Åre: Swedish-style skiing

Winter 2020 / 2021: we wanted to ski but our Prime Minister decided that French ski resorts will be closed for the season. Leaving the European Union was forbidden unless there were compelling reasons to do so. Switzerland had kept its resorts open, but foreigners had to quarantine.

The choice was soon limited to Sweden, with its borders and opened ski resorts… So that’s where we decided to go. What’s more, I’ve fallen in love with this country, where I’ve lived in the past.

We went to Åre in March 2021.

Why Åre?

Accustomed to gigantic resorts like Les Trois Vallées or Espace Killy, we were apprehensive about the size of Swedish resorts, with their average mountains rarely topping 1,000 meters.

That’s why we immediately chose the largest resort: Åre, some 600 km north of Stockholm near the Norwegian border. And to top it all off, there’s even a night train from the capital. A taste of adventure awaits smile The only constraint is that we would have to do some “COVID” tests on the way there and back.

Situation map Are

In “COVID” times: everything must be cancelable!

We decided in early February to leave in March. And yet, we didn’t know if we’d be able to go to Sweden. With COVID, a few weeks represented the long term, and new travel restrictions, both in our country and in Sweden, could prevent us from getting there.

Whether it’s for transport, accommodation or car hire, we made sure that we only take bookings that can be canceled right up to the last minute. Admittedly, this would be more expensive and limit our choice of B&B, but it gived us great peace of mind.

Let’s tell you the story of our unusual skiing travel!

Making the journey to Åre a pleasure

The easiest way is to fly to Östersund with a stopover in Stockholm, then rent a car. Åre is only an hour and a half away.

We choose another, funnier option in the spirit of “land-trip“. We’ll fly only as far as Stockholm, then continue by train..

And to add to the fun, we’re planning a long transit to Stockholm. Our Air France flight lands at midday for a train that won’t leave until 10.55 pm.

The double advantage is that we won’t have to worry about any airline delays, and we’ll have plenty of time to wander around town and have dinner.

The big day has finally arrived! Our negative antigen test is the sesame that allows us to return to Sweden. In less than 20 minutes, the Arlanda Express takes us at 200 km/h into the center of Stockholm.

A dream that Paris has been waiting for for years, with the CDG Express constantly postponed. What’s more, smart pricing means it’s always more attractive to take the train than a cab, whether you’re one, two, three, or four.

In town, we found a great deal with a hotel room at… 53 EUR breakfast included!!!! Yes, you read that right! So why not use it as aday use?

We can leave our luggage in the room, rest after our stroll around town, and take a shower before returning to our sleeper car. And, knowing that we won’t be able to have breakfast, the hotel prepares a little bag for us to take with us.

At this price, the room has no windows and looks very much like an interior cabin on a cruise ship. For younger guests, this is a good alternative to a youth hostel, with a higher level of comfort. The hotel is the First Hotel Kungsbron, adjacent to the Central Station.

We won’t dwell on our stroll in Stockholm, which had a nostalgic touch for us, as we just revisited places we used to enjoy when we lived there. These are the subjects of separate articles.

But the streets and stores are deserted. Restaurants are open but have to close at 8 pm and drastically limiting their capacity. COVID is indeed a global scourge.

What is also striking is the absence of masks, very rarely worn by people. It immediately makes even a dispersed crowd more human. A feeling we had forgotten in France

Overnight in a sleeper as in the old days!

10:55 pm. Our train slowly leaves Central Station. Our first-class sleeper has the old-fashioned charm of the ones I used to work in nearly 40 years ago. It reminds me of the days, before the TGV, when skiers took night trains to the Alps and Pyrenees.

In 2021, we also have the privilege of a private toilet and shower. We fall asleep to the gentle rocking of the rolling stock.

After a very good night’s sleep, we wake up in Östersund to a snow-covered landscape and frozen lakes. The magic of Scandinavian winter is already taking effect. There’s a bistro car where we’re offered a (light) breakfast. It completes the one given to us by the hotel the day before.

