On Nordic Skis in the Mountains of Jämtland, Sweden
With Nordic skis, we traveled across the mountains of Jämtland in mid-February 2023 and used the cabin system for overnight stays. A classic trip in many ways, albeit a little different for a 13-year-old boy from Germany.
May 2023, by Markus Nyman
Update August 2023: Swedish Tourist Association closes the Gåsen Mountain Cabin permanently. More information (Swedish only) https://www.svenskaturistforeningen.se/om-stf/aktuellt/5867989-2/
A 4-day Adventure for Father and Son
How it started
In the fall of 2022, I was contacted by a client who wants to complete a cross-country skiing trip together with his 13-year-old son. They both live in Germany and are experienced cross-country skiers but dreamed of the open mountain areas where few people ever go and you can not spot anyone. An exciting mission and, as usual, my brain starts buzzing about different tour plans. The plan was to implement this in the middle of February and as usual when young people are involved, it is necessary to consider advantages against disadvantages and how much risk you are willing to take. Here I tell you more about how the trip went.
My guests for the tour, Samuel and Nick. At home in Schwarzwald, they have become good skiers and are now standing outside the wind shelter at Spåjme, ready for the next stage.
At the initial contacts, we looked at either doing the tour around Abisko National Park or alternatively in Jämtland. Both places are easy to travel to for international visitors. As the light makes the northern tours a little more limited at that time of year, we chose to carry out the adventure in Jämtland and to make use of the cabin system that is well developed here.
The route ended up starting in Åre, taking us on to Storulvån and then skiing to Sylarna on day 1, moving on to Gåsen on day 2, Stensdalen on day 3 and finally Vålådalen on day 4. That way we could start the tour at Thursday and use a mountain station the first night. This as the cabins didn’t open until Friday, and we were lucky enough to arrive at Gåsen a day before most others.
By taking this route, we were also able to take into account that we were never more than a day’s stage from the nearest road, and the tour and its evacuation routes are either in protected terrain – or at least you are close to a cabin, rest shelter or mountain station. Should we get blown in on Sylarna or Gåsen, we also had the opportunity to get all the way back to Storulvån, or alternatively ski the entire stretch from Gåsen to Vålådalen in one go.
From Vålådalen we made our way back to Åre where we ended the tour by returning rented equipment.
The trip was, on the whole, very successful and I can well recommend the route for future visitors.
Day 1: Storulvån to Sylarna
The day before we had met in the village to have a cup of coffee and take a look at the planning and address any thoughts that appeared just before the start. Then we could also take the opportunity to test the equipment to see that everything worked as it should.
When the morning started, we took the bus from Duved to Storulvån. It turned out to be a little late, so we had time for a morning trip on the river at Duved up towards the train bridge where there are also petroglyphs. So we started a little late at 12 o’clock from Storulvån, and to my surprise it turned out that both father and son were good skiers who were happy to drive.
We arrived at Sylarna at the same time as day was turning into night and were met by a magical sunset over the mountain massif – seemingly all by ourselves. Once at Sylarna, a good dinner awaited in the restaurant, a little sauna and a well-deserved rest.
The reindeer show up out of nowhere and we turn around to enjoy the meeting. Pretty cool to be able to show these pictures from your adventure in Sweden when you are back in school the next week.
Day 2: Sylarna to Gåsen
Having breakfast in Sylarna’s restaurant often gives a good feeling. The light walls and the feeling of “hotel breakfast” often do that. You would love to be able to sit inside and drink coffee and enjoy the view all day if that were the case. Now it happened to turn out that the weather was not so great. There was even talk of a storm moving in, and some residents chose to postpone their trips. However, we made the assessment that we would have the wind at our backs as we would largely be traveling east, and that we would be able to get down into protected terrain around Gåsån’s wind shelter for a longer stop if needed.
Once out on the mountain, the weather was perfectly fine, with variable visibility and plenty of reindeer. The stretch to Gåsen goes quite a bit uphill and given the poor snow conditions on the western slopes, it was not always possible to follow the trail straight on, but you have to zig-zag your way.
