If you want to spend an active week of holidays in Scandinavia, Åre is the place to go: Kayaking, trailrunning, hiking, kite surfing and downhill biking are just some of the activities you can do in this wonderful little village in Western Sweden. In the autumn the village is especially pretty, as the hills with their bilberry shrubs turn red and the birches add their golden leafs for that wonderful relaxing autumn feel!
Disclosure: This journey was supported by the local tourism bureau and partners, but I did not got paid to write about this trip. As you know: I’m keepin’ it real and tell you how it is - I maintain full editorial control of the content published on Hiking in Finland. Read the Transparency Disclaimer for more information on blogger transparency and affiliate links.
Getting to Åre, Sweden
As sustainability grows more and more important to me I find it harder and harder to book a flight. While you can fly to Åre I have a ferry in my town, that allows me to be very quickly in Umeå, Sweden. From there I can hop on a train and be in six hours in Åre, arriving right in the centre of the village. This is a very affordable and relaxing way to travel for me, as I can watch my favourite Youtube channels, read books, plot down ideas for articles and of course study the map for my upcoming backpacking trip in Vålådalen! From Finland you can also leave from Helsinki and Turku with the ferry to Stockholm, and then take the sleeper train to Åre - allowing you to arrive well-rested in the morning and start your day in the active outdoor capital of Sweden!
Learning Downhill Biking at Scandinavia’s largest Bike Park
“Are you Hendrik?” my Guide Jesper asked me when I entered the Skistar Shop on the Main-square of Åre. “Yes, and I’m here to learn downhill biking. And I’m afraid.” “That’s good!” Jesper replied, and from then on I knew I was in good hands. Odin helped me get dressed in my “full-body harness” as I referred to it, a combination of a chest and back protector, hand and elbow protectors, shin and knee protectors and of course a helmet and googles. “Have you ever sat on a Full-Suspension Bike?” Jesper asked me when I was dressed. “No” I replied. “No Problem, I’ll teach you everything there is to know about Downhill biking, from braking, getting up the mountain with the lift and safely getting down!”
“Have you ever sat on a Full-Suspension Bike?” Jesper asked me when I was dressed. “No” I replied.
After I got my full-suspension bike we headed out and up towards the lift, where we stopped on a flat space and Jesper gave me the instructions I needed to get down the mountain, from the position of my feet (parallel to the ground), how to brake (with both brakes at the same time) and where to look while riding (as far ahead as possible). Then I needed to demonstrate what I was just told, and after a couple of circles Jesper decided I was ready to hit the tracks. A short instruction on how to put the bike into the chair lift followed, though attentive staff also was on hand and ready to help in case I’d mess up (I didn’t 😊).
On the top of the hill it was just as easy to get the bike out and walk away, and then we were ready to drop in. “I’m still afraid” I mentioned to Jesper, upon seeing the tracks and how & with what speed other bikers where racing them down. “You’ll be fine. We take this slow, just brake a little all the time and you’ll just do what we talked about earlier.” Jesper calmed me down, and to make it a wee bit easier we also skipped the first part of the track on this first run, and went in a wee bit further down the hill.
Well, it went really just as fine as Jesper said. Maybe my experience of riding bike every day, bikepacking and riding on local trails had given me a good foundation and idea on how to ride downhill, but soon I was whooping as I took a curve high and fast or racing over the narrow trails. Yes, I was braking and definitely not as fast and good as many others riding in Åre Bike Park, but damn did it feel good to turn that fear into confidence, joy and hollers as I was riding down Åreskutan!
That first day we were two and half hours out in the Bike Park, and I not only got to see the best view over Åre, but I also got to ride many different trails - from the Beginner-friendly Serpentinen to the gorgeously scenic Organic. I really was overjoyed about the experience, and even if I didn’t master the jumps very well (taking off to early, with too much speed or not landing right) it was an amazing afternoon!
The next day - because all good things come in pairs! - I headed back in the morning to the Ski Star Shop, and with some luck & good timing Jesper and me were the first people on the lift up. There’s several chair lifts which bring bikers up the mountain, as well as the cable car, though sadly it was too windy and so the latter was grounded. That meant we wouldn’t be able to ride from the top as Jesper had planned, but he had some great trails for me to ride nevertheless. I asked if it’d be OK to ride down Serpentinen again as the first ride, so I can “get back into the groove on familiar terrain” and that was just what Jesper had planned.
Then we took another lift up, rode to the other side of the mountain and enjoyed another scenic trail which brought us back down to Åre. Back up Jesper decided I was ready to ride Shimano, Åre’s most famous red trail. Shortly my fear flickered back up, but with some confidence inspiring words from Jesper I dropped in. Shimano has some 50 or so jumps (and I rolled over at least 40 or so of them 😬🤣) and 20 fat bank curves where you almost ride parallel to the ground, and it’s a trail which had me hollering quite a bit when I mastered a curve or a jump! After Shimano we had a small Fika in town, and then hit the trails a few more times before it was time for me drop off my gear and bike, say many thank yous to Jesper and leave the shop with a big, fat smile!
