The birthplace of modern skiing, every serious skier should make a pilgrimage to Scandinavia at least once, and for first-timers it’s one of the best places in Europe to get started. Here’s our pick of the region’s best resorts:
Stretching along the shores of Lake Åresjon, Sweden’s largest resort just got bigger and better – with three brand new chairlifts introduced for the 2013/14 season, skiers have gained access to a whole new ski area and pressure has been eased elsewhere in resort. With diverse terrain, Åre attracts a full spectrum of skiers and boarders, whether your perfect day involves zig-zagging through the trees, cruising the blues or spending time with the kids in the Are Bjornen family ski area.
Åre has both a distinct Swedish style and a unique identity all of its own, with a buzzing centre and a good range of bars, restaurants and sophisticated shops. The après scene is chic and stylish too – pop into the slope-side distillery for a tipple, indulge in some local cloudberry chocolate or join the locals for a glass or two of schnapps.
Best for… all-round appeal and stylish après
A ski resort with a history, Trysil claims to have been the site of the first downhill ski races, held in 1862. Its forested setting means that nature is quite literally on your doorstep and the resort has an impressive range of accommodation types to suit all budgets, from ski-in/ski-out family-friendly apartments to luxury spa hotels.
The wide, uncrowded and perfectly groomed pistes are ideal for beginners and cautious skiers – Trysil was voted ‘Norway’s best Alpine resort for family ski trips’ for good reason. And, as Norway’s largest and most varied ski area, it’s a perfect choice for groups of mixed ability skiers.
Best for… families and mixed ability groups
One of Norway’s oldest resorts, the charming village of Geilo sits on the edge of the largest mountain plateau in Northern Europe. It’s another family skifavourite, with a great range of activities on offer, from tree-top walks and mountain farms, to husky dogs and sleigh rides.
But Geilo’s real forte is its fantastic conditions for first-timers. Uncrowded slopes are ideal for building confidence and the award-winning, English speaking ski school specialises in coaching those new to the slopes. With the longest run around 2km, it’s not a resort for the fast and furious but more advanced skiers can hit the terrain park, explore off-piste or enjoy the sheer thrill of carving huge turns on uncrowded slopes.
Best for… first-time skiers
The world’s northernmost ski resort sits 200km north of the Arctic Circle and waits until March’s warmer, lighter days to open, kicking into life when most European ski resorts are winding down for the season. Come June, you can ski Scandinavia beneath the midnight sun and ride the lifts until 1am, or whenever the lift operators have had enough.
Riksgransen may only have a handful of slopes but each one is has fun, optional features, from mini jumps to moguls, which add extra spice to your ski day. However, most people visit for the legendary off-piste – with an enormous heli-ski area and more than 100 peaks to pick between, it’s a favourite with freeriders – and there are endless opportunities for ski touring, snow-shoeing trips and avalanche safety courses. It’s got to be one of the world’s most exciting and unusual late-season resorts.
Best for… off-piste and late season skiing
Made up of two linked ski areas, beautiful Hemesdal is Norway’s most photographed resort, home to a ski area which is often referred to as the ‘Scandinavian Alps’, thanks to the steep, rugged mountains which rise around it. Skiers have plenty of terrain to choose from, from world-renowned snow parks and decent off-piste to cruisey beginner slopes and long, sweeping greens, which make it a top choice for improvers.
For a fairly small resort, the weekend après scene is particularly lively and you can either soak up the authentic atmosphere before heading to bed, or hit the night-clubs and party into the wee hours.
Best for… Improvers and lively apres