When we arrived at Gåsen, the weather was worse. The cabins appeared in front of us only 200 meters away and the last two hours had been a bit more of a struggle when the blood sugar was running low. To our hosts’ surprise, we knocked and asked if we could stay the night. They had not expected to receive visitors as Gåsen is mostly 2 day stages away (it is possible to go here from Storulvån, but then it is quite a long distance in homogeneous terrain and some of it is uphill – so most people avoid it, but it suits excellent as a return route if the weather is bad and you still hadn’t seen anything).
With great warmth, we came to call both of the cabin hosts Pettson and Gustavsson after Sven Nordqvist’s classic books about Pettson and Findus, because Samuel thought they resembled them. In fact, there was feverish activity, both of them had just started up and here came the first visitors – now we had to be served here! They barely had time to settle down before the patchy sickness seemed to have struck. In classic fashion, it also took 20 minutes to buy a few deciliters of oatmeal when the technology messed up. Otherwise, most things are pretty basic. There is water in the stream. Wood is chopped in the woodshed. If necessary, there is an outhouse.
The evening in the old cabin went well, we made a fire and cooked meatballs and mashed potatoes and ate Åre chocolate for dessert. But at 9 p.m., a couple appeared who had walked all the way from Vålådalen, and by this time the weather was quite mischievous outside. Throughout the evening, our hosts had spent as much time at their place as at ours where the emergency phone was located and had feverish contact with other cabin hosts and mountain rescue.
Getting water is a daily routine when staying in a Mountain Cabin. You learn how to appreciate water when you must also drag it back. Nick filled the can, Sam pulled it home, and I took the photos – a fair workload distribution, I think.
Day 3: Gåsen – Stensdalen
Time to wake up. But isn’t it a little cold in the room? Hmm. No one else seems to be moving. As a guide, you usually avoid being the first up – there is always someone who can barely manage to start the day. There is always someone who wants to start a fire. I realized that either they’re asleep, or they’re playing the sleep game so well that I’ve already shown my cards that I’m awake—might as well get up. The thermometer by the window showed that it was plus 2 degrees inside. Well, the water wasn’t frozen, I thought, and turned on the stove. An hour later, breakfast was on the table, coffee in the cup and a much more pleasant 14 degrees.
Outside, the weather was a little worse than yesterday. Water collection. Chopping wood. Going to the toilet. When we got away, we had the wind in our faces and worse visibility, but with the realization that we can turn back to Gåsen we still thought it was worth trying. It didn’t take long before we arrived at the wind shelter and soon after we started to approach the mountain birch forest that led us down to Stensdalen.
This newly built cabin offered all kinds of comfort – not at all like the old model in Gåsen, although here too you need to fetch water. However, the wood was already chopped and the kitchen much more modern. Likewise our room where solar cells take care of the lighting. Admittedly very nice, but not nearly as personal.
For dinner there was tortellini with spinach, parmesan and feta cheese and then a cheese from Skärvången with local Cloudberries on top. With a view of the Lill-stensdalsfjället, there was nothing left on the table and it was good.
Day 4: Stensdalen – Vålådalen
On the last day, the storm had subsided and the temperature had gone above zero. We skied through the sparse pine forest without major problems and at the Vålådalen Mountain Station, a shower and a coffee awaited us before we were driven back to Åre. Vålådalen is an excellent area for mountain tours because you are close to the forest. But that could also be the problem – that you need almost a day to get up the mountain. If you go here, it is therefore recommended to have more than one day.
The possibility to finish in the Vålådalen also meant that the tour could go from A to B and we have not seen the same views more than once.
Highlights of the trip
A trip that goes from A to B with simple logistics and a stable evacuation plan
To pick a route so that you can start in a remote cabin on the first night of the opening of the cabin systems
Dinner and breakfast at Sylarna
Friendly company and food in the cabins
The Sauna in the Stensdalen Cabin
The herd of reindeer that showed up from nowhere
To experience the powers of weather on the winter mountain
Nice discussions with our Cabin hosts Pettson and Gustavsson
In conclusion, I have to thank Nick and Samuel for their confidence in booking this trip in mid-February, and for daring to hand over the responsibility of the trip to Deep Wild. It is always fun to create new tours that are adapted to the target group and where you get a good mix of things that enhance the tour, e.g. to go from A to B, or to see both a mountain station, an old mountain hut and a more modern mountain hut.
I am a little extra happy that Nick and Samuel are ready for further adventures and that they have gained a taste for Nordic ski touring.
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