Winter is coming.
Sure, this phrase has become a bit more common in recent years, but in Sweden it was a common refrain well before Game of Thrones turned the season into a meme.
And whether this is your first winter in Sweden -- or your fifteenth -- there are a couple things you can be sure of. One, Swedish winters mean snow -- and potentially lots of it (depending on where you are). Two, Sweden offers a lot of pristine nature, complete with lush forests and alpine vistas that are just begging to be explored and enjoyed.
It's no accident that so many Swedes hit the slopes (or the trails) each winter. And this season, you should too. With guaranteed snow from Christmas to Easter, and resorts stretching from the Arctic Circle to picturesque Dalarna in the east, there's something for everyone no matter your level of experience.
But before you go ahead and book, there's something you should know: Swedes are savvy when it comes to planning their ski vacations, and to get the best deal, you should be too.
Here are The Local's top tips for booking the ultimate Swedish ski vacation.
1. Do it yourself
Most Swedes don't choose package ski vacations. Instead, they arrange each part of the trip separately. From transport and the resort to their accommodation and ski hire, each part of the vacation is tailor-made -- it's much more cost effective and guarantees everything is just as you like it. Most resort websites give you the option to book online or ring up and arrange it over the phone, so you can easily organise your vacation yourself.
Stöten, a scenic ski resort in Sälen mountain range in Dalarna, has an easy online booking service -- in just a few clicks you can cherry-pick every part of your trip. It can all be done in English, so if your Swedish isn't up to scratch you still know exactly what you're getting. You can also give the resort a call, all Stöten's staff are fluent English speakers so there won't be a language barrier.
2. Book early
The Swedes know that many ski resorts get booked up early in the season -- especially for high-demand weeks. So it's best to book before November -- even if your trip isn't until Easter. There are often discounts too if you book this time of year, which is a good incentive as prices can really start to skyrocket if you book later in the season.
If you're planning to ski during sportlov (winter sports week, around the end of February) or Easter it's also a good idea to book early to make sure your chosen resort isn't fully booked. And even if you're not planning to go during those weeks, booking early means you'll get the accommodation you want (and gives you something to look forward to!).
3. Pick the right resort
Whether you've been skiing since before you could walk or you're a complete novice, you should pick a resort that matches your group and its ability. If you're travelling with your family it's a good idea to find one with slopes for everyone -- from little ones to daredevil mums.
Stöten boasts Sälen mountain range's highest peak, at 360m, and beginner's slopes that are perfect for the kids. The resort has over 45 km of trails, as well as 3 km of lit trails so you can ski after dark (which can be anytime from around 3pm during Swedish winter!).
There's also plenty of activities for kids, including clubs to keep them occupied while you hit the slopes (or the bar). Send them off on a treasure hunt with Vargy, Stöten's (friendly) wolf mascot, or drop them off at the Wolf Den where they can do craftwork, watch a film, or bake some cookies for you to eat after your skiing session.
4. Go on a taster trip
Before committing to a longer ski vacation, it can be a good idea to try something shorter. In Sweden, resorts offer both ‘long weekends' (Thursday-Sunday) as well as ‘short weeks' (Sunday-Thursday). These short trips are a great way to get a feel for a resort -- provided of course the resort isn't so far away that going for less than a week doesn't make sense.
Located in the Sälen mountain range, Stöten is far enough away to feel remote but still within driving distance from many Swedish and Norwegian cities and airports.
It's a mere 450km from Stockholm, 500km from Göteborg, and just 200km from Oslo, so you can easily get out there for a quick trip before booking a longer vacation or showing up with the whole family in tow.
5. Pick somewhere with lots to do
The perfect Swedish ski vacation is about more than skiing. It's about the whole Swedish experience -- from stepping into a hot sauna after a day on the slopes to reviving yourself in-between skiing sessions with fresh fika (or a spot of après-ski -- known in Swedish as ‘afterski').
Stöten offers some of Sweden's best skiing and accommodation as well as plenty to see and do, including a spa, bowling, and even a nightclub. There's an activity house and indoor waterpark, so If you feel like taking a break from skiing you won't be stuck for things to do.
6. Book somewhere “Swedish”
For the ultimate Swedish ski vacation, you need to book the ultimate Swedish spot. You should be able to look around and instantly know you're in Sweden and not just any European ski resort.
Stöten is surrounded by virtually untouched nature -- you won't see any power plants or unsightly structures -- in fact, there's nothing but mountains and trees for kilometres around. It's so rural you might even catch sight of one of Sweden's elk, also known as the kings of the forest, which are indigenous to the area.
7. Know when to go
Whether you're planning a romantic ski vacation, a long weekend with friends or you're packing up the whole family for a week on the slopes, you need to know the right time to go.
Most resorts are a lot quieter during term-time, so if you're not going with kids and aren't restricted to school holidays you can find some great deals (and go when things are a little less busy).
If you're taking the kids, many resorts offer special deals to make things easier for parents and more exciting for youngsters. Throughout the season, Stöten offers 10 weeks known as “Junior Weeks”, which means any child up to six years old with a paying adult gets everything for free. That includes food, ski rental, ski school, and Vargy's Wolf Club activities (which are otherwise 80 kronor per activity). You can find out more about Junior Weeks here.