Skiing in Sweden – a Holiday in the Mountains

The early morning sunrise reflects faintly off the window from the train. It’s a faint pink hue of the late winter sun in its attempt to stir life out from its winter slumber. I’ve spent the night on the train from the airport outside of Stockholm up to Åre to go skiing in Sweden, something that has been on my bucket list since way back. The travel party has equipped themselves with skis and all sorts of equipment for this holiday and everyone, while half asleep, is buzzing. This is the ski break we’ve all been looking forward to, skiing in Sweden, from morning to night. Unofficially we all know it’s a competition between us of who will ski the fastest, the longest, fall the hardest…and everything else that forms part of a typical ski holiday.

Skiing in Sweden | Photo: Mark Going, Columbia Sportswear

Skiing in Sweden’s Best Resorts – Åre, Vemdalen, Funäsfjällen & Lofsdalen

The train stops at the train station in Åre and we disembark, bleary eyed and yet absolutely stoked onto a snow covered, winter wonderland. Slinging bags over our shoulders and carefully balancing skis we trudge off to our hotel a short walk away, where we check in, get dressed, buckle up our ski boots, helmets on and head back out. Our hotel is perfectly located, “ski-in, ski-out”. We hop directly on the 100 year old funicular and are into the lift system immediately. First stop: Björnen, and its wide loping bends and slopes. I had heard of the Swedish ski term “Manchester”, the term for the corduroy type patterning in the snow from the snow groomer and being the first skiers out, but had never experienced it before now. What a dream to test my new skis, uninterrupted, cutting through the freshly groomed snow leaving long sweeping curves in my wake.

First run done, the ski holiday has begun, the glide feels good, my legs are beginning to wake up and I am like a kid in the candy store. Small adjustments to my boots while I wait for the rest of the party to join me and we head on towards the new chairlift (with a built in back warmer, mind you) to continue our days skiing.

Skiing in Sweden | Photo: Mark Going, Columbia Sportswear
When skiing in Sweden one should not pass up on a visit to Åre, Vemdalen, Funäsfjällen and Lofsdalen – some of the very best ski resorts in Sweden. Photo: Mark Going

After Ski, Good Food & Off Piste Adventures

Lunch plays an important part in a day out skiing, it’s a perfect time to regroup, warm up cold hands and discuss the best slopes or runs of the day so far. We decided ahead of time to meet at Buustamons Fjällgård, a restaurant in the slopes with a Swedish rustic type vibe and lunches that enthusiastically fill the gaping hole in our stomachs after spending a few hours on the slopes.

While tucking into the lunch of typical Swedish dishes (I revel in homemade meatballs from moose and lingonberry jam), the guides från Åreguiderna for our off piste tour arrive. We wolf down the last bites and take the gondola to the summit of Åreskutan and the cabin with its “1420 masl” sign. The guide points out that this means we are 1420 meters above sea level and the view backs up this theory. I snap the quintessential winter selfies, making sure to catch the “1420 masl” sign in the background and one more, with the Norwegian tops in the far distance. I hurriedly put my phone away as the guides peel off into the powder snow along the “Apple Orchid” route, one of the better powder areas that leads towards Björnen. It feels like one of the longer and gentler of the three off-piste runs we end up doing for the day, but has an equal amount of euphoria that surges through my burning thighs and tingling spine, pure magical. We head up again to the summit and the guides lead us through one of the well known ravines, before we head up for the last of the off piste runs that lead us to the evening’s activity, at the famed hotel Fjällgården.

Shaky thighs and beating hearts, we thank our guides and turn towards the hotel. We haven’t even entered the doors and the thumping beats from the after ski start revving up our tiring bodies. Very quickly the cold is forgotten and the temperatures rise from the euphoric skiers belting out the popular cover tunes lead by the energetic band on the stage. As the sweat starts building up I realise that everyone wearing woollen thermals perhaps share the same regret in their decision to party dressed like this. After ski like this can only be found in Sweden, that’s for sure. After an hours boot dancing our group exchange a few knowing glances and hand signals before deciding to beat a retreat to the village for a more sedate dinner at Villa Tottebo in the village of Åre. On the way over there we spot the lights coming from the snowcats lining the hills with the “corduroy” shape pattern. They are slowly grooming and manicuring the ski slope with the precision of skilled jewelers. It is all dark out and cold while those twinkling lights on the mountainside are paving and shaping the way to gravity-fed happiness.

