Åre is one of the largest and considered one of the best places to ski in Sweden. With that in mind, this was one of the places I considered to go skiing in the winter after good memories of skiing in Trysil.
Coincidentally, Åre ski area is operated by Skistar, the same company that manages Trysil. This made my choice easier in deciding to come here for the skiing. In 2019, the ski area hosted the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships, giving it credence as a venue to ski.
The best way to get here is by plane, arriving at Åre Östersund airport located about 95km east from the ski area. Several daily scheduled flights by SAS will bring skiers to Åre Östersund from Stockholm and there are numerous bus companies providing roundtrip bus transfers from the airport to the train station at Åre. A roundtrip bus ticket costs around SEK620 (~$65).
Alternatively there are trains that will reach the town of Åre but even the direct trains take around 7 hours while many requires one stop. While they may be the cheaper way to get here, it is less convenient.
CHAIRLIFTS & GONDOLAS
The ski area can mainly be split up into three distinct areas – Åre By which is the largest and central one, Duved on the west and Björnen on the east. In Åre By, there is the main tram (Kabinbanan) that brings skiers up to summit of Åre but it was closed for all the days I was there. The next best upload was the VM6:an chairlift which is a fast 6-seater chairlift.
There is another 4 seater chairlift called Hummelliften that allows skiers higher ground from VM6:an so that they can traverse to the Rödkullen area which I would cover later.
Another base on Åre By beside the Race Arena has a 8-seater chairlift (VM8:an) that transfers to a gondola for skiers to reach the summit. Local buses serve skiers between the 2 bases in Åre By. Other than that, there is a 2-seater chairlift called Worldcupliften for skiers to reach the Race Arena from the main Åre By ski base. Skiers could also access the slopes from the village by taking the funicular railway which is free though it is slower and runs only every half an hour.
Otherwise the funicular is useful for skiers staying in the main village but seeking to head over to Björnen to ski as Hotel Fjällgården is also where the base of Fjällgårdsexpressen is located at. This 6-seater express chairlift will bring skiers over to the top of Björnen ski area.
Over in the Björnen ski area, there is the 8-seater express Sadelexpressen that will allow skiers to return to Central Åre.
The rest of the Björnen ski area are served by T-bars that provide access to the mild green and blue slopes suitable for families and beginners.
Other T-bars could be found in the Rödkullen area which serves mainly kids on lessons or families. This area can be reached from an easy traverse from the top of VM:8an chairlift. Some of the T-bars serving Rödkullen can be significant in length and there is even a double T-bar setup to bring more skiers up the slopes.
For this visit, I did not visit Duved and Tegefjäll which is not linked to the rest of Åre by chairlifts. Skiers have to take the local bus to head to Duved and thus I consider it to be a separate area. In addition during my visit, the aerial tram (Kabinbanan) and the gondola was not in operation due to winds. However amongst all the chairlifts and T-bars, I find the queues to be quite substantial in the VM6:an and VM8:an at Central Åre and the base of Sadelexpressen at Björnen.
COST & VALUE
Prices for the ski pass are similar to Trysil in Norway and is about SEK464 (~$48) per day of skiing. These are similar to the larger ski resorts in Austria and slightly cheaper than prices in Switzerland.
Over in Central Åre, the main beginners’ area is at Rödkullen, where there are themed areas for kids. Skistar is generally very good in catering slopes for families with young children and there are slopes that allow easy progression.
At the Björnen ski area, there is a nice long green run served by the Hermelinenliften T-bar. Otherwise piste 106 and 107 are easy blue runs that goes from the top of Sadelexpressen to its base. These blue pistes are perfect for progressing and learning the basics.
Aside from Rödkullen and Björnen, the Bräckeliften T-bar serves easier runs with snow parks and fun rides geared for teenagers.
In Central Åre there are mainly red intermediate pistes, and the area served by Fjällgårdsexpressen and Tottliften leading back to the Fjällgården Hotel are all nice red runs for cruising as they are long. Skiers in this area are served by the Platåkåtan restaurant if they need a rest.
The pistes around the Hummelliften area are shorter intermediate pistes that provides skiers the space to hone their skills. From the summit at Åreskutan, there are intermediate red trails leading all the way back to the base by Central Åre or towards the Race Arena.
As expected there is nice steep red run that leads to the Race Arena. This is generally for more advanced skiers. With long runs here and over in Central Åre (Åre By), there is more than enough trails in Åre alone. Thus even though there was more intermediate ski runs over in Duved and Tegefjäll, I think being in Central Åre would satisfy most intermediate leisure skiers.
With the FIS World Ski Championships being held in Åre, it is for certain that there are pistes in this ski resort for expert skiers. There is, of course, the World Cup race piste which is a black run that was closed to skiers when I visited. There is a similar black piste from the top of Worldcupliften chair to the base in Central Åre. However the lack of snow cover meant this route is closed when I skied there.
There are no black-marked expert trails in Björnen so steep pistes that are marked does not comprise much of the skiable terrain here. However there are definitely some off-piste areas to be explored when there is enough snow.
With the short daylight during winter, it was nice that some of the major slopes in Central Åre is illuminated. This allowed night skiing in the pistes leading to the Race Arena from Svartberget lodge in the mid-mountain. These long runs are served by the VM8:an chairlift and extends the skiing hours for avid skiers.
BACKCOUNTRY & TERRAIN PARK
As a medium sized ski resort, there was plenty of side and backcountry areas to explore but the sketchy snow surface with windy and foggy conditions at the summit meant I did not get the chance to ski much at the top. With a milder mountain terrain, I believe the area above the treeline here would be nice to ski.
