Adventures in Åre

We rarely say no to the chance to travel somewhere new, especially when it involves skiing. When friends from home invited us to join them for a few days in Åre, Sweden, we jumped at the opportunity. It was a worthwhile trip with fun skiing, interesting scenery, tasty food, a nice town, and great company! Here’s what a typical day on our trip looked like.

8:00 a.m | First Chair

Åre sits just south of the Arctic Circle and in January, that means daylight hours are pretty limited. A full ski day can easily start before sunrise and end after sunset! This time of the year, the VM8:an lift opens at 8:00 for “night skiing” on three long, wide trails under the lights. The terrain has a good pitch, and is best suited to advanced & expert skiers looking for fast groomed runs. Walking to the base of the lift just before opening time felt much earlier with the darkness, but it was a nice way to start the day. We enjoyed watching the sun slowly rise while we skied a couple of warm-up runs.

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Walking to the lift just before opening time.
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Waiting for the VM8:an lift to open just before 8:00 a.m.
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Freshly groomed trails to start the ski day under the lights

9:30 a.m. | Sunrise

On sunnier days, the color in the sky leading up to sunrise provides a great show. Once the sun has risen, the rest of the ski areas’ lifts open up. It’s a good sized area with plenty of varied terrain. With 42 lifts, 89 marked runs, and an 890 meter (2,920′) vertical drop, there’s a lot to explore. The central part of the mountain, around the main VM8:an and VM6:an lifts, consists primarily of wide groomed trails with extensive snowmaking. Off to either side and up towards the summit, there are more options for natural snow, off-piste, and tree skiing.

sunrise

gondolas-sky

11:00 a.m. | The Summit

Climbing above tree line, the gondola and aerial tram reach a point just below the 1420 meter (4,660′) summit of Åreskutan. It’s a world where everything—lifts and buildings included—is caked in snow and there are scenic views of the lake below. There are several groomed runs as well as ample off-piste options when the snow conditions allow.

summitmiddayDue to relatively low elevation (town is at 390 meters or 1,280′ above sea level), the snow that falls in Åre has a tendency to be wet. Variable conditions, significant rime buildup on lift towers, and the presence of “drying cabinets” in all accommodations all point to a damper climate.

slopesgroupThere’s extensive backcountry skiing accessible from the summit. Our friends took a guided randonee tour through the ski school that they thoroughly enjoyed. Avalanches can be a risk here, so it’s best to go with someone who knows the area and make sure you have the right equipment.

12:00 p.m. | Lunch

There are lots of great on-mountain lodges for lunch or a hot drink.  We found the Åre Ski Inn to be a very convenient spot for a break.  Located at the top of the VM 8 lift, the lodge offers cafeteria-style dining with delicious soups, Swedish meatballs, hot drinks and plenty of cakes and pastries.  The lodge is spacious with lots of comfortable places to sit and eat (including some couches if you really want to take a break), all with fantastic views of the surrounding mountains.  We also found it a great place for an après–ski hot chocolate, with only one ski run down the lit trails back to our lodging.  Towards the eastern side of the ski area, we also enjoyed Kastrullen.  Located halfway down the Viksvängen trail, the lodge is compact and cozy but can get crowded at peak times.  We had a delicious meal, nonetheless, sharing a table with others who were also breaking for lunch.

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Kastrullen lodge, a cozy lunch spot
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Swedish meatballs and hot chocolate for a hearty lunch at the Åre Ski Inn

1:30 p.m. | Off-Piste and Tree Skiing

We were lucky to get a few centimeters of fresh, dry snow during our visit. While the new snow made for some fun ski conditions, it also limited visibility on the upper reaches of the mountain. Unlike much of the skiing in the Alps, Åre is also blessed with plenty of wooded areas that were perfect for enjoying these conditions. Both to the east and west of the central ski area, we found fun and challenging gladed terrain where the new snow stayed untracked. Our friends’ earlier randonee tour meant they knew their way around some of the “sidecountry” next to the marked trails and we had a great time exploring.

andrewmeg-johnk-sidecountrykatryna-treesk-skiing

3:00 p.m. | Sunset

The official sunset time during our visit was 3:00 p.m. All lifts closed for the day, with the exception of the VM8:an, which kept running until 4:30 p.m. with a handful of floodlit trails. The chilly afternoon breeze generally made late afternoon a great time to stop in for a warm drink before the last run to the bottom of the mountain.

sunset

last-run
The night skiing lights are back on just after 3:00 p.m.
hot-chocolate
Perfect time for hot chocolate and a snack!

6:30 p.m. | Dinner

After a long day on the slopes, we were ready for a warm and hearty dinner.  Åre’s downtown area is compact and easily walkable, and we explored several of the restaurants in town.

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Cozy interior of Crêperie & Logi

 

reindeer
Delicious Jämtland-style reindeer at Werséns

Crêperie & Logi | Årevägen 70B, 830 13 Åre
Located in an old fire station, Crêperie & Logi serves enormous crépes and galettes with lots of locally sourced ingredients.  We each enjoyed crispy buckwheat galettes filled with ingredients like curried chickpeas (for the vegetarian) and lamb and honey (for the carnivore).

Werséns | Årevägen 95, 830 13 Åre
Werséns is a brasserie and bar right on the corner of the main square in Åre.  They serve large, crispy flatbread pizzas and local specialties like reindeer as well.  The drink and cocktail menu was impressive, and the restaurant seemed to cater equally to families seeking dinner and groups of adults who wanted to linger at the bar.

Parkvillan | Parkvägen 6, 830 13 Åre
Also serving as a hostel-style a guesthouse, Parkvillan is a cozy bar with delicious pub food and their own craft beers.  The burgers are excellent and they have great vegetarian options as well.  It’s a small space with limited tables that seemed popular with visitors and locals alike.

8:00 p.m. | Where to Stay

Our friends stayed in a hostel-style room at Parkvillan right in town, where we joined them for burgers and beer one evening. While there are several hotels and lodges in and around town, much of the accommodation consists of small apartments and condominiums. We got a great package deal for a studio in Åre By, an easy walk from the slopes, that included three nights of lodging and three days of lift tickets. One unusual aspect of renting here is that the basic price is just for the space; you’ll pay extra for bed linens if you don’t bring your own, and you’re expected to thoroughly clean the place before leaving or arrange to pay a separate cleaning charge.

are-by-lodging-viewed-from-the-lift
Slopeside cabins in Åre By

Getting There & Getting Around

There’s a train station right in downtown Åre, which makes it easy to do a car-free trip. Trains come from all over the country, including Stockholm (6-7 hours) and Malmo (overnight). Our friends traveled from south of Stockholm by daytime train and found it to be an easy trip.

Since our visit was shorter, we opted for direct flights into Trondheim airport in Norway, where we rented a car and drove the two hours east to Åre. Winter driving in Northern Europe means snowy roads, but rental cars are equipped with high-quality snow tires. After all, they’re used to plenty of snow in Scandinavia!

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Scenic drive back towards the Trondheim Airport

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