This winter we decided to take our first family wintersport holiday. Super exciting!
(After spending a month editing the ski issue of Inspireroo magazine I desperately wanted to go snowboarding! )
Scouring the web for ski lodges to rent for a last minute getaway after Christmas, I happened upon one in the Sälen region at Kläppen Ski Resort. It looked good on the website, I looked at the resort, which also seemed to tick the boxes, then contacted the owner and booked.
Kläppen Ski Resort is a family-owned resort in the west of Central Sweden, operating since 1982. It’s near the Norwegian border in the Scandinavian Mountains. Kläppen is the closest resort to Stockholm with a snow guarantee. It’s highest peak is 655 metres. With 31km of pistes it’s not a large resort by any means, though it looked ok for our first family trip
We arrived on the 1st of January, after a spell of above freezing temperatures. The area around the lower Welcome centre had no snow. Upwards from the mid-stop of the new Gondola, at Tranantorget 18 runs were open, thanks to the snow making experts at the resort. This, despite the good dump of snow at the end of November, was very much the beginning of the season here.
Arrival and check-in
We arrived just past 4pm, as it had got dark. The Welcome Centre (Välkomstcenter) is located off the main road. It was a welcomed relief to arrive and stretch our legs after a 350 km, 5 hour drive from Uppsala. I headed to the check-in desk where friendly staff quickly gave us the keys and instructions to the lodge and I picked up our pre-booked ski passes from here too. (All the staff spoke perfect English.)
We had 5 ski passes- 2 adult passes, 2 youth passes and 1 kids’ pass – 0-7 year olds wearing a helmet ski free with Key Card (which costs just 55 SEK/ £5)
On getting to the Welcome Centre, Dadonthebrink and the kids went the other way: to the shop and ski hire. We sorted snowboards and snowboard boots for the kids, a helmet for me and a snowboard for Dadonthebrink.
The staff measured the kids’ height and foot sizes to get them the right equipment.
The kids and Dadonthebrink have their own helmets (ones I’d bought at Decathlon back home, that have served them well cycling, ice skating, sledging so far).
Though I’m injured and had no chance of snowboarding I did hire a helmet for going sledging and got a ski pass to allow me to join the family at the top station, watch sunrises and sunsets.
Besides the hire we also took out a 90 SEK insurance on each package.
What I noticed in the ski shop is, unlike in previous resorts, the gear for sale didn’t seem to have huge mark-ups. A pair of kids ski goggles was 199 SEK (£18 / 21 Euros) for example.
As we pulled up to our lodge it became clear that we had struck lucky with this find. It was a modern house for 12 people, sleeping in 5 bedrooms with 3 toilets, 2 showers, a sauna, a jacuzzi tub and a hot tub outside. We were sharing this with friends- 2 other families.
Though privately owned, rental is often done through the resort- they seem to manage the cleaning staff too, who come and do the final clean…one less worry!
Our lodge’s kitchen was well-equipped- microwave, toaster, kettle, even an electric whisk and a waffle maker. My favourite, though, was a De’Longhi bean to coffee machine. A total treat in the mornings.
Some of the cool things about the lodge were the heated floors, which meant melted snow patches and damp boots all dried by the morning, the heated drying cabinet for gloves, buffs and wet boot liners and a woodburner, which gave out so much heat that we had to open windows.
This being a self-catering lodge, we did need to bring our own toilet paper, soap, dishwashing fluid, tea towels, bedlinen and towels. There were enough dishwasher tablets left from the previous folks (who had also left us almost 2 full nets of firewood). If you miss bits and pieces, a small shop at the lower end of the resort by the campsite has essentials or 10 minute up the road to Sälen there is a larger supermarket (and some tempting sports shops along the route too).
The views from our lodge were wonderful! The long windows meant we looked up at the ski pistes, up to the Toppstuga (top station) and we could watch the large snowploughs working each evening when the skiers had retired.
On our arrival the pistes had mostly artificial snow on them and the snow making equipment were going full blast 24 hours a day. (This did make it a bit noisy.)
There were 18 pistes open when we arrived and another 2 opened during the week.
At the beginning of week the snow was more like sugar. On the higher parts Dadonthebrink and our friends said there were some icy patches and sections with larger ice lumps which needed everyone to have their wits about them.
Then natural snow arrived and gave a lovely covering to the slopes.
The beauty of Kläppen is that you are still at tree altitude so the pistes are tree lined, protected from sharp winds that sometime come down and providing for very pretty run.
Kläppen boasts with 3 snow parks out of which 1 was open this first week of January, though the others weren’t far off judging from the snow machines and the heavy machinery working away. By mid week both Angelina and Max were keen to try their luck at going over the humps if not making jumps yet.
