"Who needs the Alps?" is the question posed by Sweden's largest and best known ski area, and Åre (pronounced 'Oar-er') clearly has a point. The resort and its ski area is large by any standards - with a vertical also big for a part of the European continent not famed for its high mountains, and there are over 44 lifts to get you up it. From the top there are spectacular views across the huge frozen lake beside the resort. There are other unique advantages - the long season for example, from late November well into May. If you like to communicate in English you'll find 96% of the people in the resort are fluent in it. Most of all there is the good-natured friendliness of the Swedes, who seem to share some natural heritage of humour and the same concept of what's fun with the British, the Danish and the Dutch. At least the British, Danish and Dutch all seem to end up in the same bars in the same resorts in the Alps if that's anything to go by. The resort is an historic one, although it is continuing to expand at a rapid rate. Tourism began in the 1880s when the railway reached the town. Even today it's popular to take the overnight train up from Stockholm and either dance all night in the disco car, or relax in the sleeper. The funicular railway that still accesses the slopes today was opened in 1909. Architecturally the resort is a mix of old wooden buildings and modern additions. The resort centre, around the railway station square is especially attractive. The arguments against Åre, and indeed Scandinavian skiing in general, are that it is cold, dark mid-winter and the alcohol prohibitively expensive. The reality is that the Gulf Stream helps to keep Swedish resorts at around the same temperature as those of the Alps. Although it can be dark 30 minutes earlier than the Alps in December and January the lifts still operate through to 3.30pm and there is extensive floodlighting for night skiing, which many feel defines the terrain more clearly than winter sunshine. Finally for prices, the Swedish Krona has devalued dramatically against major currencies - by around a third over recent years. Alcohol prices are in line with those of the Alps and meals and lift tickets generally cheaper.
Sweden's top resort and the largest north of the Alps. The skiing, which includes a World Cup descent, has been accessed by funicular railway since 1910 from the lovely old town. It has a lively village centre which you can ski all the way to, full of shops and restaurants.