Sleeping car interior
Train arriving at Are station

Åre: A ski resort for “real!

9:21 am. We arrive at Åre station. As soon as we get off the train, we can see the ski slopes.

And, at first glance, we’re pretty happy! The downhill runs look quite sporty. Åre doesn’t look like a cow pasture, even though the top of the ski area is only at 1200 meters and the bottom at 400 meters. The mountain is similar to the one we would see in the Alps.

We pick up the keys to our rental car at the cash desk of the supermarket next to the train station! Very practical for our weekly shopping. In addition to salmon, “lax” in Swedish, and meatballs, we even have a “Mont d’or” cheese. We’ll be able to make ourselves a hot cheese dish, just like at home. smile

The second step is ski rental. We waste a little time trying to find a rental company that offers a not-too-expensive option for changing our skis at will between cross-country and alpine. It’s also located in the village of Björnen, linked to the Åre ski area, but 15 minutes closer to our chalet. Good news, because we were a bit worried about the distance of our accommodation from the slopes!

View of Are's tracks from the station

And now off to the chalet. We set off along a small mountain road still covered in snow. To our left, the Åre mountains, and to our right forests of spruce, Scots pine, and birch, interspersed with frozen, snow-covered lakes. It’s superb! And we’re all alone on the road.

Mountain view Are on snow-covered road

Just before reaching our chalet, we pass an ice-free lake. We discover that it opens onto a dam, so the movement of the water prevents it from freezing.

It’s a reminder that Sweden is one of the most advanced countries in the world in terms of the production of virtually fossil fuel-free electricity, combining nuclear power with renewable energies, mainly hydroelectric.

Car on a snow-covered road

Our cottage is the main residence of a lady in her fifties. She shows us around our new home and leaves us the keys. Trust reigns, as her closets and cupboards with all her personal belongings remain freely accessible.

We feel like she was a cousin who lent us her house, not an impersonal Airbnb.

Of course, there’s a sauna to reward us for our days on the slopes. The accommodation is cozy and bright, with large bay windows. The furniture is a mix of traditional and Ikea. It feels good to be in Sweden!

View of our chalet

A very alpine skiing experience

In these “COVID” times, it was with a slightly guilty pleasure that we put on our alpine skis.

The Swedes have taken a different approach to France, leaving the resorts open, but with reinforced protection measures. Who’s right? In any case, we liked the Swedish model, with its emphasis on social distancing without the need to wear a mask.

Skiers on top of the slopes at Are

The first pleasant surprise is the quality of the snow: it’s excellent everywhere. Temperatures remain negative for longer than in the Alps and are more constant even in March. Snow is transformed less by successive freezing and thawing. What’s more, as it snowed during our stay, we had the satisfaction of skiing on velvet.

Downhill ski slopes with Are near the lake

The second pleasant surprise is the size of the resort. We skied a total of three days, each with a different itinerary. There are steep slopes where you can get a few adrenaline rushes, but also gentle slopes where you can let yourself go and daydream. The landscape, too, is rather varied: coniferous or birch forests and, at the top, a very polar environment with buildings completely frosted over. And in the distance, the eye is always drawn to magnificent vistas of uninhabited areas.

Map of the slopes at Are
Bjornen piste map

Skiing in Åre also has its drawbacks.

The topography of the resort, which spans several valleys, means that some strategic lifts can be a little congested.

Perhaps this was reinforced by the “COVID” measures where many seats were neutralized.

The queues were organized like in airports so that everyone could keep the prescribed distance of one ski pole between each skier.

Single-file skiers with covid distances
Skier on the slope
Gondola arrival station at Are

Cross-country skiing like in Lapland

We also love cross-country skiing. The experience is very different from downhill skiing, with greater immersion in nature without the artifice of lifts. Physical effort is both gentler and more enduring.

