A winter road trip (or rail trip) in Scandinavia with skiing

Skiers on a sunny day in Trysil,, Norway

Where to go

Scandinavia is far up there in Europe. It is so far away that many miss out on the chance to experience it. Let’s face it, there is an abundance of nature in Scandinavia and it lends itself well for active travel adventures in summer as well as winter.

Winging it as weather dictates

When going to Scandinavia in wintertime, I suggest allowing the weather and average temperatures to dictate where you will go. It can be difficult to predict just how cold it will be in, say, northern Sweden or by the fjords in Norway. The local conditions can vary, so your best bet is to pack for a cold winter. Naturally, if you are already planning on a skiing trip or natural ice skating on lakes, then you are already packing your warmest winter gear.

One way to approach the question of where to go is to think in a northwestern and northeastern direction. By that I mean, will you go northwest, pass Oslo and see the Norwegian Fjords by the western coast? Or will you go straight up north and do some winter sports in one of the many skiing destinations in northern Sweden or Norway? Maybe you want to get a taste of city life in Copenhagen, Oslo, or Gothenburg? All three are closer to Germany, and therefore also accessible by good roads and established train lines. It also takes less time to go to either of these three cities, so why not combine all three? This then leads to another question, will you focus on cities or nature? If you want to do both, you will need more time. To fully appreciate the calm nature, it is best to dedicate a week at least somewhere in the wild.

Winter fun in winter wonderland

Skiing is perhaps the most common sport during the winter months. At the turn of the year, ski resorts usually see many skiers arriving for the yearly winter sports holiday. If you want to go skiing in Norway or Sweden, you will have to travel up north for downhill skiing and might be lucky to find places to go cross country skiing in some areas in the south.

Three places to go skiing in Sweden

Åre is in Jämtland and might be the more famous ski resort in the country, as many Swedes travel there in winter to ski down the largest downhill run, longer than five kilometers. There are around 100 descents and a well-established restaurant and bar scene. Therefore Åre is well suited for a longer winter sports vacation, with nightlife and dining out in addition to the days spent racing downhill.

Sälen is in the Malung-Sälen region, close to the border with Norway. It is an area consisting of four ski resorts, Högfjället, Lindvallen, Tandådalen, and Hundfjället. These ski resorts are more family-oriented and have a calmer atmosphere than say Åre. This also means that there are ski slopes for beginners and experienced skiers alike.

Riksgränsen is furthest north in Sweden, close to the Arctic Circle, and is meant for the more advanced skiers. Because it is so far up north, it is suitable if you are planning on going skiing later in the year, and it is known as Europe’s spring skiing capita. Naturally, it requires you to be willing to travel so far up north. You will easily have to drive for 16 hours from Stockholm to reach Riksgränsen.

Three places to go skiing in Norway

Trysil

Trysil is in the Østerdalen region and in the winter months, you can see the northern lights here.  This is also Norway’s largest ski resort and very suitable for Alpine skiing.

Hemsedal

Hemsedal is located in Hallingdal and is popular among both downhill skiers and snowboarders, especially for more challenging ski runs.

Hafjell

Hafjell is in Oppland and has a range of ski slopes, to cater to the abilities of beginners and the more advanced downhill skiers. It is also highly accessible by train from Oslo and a short taxi ride. This means that you can easily transition from your city trip to a skiing trip!

Map of selected ski resorts in Norway and Sweden

How to get there

If you are already on a road trip in Europe, then chances are you are traveling by car or by rail. You’re in luck with railways in Scandinavia, as the infrastructure is dependable and trains are comfortable. If you are going by car, then similarly, Copenhagen, Gothenburg, and Oslo have highways between each other, so it’s a simple affair to travel between them. Now let’s say you are focusing one entire road trip on Scandinavia. With ample time to spend, you can see both cities and destinations closer to nature. The distances are huge! For instance, suppose that you want to go by car from Copenhagen in Denmark to Riksgränsen in the very north of Sweden. Then you will have to count on a car ride that is more than 22 hours long. Needless to say, to enjoy such a car ride, you will want at least one, if not two, pit stops with sleepovers along the way. As an aside, that could also be a formidable achievement – To visit Copenhagen, and then stop in two cities along the way up to Riksgränsen, to do some skiing. Beware of the snow conditions though! And Sweden requires that winter tires are used between 1st December and 31st March.

Dress warm and bring snow goggles

Wherever you decide to take your road trip or rail trip in Norway and Sweden during winter, make sure to dress warm – And bring snow goggles! Best of all, prepare for plenty of winter fun.

More winter fun

The Swedish winter idyll in Åre.

Have you tried snowshoeing?