Ski princesses on an Arctic holiday
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.