Each year in winter and summer, a select group of tour operators, journalists and equipment retailers gather somewhere in the wilds of Sweden for the Outdoor Academy. A partnership between the Swedish tourist authorities, SAS airlines and the Scandinavian Outdoor Group, the Academy aims to spread the word about Sweden as a wonderful holiday destination for outdoor experiences year-round.
This year, the area chosen was Swedish Lapland, in the far north of the country well inside the Arctic Circle. The Nature Travels team joined colleagues from Germany, Holland, France, Belgium and Switzerland for six days of snowy adventures, exploration, and VERY good food!
This year’s winter Academy (or rather “spring winter”, as the mountain areas of Sweden are said to have eight seasons) showcased the potential of this vast and beautiful area as an outdoor destination, both for those who enjoy the challenges of winter camping and those who prefer to keep the pleasures of home a little closer to hand!
As well as sampling the comfort, excellent cuisine and hospitality of some of the mountain stations in the area (perfect for a hot sauna after a hard day in the hills!), we spent cozy nights by the fire in a Sami Lavvu, a kind of teepee, sipping hot lingonberry juice and being slowly hypnotised by the crackle of the fire and the rising woodsmoke. The temperature was well below zero, but even now in early spring it was still light as we made our way with happy hearts and full stomachs towards our sleeping teepees. But with thick down sleeping bags and a mattress of reindeer skins to keep us warm, we were soon fast asleep, our dreams made sharper by the crisp night air and filled with sensations of endless space and silence. This part of Sweden has a population density of less than two people per square kilometre, compared to an average of 20 people for the country as a whole and around 250 for the UK, so there’s plenty of space for everyone!
We awoke early (it gets light around 3am up there at the moment) to the sounds of Ptarmigan echoing across the hills, feeling refreshed and oddly invigorated despite the brevity of our first night’s sleep in the Lavvu. It took a couple of days to acclimatise to the late sunset and early sunrise, but by the middle of the trip and a few adventure-filled days in the mountains, sleeping in was definitely no longer a problem!
And the days were adventure-filled (and sun-filled) indeed, with dog sledding, snowshoeing, telemark skiing, ski touring, ice fishing and caving all on the agenda. Lapland is a limitless playground for all who love the outdoors, and though our muscles are still rather sore from our attempts to master telemark technique and the exertion of mountain ascents on snowshoes, we have returned again to the UK with only happy memories.
How strange to see spring and early summer already in full swing here again, the forests and gardens bursting with new life – but we just need to close our eyes and we are transported once more to a very different world: a world of ice, of the cries of eagles and the snuffling of reindeer, and all around us a horizon of rolling mountains, colossal shapes dominating the landscape like patient guardians, and everywhere snow lying thick on the ground like a winter duvet over a sleeping world…..
Our greatest thanks to all those involved in the planning, organisation and running of this winter’s Outdoor Academy of Sweden – we can’t wait for the next one!
The Nature Travels Team
Nature Travels offers a number of summer and winter holidays in Lapland, including horse riding in Vindelfjällen on Icelandic horses, the chance to drive your own reindeer sled on a Reindeer Sled Safari, and our multi-adventure Experience Lapland. Keep an eye on our website at www.naturetravels.co.uk for new summer activities in Lapland to be added shortly.
Find out more about this winter’s Outdoor Academy of Sweden in Lapland on the official OAS blog.