During our week at Kläppen no black runs and few red runs were open, though the resort is mostly blue and green runs anyway. The longest run is 2.7km long. These are great for those after more relaxed, family skiing. Most runs also end in one of 2 places- the mid station- Tranantorget or by the Welcome centre. This means there’s no endless chasing each other, loosing kids; meeting up is easy.
In fact, kids can have quite a bit of freedom:
One afternoon, Angelina was out all afternoon with our friends’ 10 year old. They told us which runs they were planning to do and we agreed a time to meet up, or where they’d find us if they were tired, thirsty, hungry or just had enough. They were mucking around in the very gentile snowpark for most of this time- taking the button lift up over 10 times. When they had enough, they came to find me… I was at the kids’ playground with Max.
The lift system
Although Kläppen is family-owned it is constantly upgrading and innovating. This season it has a new 10 person gondola with heated seats, a new T-bar (which was my kids’ favourite) and new button lift for the training slopes, they’ve added a couple of new runs and are expanding their snowparks.
I really enjoyed being able to go up in the new Gondola even though I wasn’t able to snowboard this week.
I rarely saw any notable queues at the lifts.
Other countries are eliminating button lifts and t-bars, but these do have an advantage of keeping you active. If you are sitting on a chairlift after an exhilarating run, you are more likely to get cold. On drag lifts you still have some work to do.
Lessons and learning at Kläppen
All three kids- 4, 8 and 9 years old- had decided to follow in our footsteps and learn to snowboard. We’d planned to book the kids into beginners’ snowboarding classes in their own age groups for 4 days, but sadly there weren’t enough takers for the week so the courses weren’t running.
Instead we booked everyone into a “try snowboarding” 2 hour group lesson on the first afternoon and then booked private lessons of 2 hours, 1.5 hours and 1 hour on subsequent days. Max, my littlest dropped out of the try snowboarding and the 2 hour lesson, as he was distracted and distracting to the others, he then took 30 mins of the hour and half lesson with the private instructor and that was fabulous! He made huge progress!
Clara his teacher really got him enthusiastic and they played while learning the whole time.
Angelina and Hugo made amazing progress in the week, both were coming down from the top on green and blue runs by the weekend.
Kläppen has good facilities for helping those taking their first skids on skis or snowboards down the slopes: they have a mini slope with a travellator (or magic carpet as referred to in some places) taking the mini to maxi learners up. I used this a lot with Max.
There is also a button roundabout, where learners can practice being towed by a button lift. Again Max loved going around and around on this and if and when he fell (by accident or on purpose) I could easily step in to lift him up and out of the way of those behind him.
Great for my little learners, the lift attendants at all the lifts were very helpful as well. All of them speaking great English!
Our typical day at Kläppen Ski Resort
In January, in this part of Sweden, it starts becoming light around 8 o’clock, on clear days this means a beautiful range of pinks and oranges thanks to the low sun. This meant a slow, lazy start to the day, as our house started to stir at 8 for breakfast.
We aimed to be out of the house between 9 and 10 for lessons. (Group lessons would’ve started at 9:15).
After the snow fell on our 2nd day you could ski from our lodge to the piste relatively easily; not snowboard though as there wasn’t enough of a slope. We often walked this anyway. Other days we took the car around the bottom to the carpark at Tranantorget- where there is a shop, ski schools meet here, there’s a restaurant, café and a heated indoor picnic cabin (!).
Dadonthebrink would go off snowboarding while kids had their lessons and I practiced with the Littlest, running up and down the slopes with him practicing his snowboard moves. He was so cute!!!
We’d meet up for a warming drink after the lessons, then Angelina and Hugo would go off with their dad or friends and Littlest would either board a bit more outside or go to the playground.
We thought, because we had planned a warm meal every evening, we’d make sandwiches to have in the picnic cabin. Then on the first day we realised that the daily menu at Tranan restaurant, right on the slope, was so appealing and good value, we ended up eating there every day:
The adult daily meal (of which there were 2 choices) were 95 SEK (£8.70/ €10), oddly the vegetarian option was 115SEK (£10.50/ €12 Euros) and the kids could choose between a child portion of the adult menu/ meatballs with spaghetti or boiled potatoes or spag bol for 69 SEK (£6.30/ €7.20) included with this was a large serving from the varied salad bar, which true to good Swedish tradition, included pickled herrings too (which my kids love). A glass of soft drink or cup of coffee with your meal was 10 SEK (£0.91/ €1.05)
One lunchtime we wanted to eat at the Toppstuga (the restaurant at the top of the mountain), but the choice wasn’t as varied and the prices included a decent mark up for the views, so we took the Gondola down to have our meal at Tranantorget. (Stingy I know!)
