Saturday, December 6, 2008

Telemark Skiing Above the Arctic Circle: Riksgransen, Sweden

There was a great article in the New York Times the other day about telemark skiing above the Arctic Circle. In Riksgransen, Sweden apparently there is a hardcore group of telemark skiers. Looks like a great place to hit next spring...

The helipad was little more than a flat patch of snow roped off between some parked cars and the hotel. The chopper didn’t inspire confidence, either: it was an ancient-looking craft, with a nearly 50-year-old fuselage and a crack in the bubble windshield. But this lawn dart, I was assured, was a gem — an Alouette III, the classic French mountain helicopter. After some perfunctory instruction by the mountain guide, we climbed aboard and belted in. Blades Cuisinarted the air. Seats shook. Two guys taking off their ski boots next to the helipad ducked for cover. Then we were hammering south into empty mountains.

Telemark Skiing in Sweden Above the Arctic Circle
When the helicopter shut down the rotor atop 5,209-foot Vouitasrita, the silence poured in to fill the void. Our mountain guide waved a pole south across a horizon of white breakers. “More or less everything you see here, we can heli-ski,” he said — all the way to the Finland border, to the east. The summit of 6,926-foot Kebnekaise, Sweden’s highest mountain, nosed for prominence on the southern horizon.

This was an April evening in the land of the midnight sun.

There’s an understanding among Scandinavia’s diehard skiers: when the weather turns warm, it’s time to finish off the season at the world’s northernmost ski resort. There, at Riksgransen, more than 130 miles above the Arctic Circle in Sweden, the skiing isn’t over until that midnight sun finally droops below the horizon.

“It’s become a bit of a legendary place for the Swedes,” explained Torkel Karoliussen, a champion Norwegian telemark skier who has visited Riksgransen more than a dozen times. “The season doesn’t really start until March, and it’s best in May, and you can ski under the midnight sun in June.”

It’s true: starting about May 10 each year, the lifts close at 4 p.m. — only to reopen (on weekends) from 10 p.m. until 1 a.m.

Read the rest of the article about telemark skiing above the Arctic Circle here.


  1. Hi Peter, Chris from Canon City here. Was hoping to learn more about the Wet Mountain bouldering you commented about over at I climb frequently at Newlin Creek and would love to hear more about Apache Canyon. - Thanks!

  2. Hey Chris. The stuff we saw in Apache Canyon is totally undeveloped. It will need some work as there is thick growth all around. The canyon is south of Colorado City and just north of Walsenburg (near Apache City). We accessed it through an old forest service trail that is no longer in use, so I'm not sure what the official access point is...

  3. Thanks for the reply Peter. I read somewhere that the landowner closed the original trailhead for Apache Falls and it's now a LONG roundabout hike to get in the canyon. Is there still wink and nod access or is it clear that the landowner wants to keep people from getting on the old trail? And is there enough quality rock in there to make the hike worth it?

    Also, do you know of any other canyons on Greenhorn Mtn (N Apache, Mexican Springs, Turkey Cr...) or in the Sangres near Westcliffe that have potential?

    Many thanks, Chris

  4. Your right Chris, the landowner closed the original trailhead and much of the lower (old) trail is very overgrown. I don't know about access, but the new trail is a long roundabout hike. Enough quality rock? Trade and potential sport - yes. Bouldering - there are some gems but not as many as Newlin.

    Not sure on the other canyons, but if they are the same geologically, then there is potential. Need to explore...