Skiing in Åre
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Shimmering slopes, stunning scenery and cars built for all weathers. It’s no wonder skiing is Sweden’s national pastime.
Skiing seems to come naturally to the Swedes. Perhaps it’s growing up in a country where months of uninterrupted ice and snow are the norm, and falling temperatures and tricky terrain are seen as springboards to adventure rather than stumbling blocks? Whatever it is, the moment you witness a six-year-old whizzing by you at speeds you could only dream of, you soon realise the Swedes were built for the slopes.
As you can imagine in a country obsessed with skiing, Sweden has plenty of premium resorts designed to suit both experienced skiers and enthusiastic amateurs alike. But the reigning champion of Swedish ski resorts is undoubtedly Åre. A thousand years ago the area was inhabited by Vikings and indigenous Sami people. Today, it plays host to thousands of adventure-hungry tourists ready to take on the world-famous slopes and take in the breathtaking scenery.
Åre’s reinvention as a tourist hotspot began in 1882 when the Swedish king, King Oscar II, supervised construction of a railway that changed the area’s fortunes forever. The new railway stretched from Trondheim in Norway to Åre and brought with it coach loads of curious tourists, all keen to venture into the mountains and breathe in the pure Åre air. In 1909, Åre’s crowning glory – the alpine ski village – was founded and Åre’s position as one of Sweden’s top tourist destinations was assured. More than 100-years later, skiing enthusiasts from all over the world travel here to enjoy the slopes, stunning scenery and state-of-the-art facilities.
Everything can be found here
But what is it about Åre that makes it stand out from more traditional tourist hotspots, like the French and Italian alps. Well, the main difference seems to be the Swedish attitude to skiing. Most Swedes have been on skis since they were children, so the urge to show off has long disappeared. This has created a natural, family-friendly atmosphere where everyone is welcome: young, old, amateur or expert. But the main difference is Åre itself. Åre is a trendy mountain village with a towering heart in the shape of the Åreskutan mountain, which stands a staggering one-kilometre above the village below. As well as boasting northern Europe’s most extreme vertical drop, Åreskutan offers a wide range of superb skiing opportunities – from daredevil descents and rolling, kilometre-long pistes to scenic ski trails liberally dotted with mountainside restaurants. Everything can be found here.
If you visit Åre during the dark winter months, you can enjoy the unique experience that is Swedish night skiing. And who knows, if you’re lucky, you could find yourself skiing below the world’s greatest natural lightshow: the northern lights. And with 42 lifts and 89 slopes to choose from, overcrowding is never a problem. But Åre offers much more than simply thrilling skiing and scenery. It also offers some fantastic shopping opportunities and the chance to savour some traditional, truly mouth-watering, Scandinavian cuisine.
Getting to Åre is simple. Trains and planes are plentiful, if a little predictable. But you can always add a twist to your journey by packing up your Volvo and recreating the old train route from Trondheim that first brought the tourist boom to Åre in 1882. Getting there is half the fun, after all. This stunning route will take you along the glorious E14 motorway, which stretches all the way from Trondheim to Sundsvall in Sweden. Not only will the E14 guide you past some unforgettable sights, it will also lead you through the 3,928-metre long Hell Tunnel – but don’t let the name put you off, it’s actually named after a nearby village. So once you and your Volvo have been through Hell, all that’s left to do is set a course for the heavenly destination of Åre.