Words & photos by Oscar Frick
When the weather gods set their minds to flush the early summer climbing season down the drain, living in Sweden can be harsh. Though if you’re in luck that can change. In late June it did for me, as I got the news that Åre ski resort would start opening up the lifts for skiers above treeline, and simultaneously getting an invitation from a friend to come stay at his place in Åre and do some summer skiing. An offer like that you simply do not refuse, especially not while the Stockholm sport climbing is being pinned down by a virtual genesis.
Said and done! I was suddenly, in true weekend warrior fashion, booked on the next friday evening to saturday morning night train towards Åre. Fast forward a few days and after a good night’s sleep on the train, I woke up from the train alarm clock telling me that I’d be arriving at my destination within half an hour. Jumping off the train neither me, nor my friend, Victor, could wait much longer to go do what we love, and after a short discussion we decided to save Åre resort for the next day and go for something a bit farther away during Saturday.
After having spent about an hour by car, we arrived at Snashögarna. Snashögarna is a typical southern swedish fjäll, with southern in this context is being highly relative (as reference, it’s slightly more north than Denali, AK). A typical “southern” swedish fjäll is a smaller collection of peaks in the midst of an otherwise fairly flat landscape. Deciding on which of the peaks in Snashögarna we’d ski was an easy task. Only one of the peaks, Getryggen (the goats back), had snow access that meant less than a few miles of bushwhacking before getting to the good stuff. Also, in the event of snowlessness, there are fairly good hiking trails around Getryggen, and the choice between a 15 minute walk-in-the-park or 1½ hours of bushwhacking through swamps is generally a simple one. Getryggen it was!
The nice thing about skiing this late in the season is perfect corn, and lots of it. The not so nice thing about skinning this late in the season is perfect corn, and lots of it. While most parts of our ascent were all jolly super sweaty power hiking, there were parts where sliding all kinds of directions was an issue. Not because of the skin not gripping the snow, rather because of the snow not gripping the snow. At least it gave us a very direct feedback on what areas to avoid.
At the top we had a quick discussion about how to plan out the day in general terms. When being this far north, although the sun technically sets, in reality the light levels reaches “dusk” between roughly midnight and 1 AM. Should we want, we could have easily skied through the night. What’s more, it’s very easy losing track of time, even more so than during skiing otherwise. It’s often you get surprised by the clock, thinking it’s about 2 PM, but the clock tells you it’s 8 PM.
Since we both needed to get back to work Monday (unfortunately), we decided to keep to fairly regular hours. Åre also have one of the better hamburger restaurants any one of us have ever visited, which definitely weighed into our decision. Wouldn’t want to miss the opportunity to indulge in one of those glorious works of art and actually feel that you’ve truly deserved it!
Our first run turned out to be somewhat sticky up top, but extremely nice lower down. Cruising perfect corn is so relaxing! Down low we decided to go for another peak close by, called the tourist top. Hopefully we’d avoiding the stickiness at the top with the aspect being slightly more eastward.
The plan worked like a charm! Having done the tourist top and another halfway mark up the same peak again, skiing perfect corn all day, our skinning started to get slower. We checked the clock, and if we were going to make those apres ski hamburger it was time to leave. We surfed down the last run, did the 15 minutes walk-in-the-park back to the car and drove back to Åre. The burgers were awesome.
Cut that perfect corn!
Day two we dedicated to Åreskutan. Unfortunately, we missed the opening of most lifts above treeline by one day, but taking the tram to the top was a nice treat as opposed to hike the whole way.
We started off with a steeper north facing run, but quickly concluded that it was too baked to continue with in a safe way. It’s weird how, when the sun doesn’t really set, even the dead north facing aspects can get rotten during early mornings. You truly have to adjust your mind.
Hiking up to the top again, we met up with the world’s happiest telemark skier, Hördur, directly imported from Iceland. The rest of the day we spent in the west facing Tväråvalvet, which again had perfect corn, but much mellower terrain.
Second day had to end early because of me having to catch a train back to Stockholm at 4 pm. Riding the tram back down of course was an option, but since there was snow stretching far down the mountain, why not ski a little bit more? Thus the day ended with the customary summer skiing snow patch skipping, ending with a short hike back down to the lower lifts, which we shared with the downhill bikers. Back in town, naturally we had ice cream as a treat while waiting for the train. It didn’t feel good to have to end the day so early, but all things considered I felt very content with my visit. And now I might be able to suppress my worst withdrawal issues until next winter season!