Ski princesses on an Arc­tic hol­i­day

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Front Page - HEATHER CAD­DICK

THEnorth wind is blow­ing as we wait to board the overnight ski train from Gote­borg to Are, Swe­den’s ski re­sort 320km south of the Arc­tic Circle.

Style princess Tilda, 5, is in full ski kit while Erik the elk dan­gles from three-year-old Emmy’s back­pack, which also has a stash of cham­pagne, our sen­si­ble rem­edy for the long night ahead.

We find the six-bunk com­part­ment com­fort­able, with plenty of space for ski gear and boot bags. The girls take the top bunks, their par­ents se­lect the mid­dle and we ‘‘grandies’’ opt for ground-level berths.

There are crisp white sheets, navy fleece blan­kets and ad­justable pil­lows. Soon af­ter a story from one of Tove Jans­son’s Moomin books, the gen­tle mo­tion of the train sends the girls to sleep. Armed with our cham­pagne, we find the res­tau­rant car, where we are wel­comed by a pack of par­ty­ing skiers.

Rail jour­neys in my no­madic past were al­ways more of an en­durance than a plea­sure, but this is so cosy and such good fun. When we fi­nally hit the bunks we sleep like logs un­til dawn; af­ter ex­cel­lent cof­fee and cin­na­mon buns, we have time to mar­vel at the Arc­tic land­scape of iced lakes and fir forests heavy with snow.

The train skirts Lake Storsjon, where a myth­i­cal mon­ster to ri­val that of Loch Ness has fas­ci­nated lo­cals for more than 1000 years — the last para­nor­mal en­counter doc­u­mented in 2008. But to­day the lake is firmly iced over and sparkling pink in the morn­ing light.

We arrive at Are sta­tion and thick snowflakes are feath­er­ing the sky. There’s a cov­ered walk­way to the Hol­i­day Club Are Ho­tel, which sits at the lake’s edge, close to the town cen­tre, and has been built to a Fin­nish con­cept, where in­door ac­tiv­i­ties ri­val ev­ery­thing the ski slopes have to of­fer.

There is an enor­mous in­door swim­ming pool with is­lands, bridges and wa­ter­falls, and a huge wa­ter­slide that weaves out­side then back in­doors to spill you into a hot plunge pool. We head to the ski school, where Emmy joins the ju­nior ‘‘snow­balls’’ class and Tilda masters the Poma lift and dis­ap­pears with her class­mates. We are free to ski the more chal­leng­ing slopes of Are.

Mid­week, we take a rest day to dog sled in the Are hills. Each sled car­ries four and we sit on deer skins with Sven, our driver, stand­ing be­hind, con­trol­ling 12 huskies teth­ered in twos. Hes­ig­nals the lead dog and we set off at a crack­ing pace, rac­ing along snow trails that wind through the woods and glades.

There is a breath­tak­ing feel­ing of free­dom and of ex­hil­a­ra­tion at be­ing ex­posed to the el­e­ments, but safe with the huskies.

Our fi­nal ad­ven­ture is with moose, con­sid­ered to be the for­est kings of Swe­den; the an­cient moose hunt is an an­nual tradition em­bed­ded in folk­lore. Moose have dis­tinc­tive antlers and a lov­able, dopey ex­pres­sion just beg­ging for a kiss. So we go to the Kiss a Moose farm to plant kisses on vel­vety noses, as our farewell trib­ute to the win­ter de­lights of north­ern Swe­den, and a fam­ily hol­i­day we won’t for­get.

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