“Ok time to go, get your board and meet me in reception in ten minutes. The pilot says the weather’s due to change, so we go now.”
Heliboarding, late in the evening - and after a big dinner and a beer - is not the norm, but I’m miles north of the Arctic Circle in Riksgränsen, Sweden, and in May the sun never sets.
After a quick safety check, I find myself in a small group of skiers kneeling on the gravel floor of the car park, next to the hotel Riksgränsen. Our helmeted heads are almost touching as the helicopter puts down only a few feet from us, with the blades spinning directly above our heads.
“The pilot prefers to know where you are, and will land next to you. It’s better that way, as then you don’t have to walk towards the spinning blades,” we’d been informed only moments before its arrival.
Andreas loads the skis and my snowboard, before leading us, one by one, to the helicopter’s door and we’re off. Once in the air, I get a real sense of how remote we are, as the tiny resort slips away and all I can see is mountains and wilderness before us. The town of Riksgränsen sits on the railway line and the border with Sweden, far from any town or village: it was originally built for the railway workers as they constructed and serviced the line between the iron ore rich town of Kiruna, and the Norwegian seaport of Narvik.
A short flight later, and with the sun skimming the horizon, we marvelled at the strange light that was cast onto the snow - it had a weired sort of blue hue to it. We watched in silence as the sun slipped behind a distant mountain, only to reappear out the other side no lower than when it had gone from sight.
“We can land anywhere you can see,” boasted Andreas. “We have no restrictions in this area - it’s about the size of Holland, but not as flat,” he laughs.
We watch the helicopter take flight, before dropping into an open pitch past a frozen water fall. There are no trees to shred this far north, so the three lines we took over the next hour were open powder faces which could be taken at full speed. Andreas took care to guide us away from any dangers and we regrouped often, although being so late in the season the snow pack was well consolidated and there was little risk of avalanche.
Back on the hotel terrace afterwards, little had changed other than the temperature had dropped and it was only the smokers who still drank outside. I supped a beer and watched some skiers tackling a largish rock drop after taking advantage of the reopened lifts. It was midnight and I was watching skiers in the sunshine - you’ve just got to love Riksgränsen.
www.riksgransen.se www.mountainguide.se Run the heli-skiing operation in Riksgränsen, as well as ski touring trips. www.flysas.com Fly to Kiruna from Stockholm from £67 one way
Lapland Transfers run daily between Kiruna airport and resort £25 each way.
Heliboarding in Riksgränsen
I’ve finished my dinner and am having a beer, surrounded by some seriously good looking people – although most seem to be dressed in a strange sort of ’80s dayglo Abba-like snowboard ensemble, with large white sunglasses a must. It’s nine o’clock in the evening, and it feels strange to be sitting outside in a ski resort, yet still be warmed by the sun at such an hour. I see Andreas approaching, and he’s smiling from ear to ear.
- Written by: Mike Walker