Start the Day Skiing “8 by the 8”

My alarm blasts me awake the next morning. Bleary eyed I peek outside my window to the crispy morning landscape and the thermometer glares “-9” at me. I involuntarily shiver, I blame it on my thighs feeling a bit stiff from yesterday as I know I will be more than warm enough this morning. The reason for my early start is that a ski holiday in Åre is not complete without one morning “8 by the 8”. This is skiing on the VM8 Alpine World Cup ski lift and slope that opens at 8 am for the early risers. Those who want to have a first go at the “corduroy”. The bustle by the lift station is a clear indication that it’s apparently quite popular, not just for the tourists but mainly by the many local Åre residents who choose to start their days with an early morning ski. The rush is reminiscent of morning traffic as the skiers try to cram in as many runs as possible before the early morning coffee stop, which I duly partake in at the Åre Ski Inn. I munch on a freshly baked cinnamon bun and contemplate the rest of the day’s skiing, which eventually takes place in the refreshing early spring sunshine in the slopes around Stendalen, Tväråvalvet and Tusenmetern.

Skiing in Sweden | Photo: Mark Going, Columbia Sportswear
Wide open slope are extremely enjoyable for laid back skiing.

Skiing in Vemdalen

With the day coming to a close, so concludes our adventure in Åre. The group heads back to the hotel where we pack our things and load them into our rental car. We have a two hour journey ahead of us towards Vemdalen. Almost there, we pass by Klövsjö, a strikingly picturesque village and one of three areas in the Vemdalen ski system. The night skiing lights our way like a warm welcome – but we just don’t have the energy to stop. A few kilometres further on we reach our destination, Vemdalsskalet, and find our way to the cabin we rented. Once unpacked, we have a small bite to eat while relaxing by the fireplace. A good night’s sleep is needed in order to load up before the next adventure on the slopes of Vemdalskalet.

The morning dawns a little later over the cabin as we take it a bit slower than the day before. Much needed by all but nonetheless, when we head out we head out hard. We’ve warmed up after a few runs and notice a group of Swedish youngsters, alpine skiers in training. We challenge ourselves to try keep up with them but very soon realize the foolishness of our futile attempts as we sheepishly glide our way to a different lift system. Amazing how growing up on the snow can create such skilled skiers. We continue skiing by ourselves in Persbacken, a wide open slope – extremely enjoyable for laid back skiing. I slip into the skiers lull and feel like I’m in a dream world, thoroughly enjoying the therapeutic routine of lifting up and skiing down, requiring minimal usage of my mental capacity. This seriously is what a Swedish ski holiday is all about.

Sami Culture in the Ski Slopes of Vemdalen

We had been recommended to visit the newly opened Sami cultural attraction called Lopme Laante in the ski area of Björnrike, a few kilometres from Vemdalen. The attraction is a glimpse into the Sami culture and cuisine. We stop for lunch where we try reindeer meat and a distinctive speciality, coffee with cheese, “coffeecheese”. The experience in general is fascinating and piques our curiosity as we gain insights into the unique culture and traditions of the Sami. We stick around for a few hours before the skiing pulls us out again. Fastening our boots we ski on towards the Grizzly Express chairlift, which once we disembark, presents us with slopes and runs with wide open curves, turns and surprisingly, hardly anyone skiing. This week so far has been a week to remember, the weather gods have been smiling upon us, the sun’s rays have tanned our cheeks and the late afternoon sunsets allow us long runs on the slopes before the days are over.

Skiing in Sweden | Photo: Mark Going, Columbia Sportswear
The sun slowly find its way over the top of the mountains in Funäsfjällen.