Our technical skills mean that we practice it more as a stroll than a race. So we often found ourselves lagging behind the Swedes, who have been galloping on these skis since they were very young. smile But it didn’t matter, because our main aim was to enjoy the superb wild landscapes and the impressive silence of nature in winter.

Frozen lake with the sun on the horizon

We skied at two locations in the area.

First to Björnen. The loops are between 5 and 15 km long. We chose the longest, which takes 2-3 hours.

During our stay, we had all kinds of weather, from blizzards to bright sunshine. Cross-country skiing lends itself better than alpine skiing to bad weather conditions. There’s even a sense of adventure, with the wind whipping across your face and the tracks disappearing as you go.

The second place we skied was Södra Årefjällen, more precisely at the start of the village of Vålådalen. And then we fell in love!

The 18 km loop we’d chosen takes in forest landscapes interspersed with large clearings, with numerous snow-capped mountains on the horizon.

What’s more, we started in a fog that frosted the birch trees and gave way to superb sunshine… which the weather forecast hadn’t predicted! Magical!

Trees in the sun with snow

A “bi-ski” holiday that enchanted us!

We loved alternating cross-country and downhill skiing. The pleasures they provide are highly complementary and avoid the feeling of routine that can be experienced on a single-activity holiday.

Unfortunately, our 7-day trip was a little too short. Next time we’ll try to go away for 10 days to get the most out of it. You also have to consider that it’s difficult to ski from day one. Getting accustomed to a country less familiar than our own takes a bit more time.

Last but not least, interactions with the Swedes were very pleasant. They’re a rather reserved people, who hide a real warmth and kindness. We met several Swedes who were curious to see what the “Frenchies” were up to in their northern lands.

The idea for this trip was born within the constraints of “COVID”. But we’ll definitely be coming back to Åre, as we were delighted with our “dual” cross-country and downhill skiing experience!

Blog author

Practical tips for your stay in Åre

A good place to start finding out more about Åre is the tourist office website.


For cross-country skiing in the Are area, we recommend the trails at Björnen. But it’s best to drive to Södra Årefjällen in 20 minutes to 30 minutes. There’s a wide choice of wilder, less-frequented trails around the villages of Vålådalen, Trillevallen, Ottsjö and Edsåsdalen. You can find all the information you need on the following website:


An on-site car is essential. Two rental companies offer them: Europcar and Hertz. However, try to book as early as possible, as there are few cars available. Östersund airport agencies are responsible for remote rentals.



For food shopping, we recommend the ICA supermarket inÅre station. It is very well stocked with quality products.

There are several essential applications to download to your smartphone:

  • Skistar” to buy ski passes and access all information on the ski area
  • Klart – Vader” for the unpredictable local weather.
  • MobilPark” to pay for your car parking

Skistar is the ski area operator. You’ll find all the information you need on piste maps, ski pass prices, and ski rentals.


Even if you can buy your package in advance, we advise you not to do so. This allows you to choose the one that suits you best at the last minute, depending on the weather and your personal preferences. You’ll get a card on the spot, which you can easily top up with the appropriate package using an app you can download onto your smartphone.

For ski rentals, we have selected the SkiStar store in Björnen. Parking is easy and the downhill/cross-country ski package is very interesting.

For accommodation, the easiest way is to use Airbnb. There are a few hotels, some of them very beautiful like the Coperhill Mountain Lodge, but relatively expensive. In these “COVID” times, we preferred to stay at home and limit our restaurant outings.

The further away you are from Åre, and from the main road to Östersund, the more likely you are to find a cottage in a wilderness setting. We found ours in Brattegen. Rentals are usually from Sunday to Sunday, but you may find them on different days.


To book your overnight stay in a sleeper from Stockholm to Åre, visit the Swedish Railways website.


Ha en trevlig resa!

Bon voyage!

Sunset on mountain Are


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