With cheap flights and hotels more than ever at your disposal, it’s never been easier to stretch out, suit up and hit the ski slopes. Here’s our rundown of the 10 very best Nordic ski resorts, as selected from our nifty Trip Finder tool.
If the Arctic Circle is the iris on an eyeball, Riksgränsen is the pupil: it’s so far north in Sweden, you might discover new land while you’re up there. Time it right, and you can hit the slopes at midnight under the swirling hues of the Aurora Borealis. Experienced skiers will speed through the limited runs, but there’s off-piste skiing galore for those with the explorer’s gene. The lifts are creaky, the resort is like a gruff old man, and the weather’s trying to kill you. But you’ll be on top of the world – literally.
Like a life-long origami project, every inch of Trysil in Norway has been sculpted by hand into a perfectly engineered experience. But structural perfection comes with a steep entry fee only well-heeled families and bill-splitting clans can meet. An army of cannons keeps the snow coming, but the runs are hardly a military training course. Experts seeking a challenge will turn to cross-country or snowboarding. Most of the skiing is below the tree-line, but brave the knee-high powder and head up top for a Christmas-card worthy selfie.
This Finnish place gets into your blood, lying dormant until winter hits. It’s the yellow and purple of the sky. The endless, mesmerising slopes. The off-piste treks through spruce forests, marshland, tundra and taiga. The sleepy village is navigable entirely on skis – who needs roads, anyway? Ylläs is a fantasy realm where Santa, Snow White and families of Yetis are just around the corner. You’re as likely to bump into the Aurora Borealis as you are a reindeer – the latter on the slopes or sautéed in butter in a dimly lit restaurant. This place is far more than just skiing.
Sweden’s southern belle, Idre is a well-mannered beauty who prizes hospitality. Presiding over an estate with skiing in all four compass directions and architecture straight out of a decorative snow dome, she has plenty to offer her guests. She’s endlessly patient with kids, but an adventurer at heart – she’s ruffled a few feathers with her gossiped-about Shock run, the steepest in Scandinavia. Speed demons congregate here with world records in mind, capturing the attention of the wide-eyed beginners being towed up the slopes. For everybody else, there’s the arcade room and bowling alley.
The slopes of Norway’s Geilo are so wide and smooth that it doesn’t matter if a shiny-suited rookie, a plump toddler or a creaky retiree cuts in front of you – there’s room for all. Especially late in the season, when winter has lost its appeal and locals are waiting to return for summertime rafting and cycling. The evening floodlights and red carpet of the Hardangervidda and Hallingskarvet national parks at its base agree – just keep on coasting.
With its blink-and-you’ll-miss-it slopes and temperamental weather, Finland’s Levi resort is all about relishing the moment. Marvel at the near-zero visibility. The clouds here descend like a game of Tetris, pushing you and your core temperature to ever lower levels. Skiing in these conditions creates instant camaraderie, and you can debrief later over a warm berry juice in a wooden Kota hut and play a board game as the weather has an inevitable tantrum.
If the Alps are whisky on the rocks, Åre is a creamy schnapps blend. It goes down easy, and it’s a safe bet for newbies. Where else can you spelunk through frozen caves, slurp a cosy stew and ride a dog sled in a day? Wobbly on your skis? Try Åre-Björnen. You’ll look like a pro among the parents with their red-cheeked infants in their matching ski gear. For après-ski or instead-of-ski, just look up: Sweden’s highest café perches atop Åreskutan like a cherry on a pristine meringue.
The story goes that someone dug up part of the Alps one night and smuggled them to Norway. Long-limbed, photogenic and with height on her side, this place is the supermodel of mountains. Everyone has a favourite Hemsedal slope – and they’ll tell you all about it over a bowl of ‘rømmegrøt’ (a Norwegian porridge) at the olde-worlde mountain farm down below. Health nuts claim the teeny cottages right by the pistes, but Hemsedal Village is where you can dance it up to live music at Skistua or arm-wrestle at the Viking-style Stavkroa mead hall. Night-time is when this supermodel lets down her hair.
Himos is the skier’s equivalent of mini golf. The slopes are short and the hills are blips on the radar, but this place is all about your short game: precision is key. Brief as they are, the runs are suited to confident snow-dwellers, and über-cool snowboarders abound. But there’s lots more than the slopes. Swimming in the frozen lake isn’t complete without a tug-of-war. Curling lets you test your bowling skills on chilled terrain, while moose safaris and troll forest adventures are child-pleasers. It’s more a molehill than a mountain, but Himos is proof that, sometimes, good things come in small – and easily commutable – packages.
The Ikea of Swedish skiing, Sälen is all about happy families, untreated timber and hot waffle stations. It’s so neat and tidy that you expect there to be hospital corners tucked into the snow. Given the child to adult ratio, the nightlife has a self-imposed curfew, and it’s wholesome, kid-friendly stuff. A handful of clubs and bars break the monotony, but you may hear the strains of family sing-alongs over your Swedish drinking ditties. Still, you’ll be up bright and early for a lavish smorgasbord and a full day on the slopes.