Powder Skiing & Waffle Cabins in Funäsfjällen

Unfortunately our time in Vemdalen drew to a close after only one day, albeit lengthy, skiing. We reluctantly pack our gear in the rental car and drive westerly to Funäsfjällen, where we check in and settle in for a night of well-deserved sleep. We have booked a half day guided off piste skiing in Ramundberget and are eagerly greeted by the sunrise and the adventurous Sportmaffian who are waiting for us. The crew are equipped with avalanche rescue gear and ski tows. We get a thorough lesson on how to use the equipment and my heart rate rises a few beats when going over the avalanche rescue bit. The ski tows are then handed out and we are towed along, past a cabin and onwards to the silent, snow covered peaks bedded in a landscape of powder snow. I am stunned into silence, this was far from what I envisioned possible when it comes to skiing in Sweden. As soon as the guides give us the thumbs up the group tears their way down blasting powder in all directions as we hurtle our way down. There is no need for convincing us to repeat the procedure one more time.

We stop for a famed crispy crunchy Swedish waffle complete with whipped cream and cloudberry jam at the cabin we passed earlier in the morning, now abuzz with families and other skiers. The rest of the day is spent on the lower slopes in the valley of Ramundberget. By now our bodies are tired and stiff and we decide on a complete rejuvenation experience at the Mii Gullo Spa. Like the Vikings that we are we even take an ice cold plunge in the frozen lake before coming to our senses with a full dinner at Fjällnäs, built in 1882 and Sweden’s oldest mountain hotel.

Skiing in Sweden | Photo: Mark Going, Columbia Sportswear

Lofsdalen & the Swedish National Training Arena for Ski Cross

Our ski holiday in Sweden slowly starts drawing to a close as we depart from Funäsfjällen early the next morning and travel our way down to Lofsdalen. Despite our best attempts at the spa the night before our legs are really feeling the physical exertion of our holiday, but the mouth-watering prospect of testing Ski Cross at the national training arena for Sweden is enough motivation to keep going a little longer. We arrive and pile out the car as we take in the area while the instructor comes out to greet us. He goes through the course with us and explains uncomplicatedly the best jumps and the best lines in the corners we should take before leaving us at it. It looks easy on TV and sounded even easier when the instructor told us but in practice it turns out to be much harder than I imagined as I fumble my way down. We all agree that while we probably won’t be making the Swedish national team it still is heaps of fun. We are really on our last legs as we take the chairlift up to Lofsdalen Skybar for our last lunch, last photos and panoramic views of the wide open and vast expanse of the Swedish mountains. We even see the majestic Sonfjället National Park quite close.

The last run down the slope is a mixed bag of feelings. The experience has left me in awe of the variety and quality of skiing in Sweden, of experiences of Manchester skiing, powder snow mixed with cultural and culinary delights. I know for sure that the laughs and memories will last a lifetime and even more certain that it won’t be too long before I find my way back to Sweden to relive them.

HERE’S THE SKINNY

ACTIVITY

Skiing

SEASON

Winter, Early Spring

SKILL LEVEL

Easy-Difficult

GETTING HERE

There are airports in Östersund and Sveg in Sweden as well as in Trondheim and Röros in Norway. To Åre Östersund Airport there is a direct flight with easyJet from London Gatwick Airprot and Kastrup Copenhagen Airport, from Åre Östersund Airport there is an airport transfer running to Vemdalen and Åre. To Trondheim Airport there are many international flights to choose from. From Stockholm the train is a convenient way of getting up to the mountains, check out SJ or Snötåget to Vemdalen.

GUIDED TOURS

Many companies are offering guided tours for off piste skiing in the Swedish mountains, ÅreguidernaSkiStar in Åre & Vemdalen or Sportmaffian in Funäsfjällen are some.

WHERE TO EAT

Åre: Buustamons Fjällgård & Villa Tottebo.
Vemdalen: Hildings Krog & Vålkojan
Funäsfjällen: Skoogs Krog & Fjällnäs
Lofsdalen: Uppvallens Fäbod

DON’T MISS

Don’t pass up on a visit to the glass blowing factory Åre Glashytta, to learn more about the Sami culture at Lopme Laante in Björnrike or to say hello to the ancient Musk ox at Myskoxcentrum in Tännäs.

ARE WE MISSING SOMETHING?

Suggest an edit