SWEDEN'S winter resorts have long been hard to get to from the UK – often involving a change of plane in Stockholm and long train or bus transfers. But a new Easyjet route, direct from London to Östersund in the mountains of north-west Sweden, has put some of the country’s best winter resorts within a 90-minute transfer from the airport. The three closest are Åre (recently voted one of the world’s top 10 ski resorts by Condé Nast Traveller magazine), Funäsfjällen and Vemdalen.

Vemdalen is the smaller and quieter of the three, and while its mountain landscape is similar to that of nearby Norway, the huge lakes and forests also put me in mind of Finland.

Because of the altitude (almost 600 metres above sea level) snow is pretty reliable with many of the runs open as early as October. And the long season often extends until early May, several weeks after the snow has melted in the Alps, because of the colder temperatures this far north.

March and April are often the best months in which to ski in the Nordic countries with long days and plenty of sunshine. In addition to exploring off-piste routes, adventurous skiers might want to try their hand at snow-kiting, which is held on a high mountain plateau close to Storhogna.

As the name implies, the skier (or snowboarder) holds on to a kite which harnesses the power of the wind to glide over snow or ice and, optionally, take in a big jump.

For non-skiers some of Vemdalen's other winter attractions include husky dog sledding, skidoo trips, ice-climbing and ice-fishing.

I am staying at the comfortable Storhogna Högfjällshotell & Spa, a four-star hotel in Storhogna, only metres away from the downhill and cross-country skiing tracks. Most days are rounded off with a sauna followed by a dip in an outdoor hotpot, from which I admire the surrounding forest of frosted pine trees while relaxing in bubbling warm water.

Unlike the alpine resorts, where picnics are mostly forbidden, in Sweden you can take your lunch in a värmestuga, a snug piste-side log cabin with open fires which offer shelter from the winds and where you can barbecue a sausage or moose burger. You can also take your own sandwiches and hot drinks in thermos flasks to consume in the warm. In addition to reindeer skins to wrap yourself in, many of the shelters even provide kettles and microwaves.

If you are keen to get away from the traditional Alpine fare of potato and cheese-dominated dishes, Swedish food is tasty, varied and often healthier. Meatballs with mash and lingonberry sauce is a perennial favourite while lesser known national specialities are based around Arctic char, crayfish, elk and reindeer, often served with exotic berries and colourful fungi.

Most hotel breakfasts consist of a smörgåsbord buffet of salmon, herring and charcuterie. As an alternative to the dark rye bread popular in Sweden, you could try fresh hot waffles accompanied by cloudberry or blueberry jam.

As with Norway, alcohol prices are high in Sweden so stocking up at the airport on your in-bound flight is a good idea.

On the way back home it is worth adding a day or two in the lively city of Östersund, which is on the shores of Lake Storsjön, to your itinerary. The capital of the Jämtland region, Östersund has plenty of chic cafés, restaurants, shops and museums, and in winter the frozen lake is used for skating and walking. In the middle of the city is the Vinterbadet, a “sauna and ice-bathing” complex with great views across the lake from the glass-fronted sauna. Outdoors, even in the evening when it is as cold as -20C, folk pile into one of the wood-fired hotpots. Afterwards you can cool off in the freezing waters of the lake by jumping through a hole cut into the ice.

So would I go again? Scandinavia is often dismissed by British skiers as being too expensive but I found prices were at least comparable and sometimes even cheaper. Above all, a winter holiday in Sweden is a great opportunity to get away from the overcrowded and often Brit-dominated resorts of the French and Italian Alps and sample something slightly different.


Vemdalen offers 52km of downhill pistes and 35 lifts spread over 58 runs, of which 19 are green runs, 13 blue, 15 red and 11 black.These are spread across four linked skiing areas: Björnrike (which has the greatest vertical drop of 440m), Klövsjö (often called the prettiest village in Sweden), Storhogna and Vemdalsskalet. Vemdalen also boasts 87km of cross-country skiing tracks, which connect the four settlements.


Easyjet operates flights to Åre-Östersund airport from London Gatwick airport on Sundays during the skiing season with return fares starting from £34. Additional flights on Thursdays are operated during the half-term holidays when flights are likely to be more expensive. easyjet.com

Despite the misleading name, Åre-Östersund airport is actually located on the island of Frösön just outside Östersund and is some 100km from Åre, which is close to the Norwegian border.

There are regular bus connections from the airport to Åre and Vemdalen, which can both be reached in about 90 minutes. Funäsfjällen is a further one hour’s drive west from Vemdalen. Transfer information at skybus.se


The four-star Storhogna Högfjällshotell & Spa charges from 900 Swedish kroners (£80) per person per night on a bed & breakfast basis in low season.

In high season, and with half-board, prices start from 1410 kroners (£125) per person per night. The restaurant is housed in an enormous glass-ceilinged indoor garden that includes pine trees and waterfalls. storhogna.se


Swedish Fika

Enjoy some fika time at Wedemarks Café in Östersund. Fika roughly translates as chatting over coffee while munching sweet treats, such as sticky cinnamon and cardamom buns. Fika also carries connotations of hygge, the Scandinavian word for a mood of cosy conviviality.

Meet the king of the forest

The Moose Garden at Orrviken close to Östersund offers close encounters with moose, with the possibility of petting and feeding the normally reclusive forest-dwelling quadrupeds. Another animal sanctuary at Tännäs is home to the musk ox. moosegarden.com and myskoxcentrum.se

Learn about local culture

Sameland, close to the Björnrike skiing area in Vemdalen, is a new tourist attraction where one can learn about the indigenous Sami people of northern Scandinavia. You can also feed the reindeer and enjoy a traditional meal in a Sami house.


Östersund’s Ski Stadium offers cross-country skiers the unusual opportunity of trying their hand at biathlon, the Olympic discipline that combines skiing with rifle shooting. The challenge, after a few laps of the arena, is to steady your heartbeat sufficiently to be able to hit half a dozen targets at a distance of 200 metres.

Visit the Jamtli Museum

A mile or so north of Östersund, this includes an open-air collection of painstakingly recreated historic wooden buildings from the 18th to 20th centuries, along with guides in period costume to show you around. The Överhogdal Tapestries, a collection of Viking textiles and other relics from the 12th century, are remarkable. jamtli.com


Swedish tourist board: visitsweden.com

Östersund tourist board: visitostersund.se

Vemdalen tourist board: explore.vemdalen.se


A lift pass for Vemdalen costs 1995 Swedish kroner (£177) for six days with a 25 per cent reduction for under-18s and those aged 64 or older. The daily rate is 400 kroner (£35) or 320 kroners for concessions.