When you think of taking your family on a ski holiday, the Alps are probably the first place that springs to mind. But don’t limit yourself to the tried and tested ski destination favourites of France and Austria, or you'll be missing out on some equally spectacular European slopes in other countries. Inspired by the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships, currently taking place in Åre, I thought I'd share an alternative ski holiday idea, as well as some insight into the event itself.
Scandinavia has long been a mecca for skiing, in both the downhill and Nordic forms of the sport. So when you are thinking outside the box and planning your next ski holiday, why not broaden your horizons by trying Finland or Sweden? To help change your mindset with confidence and to tantalise your travel taste buds, I recommend you watch the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships which is taking place in Sweden, close to the picturesque village of Åre. The event kicked off on 4 February this year and runs for 14 days. If you're as passionate about skiing as I am, then you’ll want to be in the thick of this Alpine action, whether in resort or watching it on Eurosport. Åre benefits from an extended season too, running from November to May, so it should definitely be on your ski holiday destination planning list.
Focus On The FIS Alpine World Ski Championships
Held every two years since 1931, the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships have been hosted in Åre (pronounced Aura) three times now, which is a testament to the quality of both its snow and its pistes. In 2019, we are following an Olympic year which succeeded in attracting the attention of large numbers of British skiers, not least because Great Britain now has real medal prospects across the Winter Olympic disciplines.
The World Championships are a smaller affair than the Winter Olympics, having a sole focus on the Alpine events. If you've been following the event, but don’t know your Giant Slalom from your Super G, then this guide will tell you all you need to know.
Downhill: Pure adrenaline and not for the fainthearted! Competitors launch themselves down a black run at speeds in excess of 100kph. You have one shot to get it right and these athletes get from top to bottom in less than two minutes.
Super G: A speed discipline, similar to downhill, but this requires more technique, such as the skills used in Giant Slalom.
Giant Slalom: The twists and turns of a Giant Slalom course make this a challenging discipline of between 46 - 70 gates that you have to complete, twice. This is a thigh burner if ever there was one.
Slalom: This is all about the technique. Between 40 - 60 gates are set for you to negotiate. The gates are laid out in tight turns, and over the course of two runs, each set differently. This is where Great Britain’s hopes for a medal lie, with Dave 'The Rocket' Ryding, considered by the experts to be a hot contender!
Alpine Team Event: While skiing is traditionally an individual sport, the team event pitches nations head to head on a short slalom course, skiing side by side.
Alpine Combined: Take the two most challenging events and put them together to make for a truly thrilling spectacle. Pitch the power of the downhill against the precision required for slalom, and you have this event.
Will Austria retain its lead, being previous championship winners, or will the Attacking Vikings of Norway maintain their Olympic prowess? Perhaps Sweden will take the home advantage? It’s all to play for and will depend on which discipline is being contested.
The gentle slopes
So now we’ve talked a little bit about ski racing, let's look at what Sweden has to offer us mere mortals who are never likely to step into a pair of skis, or who are the once or twice a year skiers, looking for a memorable holiday somewhere different from the places we may be more used to visiting.
Åre is undoubtedly Scandinavia’s largest and best ski resort, with an offering of 42 lifts and 89 slopes perfect for all abilities. In lower season, you may also find that lift prices are a bit cheaper, averaging €45 per day. If downhill skiing is not your thing, then why not try Nordic (cross country) skiing, a perfect way to explore flatter terrain while enjoying a good work out.
Playing off piste
Is not all about the skiing though. Åre offers many other activities for you to try, such as dog sledding, snowmobiling and ice driving. While engaging in these activities you may even get to see the Northern lights, the colourful phenomenon that brightens up the sky on the darkest of nights. You will need a clear sky and to be away from the hustle and bustle of towns and cities to increase your chances of seeing this phenomena, which you have the best chance of catching between September and March. You may wish to venture further north and closer to the Arctic Circle, where Northern Light chasers have the best opportunity of seeing them; they really are a sight to behold.
