Mention Sälen to a Swedish Skier and it will be met with instant recognition, as one of the countries best-loved resorts it consists of four sizable mountains built around a vast complex of accommodation, bars and other amenities such as cinemas, swimming pools and bowling lanes.
Mention it to someone from the UK and you are more likely to get a monologue consisting of “I’ve never heard of it, skiing in the Alps is much better”… despite the individual in question having never visited Sweden, let alone the aforementioned resort.
So why is Sälen so unknown to Brits? Well, that generally factors down to two main reasons, the first being misconceptions; for some unknown reason a lot of people in the UK have a hard time linking Sweden with Skiing, despite it being home to the earliest recorded set of skis and being largely covered in snow for half the year! The second is Sälen’s location, with the closest airport in Sweden nearly 5 hours away and Oslo Airport 3 hours away but with the added premium of Norwegian car rental. This is set to change though with the construction of the new Scandinavian Mountains Airport. This new facility is based 10 minutes from the bottom of the slopes which moves Sälen from one of the furthest resorts from an airport, to one of the closest, not only in Europe but across the entire globe!
This €115 million project is on course for completion in December 2019 with international flights coming from Denmark, England, Germany, the Netherlands and Russia. A state of the art runway is being installed without a traditional control tower, instead, it will be the first airport in the world to utilise a virtual air-traffic control centre. Access to Sälen will be easier than ever but, the question for most British based skiers is “Should I go there instead of the Alps?” Perhaps a breakdown of what to consider would be helpful?
Sälen has 82 km of runs between the four mountains; Tandådalen, Hundfjället, Lindvallen and Högfjället, you are not short of options with 100 runs covering a good blend of beginner, intermediate and expert slopes. Ski lifts and bus transfers between the mountains (all clustered within 15 minute drive-radius) make swapping slopes easy, with a single SkiStar pass covering all the resorts.
At a lower altitude than the Alps, but considerably further north, the mountains are different from those in central Europe. Sheer cliffs and horizon dominating peaks are replaced by tabletop mountains, which provide stunning vistas and views through forests at every turn. The snow quality is exceptional and is guaranteed from December to the Mid-April, Lindvallen is the largest of the four mountains and offers everything from snowparks to slalom courses, each major run has its own restaurant which is usually accompanied with some live music.
Those looking for some back-country skiing are greeted by some of the easiest to access off-piste skiing in Europe. A quick walk away from the major slopes leaves largely untouched runs thick with Pine trees and challenging drops, avalanche risk is considerably lower than in the Alps and there aren’t crevasses to worry about either!
Family skiing is perhaps where Sälen excels, with plenty of green runs, kids entertainment and even a ski run that twists around an interactive troll village, younger skiers are sure to have a great time. Another bonus is a general rule Swedish skiers are more considerate of wayward children than their central European counterparts and the slopes usually have far less traffic than the top Alps based resorts, making the slopes a great place for beginners.
Tandådalen features Sälen’s biggest ski park with enough features to keep any park rat happy! For beginners, there is an easier section located at the far side of the slopes complete with basic kickers and easy urban features. Check out Jesper Tjäder’s crazy Unrailistic video to get an idea of what’s possible in Tandådalen.
There’s also plenty of moguls, park features and race tracks darted around all the mountains ensuring you are always close to something fun.
One thing that may be noticed by British visitors though is the lack of snowboarders, Swede’s being huge fans of the understated tend to go for the effortlessly cool look as opposed to the “Watch this mate!” approach which is often seen in snowboarding. That is not to say snowboarders aren’t welcome, Sälen’s very accommodating, with ski scooters and short skis also occasionally seen on the slopes.
With plenty of bars, restaurants and shops, staying at Sälen is easy. Food and drink is a little bit pricey but on par with what you’d expect in central Europe. A cinema, bowling alley and swimming pool, all located in Lindvallen, provide plenty of evening entertainment. The option to include the pool in the skipass also helps to keep the costs down.
There are two great sports bars for those wanting to keep up with the football on holiday, you even get a free basket of popcorn as a starter when ordering food!
Accommodation, typically, ranges from the cheap sleep together cabins through to luxury hotels. Everyone is covered with half, full-board and self-catering options available. I highly recommend booking through either SkiStar or a listing site such as booking.com, package holidays to Sweden are typically priced on par with Alps holidays when actually you should be paying far less. Just bear in mind before you book some time off work that long weekends in Sweden are Thursday to Sunday, not Friday to Monday.
For a group of 4, a 5 day holiday should easily be achievable for £400 a person all in (based on driving from Arlanda, this should become cheaper when the new airport opens). It is possible to pay even less if you find a good accommodation deal from a listing site. Overall, this is considerably cheaper than the rest of Europe where prices double that is the norm. One criticism I hear of skiing in Sweden is that it is expensive, in reality, provided you do the legwork this simply isn’t the case, even with heavily taxed alcohol even the most liqueur dependent of skiers should still save money when compared to the Alps.
The general vibe from Swedish resorts is that of a large party village, the class divisions seen at some resorts in Europe simply do not exist. All the locals speak frightfully perfect English and are always happy to help a lost tourist, giving the place a distinctly cosy feel, despite its vastness.
For non-skiing days you can go on sledge rides, walking in the woods, snowmobile rides or give Nordic skiing a go, which is well worth a try and greatly improves your mobility on flat ground.
What to Expect
Hopefully a great time! There are a few extra details to expect while Skiing in Sweden that may take you by surprise.
Rucksacks! Swede’s love their rucksacks, usually these contain a packed lunch, several different outer layers and a picnic blanket, you’ll see more backpacks on skiers in one day at Sälen than in a year in other countries!
Traversing at Speed! In Scandinavia, they love cross-country (Nordic) skiing, even more than they love downhill skiing. Considered a superior form of walking and a necessary transport option to large parts of Sweden, it is not unusual to see Swede’s applying this trait to traverse up inclines at a blistering pace. It’s impressive to see and quite frankly makes you feel a bit stupid when they charge pass you with backpacks and children in tow as you struggle to walk, let alone ski, up the slightest of slope. Try not to get down about it, yes even children will speed pass you but instead enjoy watching it and try to find a quiet bit of mountain to practice yourself.
Their children may already be better skiers than you! With many Swedish children being placed onto skis the minute they can walk, the mountains are littered with skiing children who already possess godlike skills. Try not to be shocked when a small child rockets by you on the slopes, they know what they are doing. As an extra tidbit, once, while on a ski lift I was struggling to define the shape on a man’s back, who was carving down a slope at break-neck speed, as he passed I realised it was a baby complete with beanie hat and sunglasses. This was single-handedly the coolest (and perhaps most reckless) thing I have ever seen skiing.
This casually cool theme is quite common across the slopes, I’ve see slalom skiers detouring into the park, land a backflip and shrug it off like its nothing. Sälen is an effortless fun place, it never competes for attention but has more than enough amenities both on and off the slopes to make for a great holiday!
For more information visit: https://www.skistar.com/en/ski-destinations/salen/