With Covid still limiting overseas travel, I have travelled locally in Sweden over the past few months. Recently, I’ve been to Sundsvall, Västerås, Kristianstad and Stockholm. My favourite trip, however, was Åre, a lakeside ski-resort 600 km north of Stockholm.
Outside of Sweden, mountainous Åre is known for hosting the 2019 Alpine World Championships. It’s a favourite ski resort for many Swedes. Thousands of professional and amateur skiers flood into the valley every year to enjoy almost 100 km of snowy slopes. There is no snow in autumn, of course, but there’s still plenty to do. At this time of year, the lush green slopes are the domain of cyclists vying to conquer the steep hills. Of course, it’s not only cyclists, but hikers also come to the slopes for stunning views across the Swedish Alps.
Åre: a weekend in the Swedish Alps
Our trip begins when we begin the long drive north after work on Friday. We arrive in Åre just in time for a late dinner in the central square. With the glittering lights from the cosy bars resembling a Christmas movie set, Åre is magical even without snow. Heralding the onset of winter, the autumn wind is already biting – snow is not far away. Four of us are enjoying a burger and beer – well, I have prosecco – and discussing our plans for the following day. My boyfriend suggests we take the ski-lift to the top of Åreskutan, the 1,420-metre mountain dominating the skyline.
‘Take the ski-lift?’ I scoff with prosecco-fuelled bravado. ‘I didn’t come all this way to take the lazy way up! We will walk.’
The following morning, we begin the upward trek from the hotel. Unprepared as ever, I’m not carrying a water bottle, an inhaler, or any healthy snacks, but I’m enthusiastic. However, five minutes later, I’m puffing away and peeling off layers: it’s hotter and harder than I expected. Eventually, we reach the car park where the ski-lift is seriously tempting, but we resolutely walk past. There is a range of red and black runs, which means absolutely nothing to a ski novice like me. Jonas explains that a red route is easier to climb, but the black one would be more fun to ski. We agree to climb the red.
A Hard Climb
Two minutes later, struggling to find the red path we look at the black: ‘How hard can it be?’ we say. Famous last words! Others are wearing hiking gear, making my tank-top, jeans and pink trainers seem horribly inadequate. We begin to climb. Despite a forecast of heavy rain, the weather is perfect – we have blue sky, and the sun is still warm. It’s enjoyable climbing a little and stopping frequently to
catch my breath admire the views.
Stopping at a Hollywood-style Åre sign, I watch a cyclist climb the letters with his bike and pose for a picture. I’m grateful for the extended break: the climb so far has been more challenging than I expected. I chat with an American woman who asks me to take her picture. Whilst we admire the cyclists, we agree that we don’t envy them – cycling must be hard. It’s getting late: climbing this route has taken longer than we’d planned, so we jump on a ski-lift to skip the last section of the black path. Picking up the red route at the next ridge, we continue our climb.
Soon, the trail flattens out and we can see the summit. The view spans the lake below, the Swedish Alps, and even Norway in the distance. It’s worth every moment of the climb. We stop for a drink at a café, and it’s busy with people who have taken the ski-lift from the bottom. They are not bright red and puffing like I am. It’s time to leave when an army of rain moves towards us in ranks on shivering ranks of grey, so we take the cable car all the way to the bottom.
Playground of the Rich and Famous
Darkened by the mountain’s shadow, the square is filling up. It’s late Saturday afternoon and people are milling around in the shops and restaurants. There’s a range of high street and designer sports stores selling ridiculously chic Scandinavian ski-wear. Åre is the playground of Stockholm’s rich and famous, so you need to look stylish on the slopes. I imagine you’ll spot a Swedish celebrity or two enjoying the après-ski parties in the resort bars during ski season.
As it looked like the entire of the next day would be rainy, I bought a stylish red rain jacket from Swedish brand EQPE. We spent the remainder of the weekend taking walks around the lake and eating in the various restaurants.
When you are in Åre, you can also visit Sweden’s largest waterfall, and try out local pralines at Åre Chokladfabrik.
I really enjoyed Åre and know that I will be back. Jonas wants to go skiing in the winter, but with covid still clinging on it probably won’t happen this year. For now, I will have to make do with exploring Åre in the autumn.
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