Lapland & Swedish Winter Experiences

Posted on December 11, 2008

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Hello once again everyone! I’m sorry I haven’t been able to update you on my Lapland trip until now, but I actually had some school work to do. With all the traveling and time off I’ve been had here it was almost strange to have two big days of classes, but I made it through them no problem.

Anyhow, last Friday I flew to Kiruna, Sweden with some friends to go and experience Lapland, or the extremely far north part of Scandinavia, for 3 days of Swedish winter fun. We went dog sledding, skiing, hiking, more skiing, and snowmobiling, while we adjusted our internal clocks to have light from 10AM to 1PM, never actually seeing the sun but instead what appeared to be a long sunrise immediately followed by a long sunset. Getting there, however, proved to be more difficult than necessary.

Day One: Getting There

Back in October the exchange students in Karlstad were approached by a company called Scanbalt Experiences (who organized the Riga Cruise) to organize a trip to Kiruna. For more than 3000 Swedish Crowns, they were going to drive up a group on an overnight-bus, spend 3 days in Kiruna, and then drive overnight back. I was initially signed up for this, but was later asked by my Dutch friend Marc if I wanted to do a similar trip with him, but instead of the bus we were to fly up, and also not stay in Kiruna but instead the small town of Abisko, an hour by train west of Kiruna, and equidistant to Narvik, Norway, which is a place I’ve always wanted to visit since I heard about it in Ski Movie 2. All of this and it would only cost around 2000 SEK, and actually included activities like dog sledding and snowmobiling, which would have cost extra on the Scanbalt trip. So, I dropped out from the too-full Scanbalt trip and bought my plane tickets with Marc, the Canadian Cate, and two other girls, Carlijn from Holland and Corrina from Italy.

Time suddenly flew by, and before I knew it we were to drive to Stockholm Arlanda Airport to catch the flight I feel like I booked yesterday. Our flight was at 12:30, so we figured if we left Karlstad by 8:30, we would arrive at 11:30, and have a full hour to catch the flight. Time wise, that is exactly what happened. The problem was that since we parked the car at almost exactly 11:30, we had to take at shuttle bus at 11:45, which dropped us off at the terminal at 11:55, five minutes after check-in had closed. We had missed our flight. So, after being sent from check-in to the ticket counter to check-in to the ticket counter, we found out that we could catch the flight that evening for 400 SEK. We then looked at different options, such as renting a car and taking it one way or taking the overnight train, but when it came down to it the flight re-booking was the cheapest option. After some bartering and some pleading, we were able to get the tickets down to 250 SEK, so that worked out. The other problem, however, was that were to were to take a train from Kiruna to Abisko, but we were to miss that train as well. So, after some evaluation, it turned out renting a car in Kiruna was only about 100 SEK more per person as opposed to the train, so we did that too. Twelve hours after missing our flight, we found ourselves in the snowy, dark, and cold far North. After an hour in the car (and narrowly avoiding hitting a reindeer) we found our hostel in Abisko.

All of the headaches and hassles I went through that day were immediately eliminated when I saw the amazing Northern Lights from the plane. Words can hardly describe the beauty of the lights when you are 200 kilometers north of the Arctic Circle and 1000 meters in the air. I highly recommend you see them.

Day 2: Dog Sledding and Abisko

The next morning we awoke at 8:00 to eat and get ready for some dog sled action organized by our hostel, Abisko Fjaltürer. It is probably one of the best hostels I’ve been to here in Europe, and I highly recommend it if you are going to Lapland. Here are some pictures from the morning of dog sleds.

Sunlight peaking through the mountains

A really cool part about our dog sled experience is that the guides made us harness up the dogs ourselves so we got to know them a little better. Marc had a little trouble getting this one out of his home…

Marc vs. Sled Dog

The line-up

Looking towards Abisko National Park

After nearly 3 hours of dog sledding, we walked back to our hostel, and I decided to go out and get a little skiing in the fading light. I found this sweet little drop that I jumped off of a few times, and then went into the national park where I found the Linbana ski station, still waiting for more snow to open. I hiked up under the lift-line for a while, but it proved to be too dark and not enough snow to really get a good ski in that afternoon. I returned to the hostel, did some Nordic skiing on the lighted cross-county track next to the hostel, and then was treated to a “real” Swedish sauna experience. If you think a “real” sauna experience is just people sitting in a wooden room with hot rocks and water like I originally did, you need to experience a “real” sauna. And make sure you go with people you’re comfortable being naked with.