A hot chocolate with whipped cream at the Toppstuga was 36 SEK and 41 SEK (£3.73/ €4.28) if you added marshmallows. Ouch! This was, however, a luxury we indulged in on quite a few days.
Lunch was a leisurely affair. Our break generally lasting 90 minutes, with all the layers and gear we had to take off and then put on again.
Afterwards, by which time the skies started going pink, everyone headed back onto the slopes. The Littlest would have a slide or two or play either outside or in the mini playroom in Tranantorget. This was my favourite time as the light was beautiful, we’d often squeeze in a gondola ride to the top too, just to see the fading light (and have a hot chocolate).
By 4pm it was dark, but some of the slopes were floodlit, so those not tired enough could carry on till 6pm.
We generally finished around 4:30 – 5 pm, heading back to the lodge to sort out dinner.
On two evenings there was a sledging evening between 5 and 6:30: the learner button lift was dedicated to dragging sledges and their riders up the slope. The resort is sponsored by Stiga, the sledge manufacturer, who provide 20 snowracers for people to use on these evenings and most people bring their own snowracers.
You do need a helmet and your wits about you, as these things are fast. I did try- once! Then decided it was too much excitement for me. The kids went up and down as many times as they could. These evenings they were especially exhausted.
We had dinner in our lodge. We’d shared out the cooking between the 3 families, which made it a lot easier. One evening we also ordered pizza from the restaurant down at the Welcome Centre. 6 pizzas shared between the 13 of us- 6 adults, 7 kids- supplemented by some cheese and cake when down well. (The 6 pizzas came to 600 SEK, £55/ €63)
Getting 7 kids- aged 4- 13- to bed at a reasonable hour was a challenge. It was easier on the nights they got the hot tub (we alternated between kids and adults, as the water lost too much heat during one use to use again that evening).
Our evenings generally involved mulled wine, card games and chatting.
One evening, probably the coldest evening we had, we were on Northern Lights lookout. They were supposed to be coming out to play according to the forecast services. Unfortunately, just up the road there is a factory of some sort which gave a bit of light pollution, so we couldn’t really make out anything with our bare eyes. Long exposure with camera, however, showed them to us.
Highlights of the trip
Kläppen Ski Resort have 2 mascots: Trolle and Trolla, who show up on the learner slopes skiing and snowboarding a couple of times a day. They are great at encouraging kids. Trolla really helped Angelina get over her fear of going on the button lift and set a really bad example for Hugo on going up that same lift… one that made me cry…from laughing so hard.
As a surprise for their great progress, we booked the kids onto a Trolle safari: The kids get to ride on a sledge pulled by a snowmobile and head up the slopes to visit the Trolle’s hut in the woods. Here they enjoy a little trolle sap and trolle bun. It’s aimed at 3-8 year olds, my 9 yo still enjoyed it. (Costs 80 SEK/ £7.30/ €8.40 and lasts 45 minutes)
Hugo also had a surprise trip down the slopes with a snowmobile: on the coldest day (-24C) he got caught out on the piste needing the loo desperately. He was ready to duck among the trees and risk frostbite to his derriere, when a snowmobile passed by with one of the resort staff and when flagged down they took him to the warmth of Tranantorget. He was super pleased with his timing, avoiding frostbite on his bits and getting a fun ride down.
…and that brings me to a key difference between Swedish ski resorts and some other European resorts: on slope rescue is free.
Hugo and Dadonthebrink reckon their favourite moment was a shared one, when Hugo landed his first (mini) jump in the snowpark.
Angelina loved their adventure of going into the snow blizzard: The resort had some extra snowmaking equipment out at the beginning of the path back to our lodge for getting extra snow for the snowpark. The kids discovered that they could go into the mist of snow spray, into the man-made white-out, climbing up hill of freshly made snow. This was a great adventure for them. They emerged caked in snow.
Max liked the dragging merry-go-round and toasting marshmallows. …true to Swedish style there are a couple of grill spots scattered across the resort, between the pistes. These mostly have firewood provided, so you just need to bring paper and matches, take your sausages to grill or your marshmallows to toast. The most popular is the one next to the playground at the bottom of the learner slopes. The two fireplaces were in use every single lunchtime by families.
Mine? I loved watching the kids’ skills develop, their confidence on the snow grow as the week progress and 2017 got off the a start. It was great to spend time with friends. Chilling: Our leisurely lunches were lovely and soaking in the hot tub with my hair frozen was fun. However, I think photographing my first, ever-so-faint Aurora Borealis, the Northern Lights was the big bucket list item.
The kids have already asked about going back…we’ve had such fun (even me, being relegated to just watching the action on the snow). Kläppen rocks!