Culture and coasts
For a cultural vibe you can visit the Njarka Sami Camp, where indigenous Swedes live at one with nature on a peninsula in Lake Häggsjön. The Sami once lived a nomadic lifestyle across northern Scandinavia, with reindeer herding being their bread and butter. Today in this camp you can learn a little more about the Sami way of life while sitting around a fire.
In the summer months hiking is very popular, as well as trail running if you like to push yourself to your limits. Mountain biking is also a fun way to explore the mountains, and its not just all about the downhill experience. With E-bikes now becoming more vogue, you may even wish to try riding uphill for a change.
Who knew that if you were looking for a beach holiday, you would find seven lakeside beaches in and around Åre? Well you do now! While it will be a completely different experience to a sun, sea and sand holiday on the Med, a beach is still a beach where you can build sandcastles, sunbathe, play volleyball, as well as to kayak or fish in the lake. And all this comes with a beautiful mountainous back drop.
We are in no doubt that a holiday to Åre is good for the soul, whatever the season. A visit to the tourist website (www.aresweden.com) suggests that Åre may have the largest number of spas and yoginis per capita in Sweden, so think of this trip as a way to detox and re-energise yourself.
Timeshare owners often want to take time out with family and friends, using their spacious timeshare accommodation as a home-from-home base while out on a holiday getaway together. Timeshare accommodation is perfect because your spacious apartments come complete with facilities you would find both at home and in a hotel, and more. It's a great way to experience luxury for less.
Members of the RCI Exchange Holiday programme have a great choice of resorts across the world, with many in the Scandinavian and Nordic regions for both ski enthusiasts and lovers of the healthy outdoor lifestyle to try. There are 15 resorts signed up to the RCI Exchange Holiday programme in Sweden. For skiing, the best availability is at the beginning of the season (December-January), and at the season's close (April-May) but, as you are close to the Arctic Circle, you can guarantee that there will be snow.
Resorts to try…
Skistar Vacation Club Åre Village (DH81) For a real Scandinavian mountain experience, Åre Village, set in the heart of the historic lakeside town, is definitely the place to be. The resort is within walking distance of the piste, as well as shops, restaurants and attractions. For those who enjoy winter sports, there's no better place in Sweden to enjoy skiing, husky sledding and ice driving. When the snow melts, mountain biking, white water rafting and even zip wires are a great way to get an adrenalin rush.
Holiday Club Åre (7791) This resort is also popular on TripAdvisor, and is a four-star resort that offers non-stop fun for all the family. Hotel amenities include adventure pools, bowling, a sauna-world and a yoga studio with panoramic views of the mountains. The resort boasts four fantastic restaurants and plenty of entertainment for the children.
Belwobyn Åre (4093) An RCI Silver Crown resort that sits right next to the ski slope offering a fantastic view of the lake and mountains. The accommodation is housed in four chalets and has all the amenities you would expect, with the bonus that each apartment includes a sauna and fireplace.
How to get to Åre
Easyjet flies direct routes to Östersund in Sweden from Gatwick and Bristol airports, For information on all flights, car hire and any other holiday extras RCI Members can call RCI Travel who will be happy to help you on your way.
Other Swedish destinations you might take a look at when planning your next holiday with a difference should include Sälen, Storlien, Tänndalen and Tännäs.
Slope off to snowy climes using RCI membership. If you own a timeshare apartment by a beach or town in the sun-baked Mediterranean and fancy venturing to a completely different destination, such as a mountain and lakeside retreat in the healthy Scandinavian and Nordic countries, then click on the button below to Join RCI. Before you know it, you'll be packing your skis and heading off for a new holiday adventure.
Once you are an RCI member, click on the Directory link below to see where an RCI membership can take you. There are 64 resorts across Denmark, Norway, Finland and Sweden signed up to RCI's Exchange Holiday programme.