Day 3: Abisko and Narvik, Norway

The next day we decided to drive to Narvik, Norway to see the city as well as so I could get some more turns in. On the way there we stopped at the regular Abisko National Park entrance (where I had skied to the day before) and went on a little winter hike.

Abisko Canyon

View from the river

The mountains Abisko is famous for

After the hike, we continued the drive to Narvik, which was uneventful until we reached the always-beautiful Norwegian coast, where the mountains and the ocean never fail to make the most beautiful images. The fjords were far superior to the Oslo fjord, but still not quite as dramatic as the Geiranger fjords I visited in October. We went straight to the Narvikfjället, which is one of the ski areas above town, and I started skinning up (only one lift towards the bottom was open). I am incredibly out of shape, so I only made it halfway up the mountain before I had to turn around to go back, but most of the turns I got were on about 6-8 inches of powder, and they felt so good! Here are a few pics I snapped from above town.

Narvikfjället

Narvikfjord

Looking toward the Lofoton Islands, where I would choose to go to if I were to come here on a ski trip.

After my refreshing powder turns, I met back up with the crew (who had explored the town) and we drove to Kiruna that night in hopes of seeing the Northern Lights (I guess I was the only one smart enough on the plane to actually look out the window when we were arriving). We found a great look-out spot, but the light activity was down so we only saw a few glimpses of green. We then got completely lost trying to find where we had parked in Kiruna, which is probably the same size as Glenwood Springs. So that was a fun experience too.

Day 5: The Ice Hotel and Camp Alta

The next day we drove out to Jukkasjärvi, which is a place that is really famous because of the Ice Hotel. The Ice Hotel is exactly that: a hotel made almost entirely out of ice. The place opens this weekend, so everything we saw was mostly “under construction.” We did poke our head in some of the rooms, most of which were amazing because the entire room is an ice sculpture. We also took a few pictures in the Absolut Ice Bar as well, which is a great place to chill.

Main Entrance

At the Ice Bar

Carlijn in the “Shoe Room”

After the Ice Hotel we made our way to Camp Alta, near the Ice Hotel, where we had reserved a cabin for the 5 of us, and also to do a Northern Lights snowmobile tour. I had never been snowmobiling before, and it seemed like glorified go-karts because we had to say in the tracks. But every once and a while I “accidentally” drifted off the tracks into some powder, and to be going 50 kilometers an hour on powder is an amazing feeling. It was also snowing that night, so we did not see any northern lights, but here are some pictures.

We rode to the top of a mountain, but no lights were seen.

Onboard

Enjoying some tea around a fire (it was only -20 degrees Celsius at this point)

Day 6: Departure

The next day we woke up to temperatures around -27°C (-16°F) and the temperature was still dropping. We had planned to go on a hike, but that proved to be far too cold, so instead Marc and I prepared the sauna where we relaxed until departure. Saunas are so nice when it’s cold out. We went back to the airport a little early to make sure we caught our flight out.

From the Sauna

Making like Nixon before departure

We arrived in Stockholm, paid for parking, and drove to Karlstad where I went straight to class. The next day was full of more class time, but today I have a day off just to relax and catch up on email and whatnot. I’m terribly sorry this post is so long, but it was quite the trip! I have less than a week left here in Karlstad, so my schedule is full of goodbye dinners, parties, and mentally preparing myself to say goodbye to all of my great friends here and then return back to Colorado. I will be home after taking a detour by way of Chamonix and Paris next week, so that will certainly be in one of my future blog posts. Meanwhile the snow is dumping here in Karlstad, so I think I’m going to go outside and play in it. Thanks for reading!

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Posted in: Norway, Skiing, Sweden