A Guide to Skiing in Scandinavia
There are many reasons why western European countries like France, Italy and Switzerland dominate the skiing domain, with vast areas of great slopes, irresistible après, and a release from normal life to name a few. But going back to the same places every time can dampen your enthusiasm for a winter break, and by ignoring the 2662.9km of fantastic Scandinavian ski terrain you are really missing out on what the most northern ski resorts have to offer.
Probably the biggest and best ski resort in Norway is in Hemsedal, situated 200km north-west of the capital Oslo and like almost every town and city in Norway is surrounded by many of the 450,000 fresh water lakes across the country. Hemsedal offers 49 slopes with 20 chairlifts across the three peaks terrain which is comparable to major resorts in the Alps, but there is much more to give from this Scandinavian resort.
Skiing starts bright and early at 7.30am; even if it may be early but not necessarily bright the floodlights along slopes 8, 10, and 11 will ensure you know where you are going. Should there have been a snowfall the night before, you will have all of the fresh powder to yourself along with the perfectly groomed slopes. There are guided off piste instructors ready to take you out to the non-touristy parts of the mountain, whilst a great ski school is on offer if you’re still finding your feet.
Hemsedal prides itself on the many activities on offer during your stay. As well as great slopes for skiing, there are picture perfect ski touring tracks going around the city. Or if you fancy something a bit more challenging then ice climbing might be for you. You can try snowmobiling on a terrain track in Lykkja or sit back and be pulled along by dog or horse powered sled rides as you admire the stunning scenery.
If you fancy a weekend away in Norway then the Skarsnuten hotel offers a great weekend package, 1,990 Norwegian Krone (around £190) per person for a double room with breakfast and a one day ski pass included. This stunning hotel sits on the mountain with a chair lift going directly to it and has some breath-taking views. Arrive on the Friday, explore the town and go horse sled riding, ski the Saturday to your hearts content and on the Sunday before you leave have some fun on the snowmobiles. The perfect weekend!
A typical high ski season in France or Austria lasts from December until early April, but not in Sweden. The Riksgränsen resort is 125 miles north of the Arctic Circle, making it the most northern ski resort available. The sheer volume of snow ensures it is an incredible place for off-piste skiing and boarding. The resort only opens in February before closing in June where you can ski under the midnight sun! So if you think you have missed the ski season, think again. The 29 run resort is not massive but has more than enough terrain to keep you occupied whether that be on the piste or in the backcountry.
Being a fairly small resort there is not the largest choice of accommodation but the Riksgränsen hotel is a very modern building with plenty of facilities. You could stay in your own apartment, or if that doesn’t appeal then the Meteorologan ski lodge could be the place for you. The runs themselves are generally intermediate level; perfect for the typical holiday skier.
Last of all in our guide we have Finland, which includes Lapland, home to Santa but more importantly (for us adults anyway) 27 miles of beautiful pistes. The town of Levi is located in Lapland and this particular ski resort is geared more for the experienced skier or boarder with an impressive terrain park. But don’t let that put you off if you’re not in the expert skier category, as there is a great ski school on the slopes - a perfect introduction for beginners and children. So whilst you’re out with the family seeing Santa or heading off on a reindeer sled to see the wondrous sight that is the Northern Lights, why not make it a full blown skiing vacation as well.
There are plenty of hotels, apartments, lodges and even igloos available to stay in. Activities are in abundance with snow shoe walking, snowmobiling and plenty of events to keep the kids entertained during your stay. Levi has the best of both whether you’re here as a family or just want to go skiing on some new terrain.