Åre is the major skiing resort in Sweden. It's comprised of 3 main areas - Åre itself, Duved and Björnen, of which Åre is by far the largest. All are accessible from each other using the free ski bus - although this only runs once per hour, so you need to time your day carefully if you're planning to use the bus.
Skiing in Åre is rather like stepping back 15 years in lift design. The piste map shows 45 lifts, which I reckon break down as follows:
- 8 nursery lifts (all drags)
- 7 chair lifts
- 1 gondola
- 1 cable car
- 1 railway
- 27 T bars (yep - 27)
The cable car is the easiest way up to the top of the main mountain, but only carries 560 people per hour and frequently has an hour-long queue for it. The entrance to it is also above Åre main square, so there's a bit of a walk to get to it in the morning. The alternative way out of resort is either the Railway, or one of 2 chair lifts. The railway goes right out of the main square, so is very convenient, but only runs every 20 minutes and has a nominal capacity of 600 per hour (closer to 240 in real life, I'd estimate). The chair lifts start right by the cable car and are both 2-man. To get to the top of the mountain starting on the chairs does involve a fair amount of messing around to get to the Olympia lift and then on to the Gondola.
The only other way to the top of the mountain involves 6 consecutive T-bar lifts, which don't actually interconnect properly - poling is required to get between them.
Åre has a number of floodlit slopes which allow night time skiing on some evenings.
Åre's main mountain has a vertical drop of about 850 metres. None of this is particularly steep. There are 5 marked black runs, of which only one (the Hummelbranten) had moguls when I was there. The others have a few steepish bits on them, but are generally wide at those points, so it's quite easy to ski them fast and in control. The slopes face South and were quite icy in places towards the bottom.
Åre links with Björnen - although skiing back from Björnen requires a climb of 5 vertical metres or so at the end. Björnen is pretty much a beginners/intermediates ski area, but not crowded and with some really pretty runs through the trees. For me its complete absence of any sort of lift other than T bars mitigates against it.
The other ski area is Duved which is not currently linked to Åre - although I understand plans are afoot to build a 4 km horizontal gondola for the 2001 season. To get to Duved requires a bus trip which, as I said, only runs every hour. Duved has the benefit of a 6-man express chair lift and some quite pleasant skiing.
We flew from London Heathrow to Östersund via Stockholm on SAS scheduled flights. We then had a taxi from Östersund to the resort. This all worked very well. Östersund is a small airport, but doesn't seem too busy. Stockholm is obviously much larger, but still not excessively crowded.
Åre also has a busy railway station, and it is possible to get a train there from either Östersund or Stockholm.
We stayed in the Diplomat Ski Lodge. It's a sister hotel to the Åregården Hotel, but is considerably cheaper owing to the reduced maid and reception service. However, for me it was better value for money, since most of the facilities (including food) were just as good and our room was huge. The only disadvantage was that the room overlooked the main entrance to the hotel, which doubled as an entrance to the night club. This closed at 2 am, when a large crowd of high-spirited Swedes gathered to get their taxis. As said above, neither of these is "ski-in, ski-out". The Åregården is slightly closer to the lifts, but the nearest is still the railway.
Alternative accommodation is in Duved or Björnen. Duved has the Hotel Rennen, which is close to the slopes. Björnen is probably better suited for people with young children who want easy access to nursery slopes.
Swedish holidays don't all occur on the same week, and we managed to hit 2 of them. I'd advise trying to avoid the last week in February/first week in March.
Despite what I've said above, we did really enjoy our time there. The skiing isn't too challenging and the lift system is a pain, but there's lot's of things to do and it's a really nice place.