Squeezing in some skiing at the end of March can be risky. Book the Alps and 6 months later you can just as easily be holidaying with eager Germans in hiking boots as swooshing down pristine white pistes. It’s a gamble, so this year we looked north to colder latitudes and discovered the town of Åre in Sweden.
Åre (pronounced ‘oou-ra’) is accessed easily from Östersund airport, a 90 minute drive away. Åre also has a train station and, although it’s an 8 hour ride from Stockholm, I’m thinking that would be a good way to arrive next time. This beautiful and relatively remote region is dotted with lakes, rivers and mountains so after a couple of nights in the capital a train ride through the ice and snow would make a welcome break before hitting the slopes.
Lake Åresjön dominates the setting, frozen thick and covered in white all winter long. Åre and adjacent Duved cuddle the lake’s coast and while both are available on your ski pass, giving a huge 3-peak ski area, they also offer plenty of lake-based winter activities like ice fishing, dog sledding and snowmobiling. These activities, combined with lots of shops and bars, means you’re not tied to the slopes for entertainment everyday. If you are the die hard skier though Åre is great for the upper intermediates with at least 85% blue and red runs. Most runs start above the tree line offering at least 200 degrees of panoramic views before leading you through pine forests and past mountain restaurants back to Åre which sits at 400 metres.
Beer swilling is as popular in Sweden as anywhere in Europe and there are local breweries galore to cater for it. Åre itself has the Åre Bryggcompagni with 2 beers that were widely available by the bottle: a pilsner and a 6% citrusy IPA. This community brewing project puts profits into local community initiatives so cue a warm fuzzy feeling of virtuousness when you’re drinking it! You can of course enjoy beers from across the country and in American grill Broken we found Gotlands Bryggeri brewed in Visby on Gotland island, off the coast of Sweden. Nice pale ale and a New England style IPA, but more exciting is I now want to go and visit Gotland!
Platåkåtan is a friendly, family run mountain pit stop with a gorgeous location looking down to the town on one side and up the pistes on the other. Being beer fans the owners teamed up with the local Jämtlands Bryggeri to create their own house beer, a nice full bodied pilsner that is only available in this restaurant. Untappd should have a badge for that.
The true gem for the beer seeker in Åre is Svartberget Fjällbryggeri. At the top of one of the chair lifts is a bar with a secret hidden in its depths… a brewery, on the mountain. They load up the stores with hops and grain in the summer when the roads are open which allows them to keep brewing all winter long. And of course beer’s primary ingredient, water, is available in abundance. The team are taking the game forward by using traditional European styles and modernising them. I enjoyed Smokey Mountain, a Rauchbier, that starts as a Germanic smoked beer but served chilled and carbonated is a refreshing little number. Jämtsur is a fruity and sherbet heavy Berliner weisse while their Lupulin Project is a juicy, hazy and full bodied IPA.
Amid all this it must be time to hit the slopes again. Now where did I leave my skis? Not to worry too much… one only has to get as far as the historic Bergbana funicular and that can drop you back into town and the real après ski can begin.