Sweden, like Britain, sends a large number of skiers to the Alps each winter. But, unlike the UK, Sweden boasts hundreds of ski areas of its own, albeit most of them just local hills with a few drag lifts. There are some famous name exceptions however. The largest resort, in terms of the number of lifts, is Salen with over 100 spread across neighbouring mountainsides.
Ski resorts have been operational in Sweden for more than a century, with the early railways opening up destinations all over the country.
Of course, like other Scandinavian nations, people had been getting around on skis for millennia before the arrival of downhill skiing, and the country is still criss-crossed by thousands of kilometres of cross country ski trails. Snowmobiling and ski jumping are also popular here, and in many resorts other activities like dog sledding or ice fishing have equal billing with downhill skiing.
A proportion of the country is within the Arctic Circle and here you will find the world famous Ice Hotel and have the best chance of seeing the Northern Lights. It is also home to the legendary Swedish skier Ingemar Stenmark who holds the record for the most World Cup wins in any winter sport at 86 golds.
Largest Ski Resort
Most holidaymakers will head first to Are (pronounced ‘Oar-er’), host of the 2007 Alpine World Championships and the largest ski resort in Scandinavia. The resort typifies some of the key factors of Sweden’s skiing.
Firstly, you can expect rounded mountains far lower than those of the Alps, often with the base close to sea level but, thanks to their northerly latitude, usually snow sure. Runs are normally shorter than at larger resorts in the Alps and the majority of lifts are surface tows.
Secondly you can expect friendly locals. Swedes know how to have fun and do their best to do so in spite of the third factor, common to all Scandinavian countries, very high food and drink prices, particularly alcoholic drink. This can put a bit on a dampner on après-ski and increase the likelihood of impromptu public parties in apartments, using cheaper supplies from the supermarket.
To counter this, other costs of you ski holiday – flights, accommodation and lift ticket – are generally a little lower than in the best known Alpine resorts.
A third factor is the northern winter which can be bitterly cold and with limited daylight during December and January in particular.
Indeed one of the country’s most famous resorts, Riksgransen in the Arctic Circle, doesn’t bother to open at all until February and then stays open in to June with skiing under the midnight sun as the daylight rapidly increases through the Spring until it lasts all night. For the cold though, it is worth being prepared with efficient layers of thermal clothing including thermal balaclavas and liners for gloves and ski boots. However, the Swedes argue that the country does benefit from the Gulf Stream and is not usually THAT cold, which is true, it’s just that sometimes it can be and it’s best to be prepared.
A fourth factor is quality childcare. The Swedes tend to take a more family centred approach to childcare so that, rather than just leaving your child in a nursery facility for the day, you are likely to be invited back at lunchtime to eat together.
English is widely spoken in Swedish ski resorts which makes life easier and several of the leading resorts, including Are, Salen and Vemdalen are all run by a major international ski corporation, SkiStar, to a very high standard.