Åre Björnen

Christmas Skiing in Åre

Åre Björnen

Looking east down the lake from the top of the runs above Björnen

I was in Sweden last week with the family for some Christmas skiing in Åre. It was a fantastic trip and was the first time I’d tried going so early in the season to Åre. I’d been to Vemdalen a couple of times in the first week of the new year, but here we arrived the week before Christmas on the 23rd December.

For once though we didn’t come via Stockholm. As I’ve written elsewhere it’s wonderful train journey up from Stockholm to Åre (although it’s a long long drive). Since we were coming over from London we were flying in, but I noticed that you can now get a direct flight from London to Trondheim. Although in Norway, Trondheim is very well connected to Åre by both road and rail. It took us less than 2 hours to drive across the border and it’s a spectacular drive right along the mountain pass between the 2 countries. I’d thoroughly recommend the trip just for the scenery along the way!

We checked into the Vargen group of apartments which are right next to the nursery slopes in Björnen as we were skiing with our children for the first time (well they were old enough to take lessons themselves for the first time would be a better descrption). This accomodation is booked and managed through Skistar, so it was easy to have everything pre-booked and ready to roll when you arrive. I absolutely love the service Skistar give, they just make everything so easy from start to finish and I’ve had many happy holidays arranged through them.

The lifts were open throughout the week as normal, although obviously there wasn’t much light with it being the shortest week of the year. There’s a snow guarantee from Skistar from the 23rd onwards, so although there was no huge amounts of snow cover, they were making snow whilst there and ensuring that there was skiing for everybody. Add to that a selection of Christmas activities and all in all you’ve got a great break.

Sledging in Hagaparken Stockholm

As I write this winter is fast approaching and my recent thoughts have all been of snowy fun in Sweden. I’ll be in Åre in a few weeks myself for some top skiing action, but you can’t get up there every weekend! Fortunately there’s many top winter activities in Stockholm itself and a great one for young and old is Sledging in Hagaparken.

hagaparken winter fun

sledging fun at hagaparken

Here’s a photo of a few of us enjoying the excellent snow in February 2007. Stockholm is a fairly flat city and surrounding area, so the opportunities for downhill skiing and sledging are somewhat limited. Elsewhere on this site you’ll find some good recommendations of places to try skiing in the centre of town, but if you don’t want to go the whole hog and just have a quick mess around in the snow, then an afternoon sledging is always a winner.

Hagaparken has many excellent points which makes it a winner for a sledging day out.

  • A good side safe hill suitable for all ages
  • A nice cafe at the top to warm yourself up and gets some snacks in
  • Fantastic views over the Brunnsviken lake
  • Toilets and facilities in the cafe
  • Easy transport links either by car or public transport.

 

If you’re worried that you’re on holiday in Stockholm and you haven’t got a sledge, then even this is not a problem as you can nip into any branch of Stadium, of which there’s many distributed throughout Stockholm and pick up a sledge for 150SEK or so. This is what my friends in the picture did, and then they’re so cheap that you don’t even need to worry about taking them home if you don’t want to.

Väsjöbacken ski slope

Alpine skiing in Stockholm at Flottsbro

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere one of my favourite activities whilst living in Sweden was alpine skiing in Stockholm (or downtime skiing as some would refer to it). I guess that Stockholm is far more famous for cross country skiing or skating due to its very flat geography however there are still good opportunities for alpine skiing in the city. These are never going to have huge vertical drops or be proper mountains, but they’re all good hills to practice on, or teach your children on, or just to hang out on a bit. Flottsbro in the south of the city is one of the better ones.

When people used to come to visit us, it was always one of the ones that we would take them to, even though we lived in the north of the city. It was well worth the drive south, as it has good facilities compared to some of the local ski hills in Stockholm. It has a proper electronic card reader system for the lifts for a start, which is definitely a time saving bonus, and it has good quality ski equipment for hire for people who don’t have their own. Again a excellent point if you’re just in Stockholm on a city break or passing through on holiday.