Some of the off-piste areas here are easily accessible from the chairlifts though these are usually short routes.
Åre is a nice resort for skiers and snowboarders who enjoy the terrain parks since they have one whole area dedicated to it. By the Bräckeliften T-bars, there are areas built for jumps and air-time.
For a medium sized ski resort, there was plenty of lodges situated on the slopes itself. One prominent ski lodge is Svartberget, located mid way between the summit and the base, and just right beside the base of the gondola at Central Åre.
Svartberget is probably the largest ski lodge in Åre and the most modern one with a lounge by the entrance and a self-service cafeteria for the main restaurant. There are plenty of comfortable seating with a skylight roof to let as much natural light in as possible.
Another unmissable lodge is Platåkåtan right in the middle of Fjällgårdsexpressen during the return to Åre from Björnen. While Svartberget is modern, Platåkåtan is a more traditional setup. Inside the lodge, there are football jerseys pinned to the roof of the lodge with a central fireplace heating the rotunda. The traditional chalet architecture is a charming and cosy way to spend the afternoon after skiing.
Other lodges in the mountain includes Åre Topp Platå which is at the top of the gondola. There is also Kastrullen lodge over on the Björnen side of the resort. There is also the waffle hut that is like a secret hideout off one of the traverse.
With the base being a functioning ski town, there are restaurants, cafes and grocery stores in the village. Since there is not that much vertical ascent in Åre, it is convenient to head to the base as well to have lunch.
FOOD & BEVERAGES
Like many European ski resorts, the food sold on the mountains are great with Swedish specialties prominent in the choices. While not invented by the Swedes, meatballs are a classic Swedish dish and since I liked them, it was nice to find them in many of the mountain lodges.
Aside from meatballs and burgers, the menu on the restaurants features plenty of seafood such as the hearty fish stew I had in Svartberget. Skiers could also find dishes like mussels and fries in some of the restaurants back in town so they would definitely find something to enjoy while breaking for lunch.
Prices for food can be somewhere in the range of SEK120-170 (~$12.50-18) for a main course, with kid’s menu costing around SEK60 (~$6.25). At these prices, the portions were generous and the food tasty which means I always look forward to lunch time here and that is saying something!
As a small ski town, I did not manage to find any large hotel chains in the town of Åre itself. The larger hotels in town are the Holiday Club by the lakeside near the train station, Tott Hotel and Hotel Fjällgården where I stayed in.
For a more luxurious stay, do consider the Hotel Åregården located near the town square. This hotel has an Audi Q7 that functions as a shuttle service for guests and is probably one of the nicest places to stay while skiing in Åre.
Alternatively, families could perhaps rent one of the chalets or apartments that is located around town. Many of these lodging options are found around the Race Arena base and Björnen area.
Costs for lodging in Åre is actually quite reasonable considering I stayed just after the New Year, including the weekend. Expect to pay around EUR150-200 (~$168-225) per night for a double bedroom in a decent ski-in/ski-out hotel, though prices are certainly lower than in North America.
The after ski scene here in Åre is very mild perhaps due to the cold weather so there would not be any outdoor partying, with all noise kept indoors. Furthermore, the town is friendly to families traveling with children, so there are not too much rowdy crowds in general. On the mountains, one of the nice place to have a beer or glass of wine (this is still part of Europe after all) is at Hummelstugan, which is at the top of the Hummelliften. Otherwise the bar area in Svartberget is good for drinks and lounging around.
Hotel Fjällgården is another obvious choice to have a drink and enjoy some music on the mountains. The bar is open to non-hotel guests as well and it has a very lively atmosphere. Even if the slopes back to the base might be closed after dark, skiers could still download to the village on the funicular which runs until 10pm.
Back at the base, the most obvious choice is Timmerstugan which is located beside the VM6:an chairlift and next to the parking lots. This means it is convenient even for guests who do not stay near the lifts.
When visiting a functioning ski town, skiers can combine sightseeing and explore the town after skiing. This includes shopping in one of the numerous shops near the funicular base in the town square. The train station is another great place to shop for necessities and groceries with some of the shops opening till late. Otherwise most of the stores close around 5 or 6pm, which still gives some time for skiers to purchase jackets or new gear.
During my visit, the weather was cloudy with a little bit of break at times. However with the gondola and aerial tram closed, the view from the top is not that great with the clouds. From most of the pistes, the view of Åresjön or the lake is perhaps one of the most interesting.
From up at the Åre Topp Platå, there is a nice deck to absorb in the views. There is a restaurant and bar serving food and drinks here but the space is not very large and the place can get packed easily.
One downer during my visit was that the weather was not very co-operative. Cloudy weather does make the place appear dreary even though I had some great sunrise on one of the days due to a lull in the skies. The short daytime hours both makes skiing in Scandinavia unique and an experience in itself. With Åre being the most northerly ski destination I have been to, it was even shorter daylight hours. By around 3pm, the lights around the Race Arena was actually switched on to help skiers in their descent.
In addition, the lack of snowfall in the early season meant some of the runs were closed and the winds closed the gondola and aerial tram. What it means is that I probably did not get to enjoy this resort to its fullest. The open runs did suffice for a couple of days but by the last day, I was just taking things slow since I was repeating runs. The positives for this resort was the great town at the base since it offered plenty to visitors from shopping to dining. There are some great restaurants in town and prices were not at that much of a premium compared to other parts of Scandinavia.
As a final word, while the conditions were not great, I treated this as a leisure visit that allows me to enjoy parts of Sweden and have a bit of the local life in the town of Åre. While it might not be on the list of the best ski resort, the fact there is a nice little town at the base of the ski piste, I would recommend skiers looking to try out skiing in northern Europe to come here.