Downhill biking thus. It is strangely relaxing to ride down that narrow trail, always looking far ahead, not going too slow so you can take that curve as high as possible, and also trying to taking in that amazing scenery. You life in the present, things which you had on your mind while walking to the lift - remember that fear from the beginning? - are pushed aside, to be pondered about at another time, if ever again. The focus is on the trail in front of you, and when you arrive down at the lift station - a big smile and the excitement of that adrenaline rush leaving your brain. It’s addicting, and after years of wondering what people find in this “dangerous sport”, I know: Focus, relaxation and joy.
(And while I feel that I already have enough hobbies, I think I need to etch out some time to go more downhill biking. And maybe I need to visit the Åre Bike Festival in 2019!)
Trailrunning to Totthummeln
Since the summer I am trailrunning several times a week at home. Now, as some of you know, I life at the coast in Finland. Unlike, for example, the Norwegian coast, the Finnish coast is pretty similar to the Dutch coast. Which means it’s prettttttty flat over here. And while I run up and down several “hills” every week, these 15, 20 m of elevation did not really make me ready to run in the mountains. That’s the realization I came to when I was running with Björn up to Totthummeln, a scenic hill with a great view which lays between Åre and Björnen. We started from Granen, the Hotel I stayed at, and after a few hundred meters of asphalt we soon hit the Trollstigen Trail.
From then on it were sweet trails that took us around the mountain, with great views over Åre, the lake and Björnen, and then up to the top of Totthummeln. Björn’s personal best time around the mountain is 35 minutes, though with my help and the visit to the summit we made it in double the time back to my Hotel… Nevertheless, it was a great run, despite the rain, and if you don’t want to run to this easy summit - you always can make it a nice day hike with the family & kids!
Hiking on Åreskutan
Before trailrunning with Björn I was out on my own in the morning, exploring the hiking trails of Åreskutan. There are over half a dozen trails which go up, around and across the mountain, and if you’re looking for a fun day hike - Åreskutan will not disappoint. Yes, you will cross the ski slopes once in a while, but most of the time you’ll be hiking in pretty forests on nice trails. There’s Cafés where you can enjoy a warm cup of coffee and a Kanelbullar, and if you don’t want to hike down you always can take one of the lifts back to the village. If the weather is good I can imagine that the hiking is very nice, and especially the Trollstigen Trail with it’s hidden treasures and wood nymphs is great for kids (it’s also only about a kilometre long, so also doable for 3 year olds!).
Exploring the village
After all that hiking, running and cycling I was hungry. Already before I left to Åre I heard about the Åre Crêperie & logi, and the place did not disappoint! It was very cozy with super-friendly staff, and the Vegan Crêpes were amazing & soooooo tasty. I also went and had coffee at the Åre Kafferosteri which roast their own coffee - definitely a recommndation. As a Houdini Friend I also of course had to check out the Houdini Store Åre, though I also went to see the Shops of Peak Performance (which was founded in Åre in 1986!), Stellar Equipment and Haglöfs! Besides these stores you’ll find a couple other sports stores, and plenty of Cafés and Bars to spend the afternoons and evenings.
Where to stay
There’s over 30 Hotels and B&Bs in Åre, so there’s something for each wallet. I stayed my first two nights at the Hotell Granen which is a wee bit up the hill and offered a scenic view. The Hotel had an amazing breakfast, was super-beautifully decorated (I would have wished I’d had more time to just lounge in the comfy chairs by the fire place and read or drink a 🥃 in the bar) and not even three minutes on foot and one was in the centre of Åre!
My last night in Åre I slept and dined at the Holiday Club Åre which was equally impressive. This is a Holiday Club Hotel unlike any other I have seen - it’s modern, stylish and in the middle of town - you get to the railway station via a bridge! The Holiday Club Åre has a Spa and Swimming Pool, and also is a popular Lunch place for the locals. I had twice a very delicious lunch here, and the Vegan 3-Course dinner was outstanding and so much that I couldn’t even finish my dessert! The room was very nice, I was sitting on the terrace in the sun and enjoying the view over the lake and town and a bit sad I had to leave so soon again.
Wrapping it up
A holiday in Åre can be many things: Exciting, relaxing, and tasty. I so much enjoyed my days in this small ski town, which unlike many other ski towns in the Alps or Northern Europe is open year-round. That’s right - Åre’s shops & hotels are open almost the whole year, and the cable cars and lifts run in the winter, spring, summer and autumn: In the winter they bring skiers and snowboarders up the slopes, while from spring till autumn it are hikers and downhill bikers who take a ride up to Åreskutan. Add in its proximity to several beautiful nature places like Vålådalen and just a short trip to Norway, and like me, you probably soon will fall in love with the authentic vibe of this small town & its friendly people and you’ll wonder: When can I come back?
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