middle region of Sweden – getting the benefits of interesting places to visit and other sports to pursue, not to mention people that actually live in the place, not only cater to tourists.
Why not go to Kungsberget (the King’s mountain) just north west of the town of Gävle? It is easily accessible from Stockholm, since you can take the train to Gävle and local bus from there. There are even day trips by bus from Stockholm, an opportunity lots of Swedes use to get a day away from the stress of the big city. If you decide to stay, there are apartments for rent just 50 m from the ski lift, or you can take a hotel room in Gävle town. Since you can rent all the equipment you need for your family at Kungsberget, travel by bus is not a major undertaking, should you wish to go out each day from Gävle.
The ski lifts take you to slopes of every degree of difficulty, you can take ski classes and there is something called the Snow Park, a kind of attraction area with jumps, dips and turns of varying difficulty. What you miss out on as compared with the far north are the high, barren and majestic mountains above the tree limit, the reindeer you possibly may happen to meet, and the wide, unpopulated expanses. You cannot go on a dog-sleigh tour either or acquaint yourself with Sami culture – but on the plus side you’ll not risk blizzards and closed areas due to weather conditions, and the deep , silent forests may make up for the drama of a snowstorm.
Kungsberget is of course a small ski resort, but in the process of becoming larger every year. You could also choose to go completely native and take your ski holiday in almost any town north of Stockholm – there is sure to be some kind of slalom possibility with lifts and ski rentals nearby. Check in on the website sverigeturism.se – you will find an English version, where you can choose any area you want and see what is on offer. And sometimes it may pay off to simply to look up the tourist office website of a town you are interested in, and see what is listed under outdoor activities. Would you have thought that you could go slalom skiing in Uppsala for instance (and yes, this is even south of Stockholm!!), at a center where the outdoor activities are supplemented by a gym, climbing walls, and a café? It may not be what an adrenaline junkie wants, but for a family or a group of friends looking for a good time it could be just the thing.
Skiing in Sweden to a large degree is about touring, and you can almost always rent touring skis as well as slalom skis at a ski slope of even medium or small size – the exception being very small places with just one simple slope and one simple lift. That means, if you plan to stay in a very small town or village to really get into local life, you might have to bring your own skis. Phone the nearest tourist office to check it out before you book your stay! Going on a horizontal ski tour is possible anywhere in Sweden as long as there is snow. In winter every Swedish town has its own, well maintained ski tracks in forests and over fields. Usually there is at least one track lit by electrical lamps, since it gets dark early, and lots of others marked out with paper markings in different colors. Length varies from one or two to over 20 kilometers for those who want a real challenge. You will get right into the middle of the forest and it might well be that you see no one else during your trip – so enjoy the silence, the snow and the peace, but be sure to have adequate clothing and a backpack where you can stow a sweater and extra socks should the temperature fall. Take something to eat and make a winter pick-nick, it’s allowed to light a fire (though you should know how to go about it in the cold) and put some sausages on sticks to grill them – that’s what Swedish people do. They also eat oranges and drink hot chocolate out of a thermos flask when on ski tours, so you might want to stock up and conform to custom. Put out the fire carefully when you are finished and leave no litter! Also, tell someone (hotel reception, cabin neighbors or tourist office) where you plan to go if you choose a really long track. Plan your ski tour so you are not too far away on an unlit track when the sun goes down. This situation might take the fun out of skiing forever, though with a working cell phone you will not suffer anything worse than a scare, a payment and some embarrassment– Sweden has extremely good telephone coverage and someone is sure to rescue you before long.
Once you have skied to your heart’s content there are always the sights of any larger town to explore – in Gävle near the Kungsberget slopes you’ll for instance find a railway museum and a prison museum, or you can visit the town’s art gallery if that is more to your liking. The library is one of two in Europe that is open every day of the year, so reading matter should be no problem either…
But perhaps you are looking for some other ways to have fun in the snow? If you have children, take them to the nearest mall and by them a plastic toboggan, a “pulka”. Ask the personnel where their own kids go to use this thing, and get going! There will be some modest inclines popular in the neighborhood, since each and every Swedish kid has fun with this in winter – and as soon as the slopes get longer and steeper than what a two-year-old could manage safely, there are heaps of old car tyres piled up to protect the pulka-users from traffic and from careening into threes. Have the children put on some kind of helmet anyway, it’s safer, and the security-conscious Swedish parents you may encounter won’t frown at you. Do adults glide down into the tyre heaps? Yes, they do – and children are a splendid excuse for this exercise, since after all you must show them how to do it! If you have got skates, you will also find ice for skating in any village and outside any school. Most times, to call this an ice rink is rather grandiose, it will mostly just be a nice, smooth iced surface on the local football field without any facilities whatsoever. But if you can stand on your skates without falling over, why not use them? It is fun and without pretensions!
If it’ possible, finish the outdoors day off with a session in the sauna, and get your steam up for next day!