There’s a fairly nice restaurant where you can hang out and keep warm when you’re not on the slopes as well. It has a sledging slope for the smaller children, and the final major benefit is that it has a chair lift, which is definitely a bonus compared to many of the smaller Stockholm slopes! All in all it’s well worth a visit. I did some interesting videos here of the slopes back in 2007, but I used a site called livevideo, which obviously over the years lost the war with youtube and now looks rather tired, and its performance it even worse, but you can view them here

 

Cross country skiing at Lida Friluftsgård in Stockholm

cross country skiing and skating on the lake at Lida

a beautiful sunny day in February – perfect for winter activities

As I’ve written about on other places on this site, Stockholm is certainly a city where you can go alpine skiing, but it’s not what it’s most famous for. In my opinion the better options for winter activities are cross country skiing or skating, as the the flat geography and high amount of lakes gives you numerous opportunities. One of my favourite places to do this is Lida Friluftsgård which is in the southern suburbs of Stockholm.

Here’s a great picture I took from the lake there one sunny day in February. The conditions were perfect and it’s still a day I remember now, even though it’s a few years back. There’s so many places to go cross country skiing or skating in the Stockholm area, that they are too many to list here. Tons of them will be informal opportunities where you just get out there in the countryside, but there are also a number of high organised and well prepared areas, where the lakes are ploughed of snow regularly and checked for safety, and the skiing tracks are kept well maintained. Lida is one of those and it’s quite a special place in my opinion.

They have tens of kilometres of prepared cross country skiing tracks through the forest. They have a small downhill ski slope which is good for beginners and children (only a rope lift though). They have a great sledging hill next to the restaurant (with free sledges for borrowing). They have a fantastic lake with well prepared skating tracks, and an area of playing ice hockey and finally they have a wonderful restaurant with great food at reasonable prices.

I’ve tried all the activities here at one time or another. The only downside I ever found was that when I hired some alpine skis to teach my eldest daughter, they were of pretty low quality and hadn’t been waxed properly. Beyond that I’ve only had fantastic experiences there. I took my own cross country skis and skates, so I’ve never tried hiring these. The skate hire is far more mainstream than the ski hire actually, as the downhill skiing is just a side line for them. The skate hire has a specialist hut next to the lake.

My final recommendation would be to ensure that you don’t leave without trying the food in the restaurant. When I was there last month I had the fish soup dagens lunch which was completely wonderful and great value at SEK130.

You can get to Lida in about 30 minutes from the centre of town by car, or you can take SL public transport. It’s a commuter train south and then change to a bus.

Väsjöbacken ski slope

Skiing in Stockholm at Väsjöbacken

Many people forget when travelling to the Swedish capital that skiing in Stockholm is entirely possible. It’s never going to be a major resort, because as a region, it’s incredibly flat, but there are a few local ski hills around the city that are great for a day or two’s skiing, especially with children or beginners.

Because I lived in Sollentuna for many years, the slope I frequently most often was Väsjöbacken, as it was just around the the corner from my house.

skiing in Stockholm at Väsjöbacken ski slope

Väsjöbacken from across the lake – photo from http://www.veidekke.se

I haven’t really got any great photos from Väsjöbacken myself, I guess I was always there enjoying myself too much. This one shows the main slope though from the across the other side of the lake that is at the bottom of the slope. One of the great things about Väsjöbacken is that when you’re at the top, you can see for miles and miles all around, looking north over forests and lake and south back to Stockholm.

It’s very much a local hill, in that it won’t keep experienced skiers busy for long at all, but I used to use it for an hour here and an hour there type of skiing. You can just rock up, jump a few lifts and then go home again.

What it does have compared to some local hills is excellent ski hire equipment, so it’s a great place to go if you’ve just popped into town for a few days. There’s small cafe there selling drinks and snacks, but no more than that. It’s all about the skiing really. It also has a prepared cross country track starting at the main entrance (and for the more adventurous, a ski jump as well, that’s the one bit I haven’t tried personally though!)

It’s easiest to drive there in all truth, although like all of Stockholm, there is a reliable bus service, but to get there from town you need to take the commuter train and then change at Sollentuna station to the bus. In the season when the snow is good it’s often open at night as well for floodlit skiing, which is a great way to kill a couple of hours after work, rather than going to the gym!