I’m something of a rarity at Ski Safari, in that I joined as a complete novice when it comes to skiing!
Since joining the team in July 2016, my colleagues have imparted a lot of valuable knowledge and their passion for skiing has been so infectious that I’ve been dying to get out and see what all the fuss is about!
In January, I headed out to Sweden and Norway with three colleagues to learn more about Stöten, a resort that we’re featuring for the first time this season, and Trysil, an established favourite resort with our customers.
In preparation for the trip, I wanted to learn the basics of skiing so myself and a few others took some after-work trips to The Snow Centre in Hemel Hempstead for lessons on the indoor slopes. A few hours of mastering snow-ploughing and simple turns and I felt ready to try the real stuff.
Even the flight into Oslo was a new experience for me. I’m used to travelling to sunnier climes, so flying over a winter wonderland with snow-covered pine forests spread out below us was a wonderful experience.
The transfer to Stöten in Sweden was equally magical. I’d previously only seen snow in the UK (and we really don’t get much in Brighton), so during the journey I had my face almost pressed to the glass, marvelling at the frozen lakes and glistening, snow-covered fields which zoomed by outside the window.
Seeing a Ski Resort for the First Time
Arriving at Stöten we were given an orientation of the resort and I was instantly surprised at how conveniently located everything was. A number of my colleagues had been out to the resort last winter and had spoken about how accessible everything was and it was easy to see what they meant!
Our hotel’s reception, the main restaurant, rental shop and the WC Express chairlift are all located within an easy 5-minute walk. The resort is very attractive, with traditionally styled buildings which blend in with the surroundings and as we walked back to the hotel after picking up our rentals, we were even treated to a sprinkling of snow as we were shown the key areas of the resort.
My First Experience of ‘The Real Stuff’
After an evening of fantastic food and a touch of local whisky, we retired for a relaxed night’s sleep and the next morning I was ready and raring to go for my first taste of real skiing on proper, outdoor snow! As someone who was new to a resort and still quite nervous on skis, I didn’t really know what to expect from my lessons but my instructor instantly put me at ease, talking through my previous experience and what she thought I could achieve. Skis on, we pushed off and glided across the almost flat main square (Stötentorget), to reach the beginners' area at Soltorget (Sun Square).
I was told how to use a button lift and then showed off my very best snowplough turns on the very gentle beginner slopes. My instructor taught me how to start breaking out of the snowplough, bringing my skis parallel and before I knew it I was traversing the gentle slopes with ease. Feeling suitably confident, we took a longer button lift up and I skied down my first green run (run 18) and, even though I could see it wasn’t too steep, it was a real rush! It had snowed overnight and as we were the first in the beginner’s area, I was treated to light & fluffy snow which made it feel like I was floating on air!
A few more laps of the runs in the beginner area and we made our way back across to Stötentorget, where I put my newly acquired skills to the test on the bottom green section of the world cup run (run 26).
My instructor was absolutely fantastic, so friendly and with great English she was constantly talking me through what we would be doing, pointing out ways that I could improve my technique and coaching me through new things that we would try. I got to grips with a slightly steeper slope, that was much wider and with a few other people skiing and boarding around me, lots of new sights and sounds!
Having progressed from being a complete beginner to feeling confident traversing a green run in the space of 1.5 hours, I felt thoroughly content as we ended our lesson and met up with my more experienced colleagues who had been exploring a selection of Stöten‘s runs.
We enjoyed a plentiful lunch (more on that later), but I was itching to get back out on the snow. I felt confident joining my colleagues for the afternoon and with our guide (Stöten's Sales Manager, Henrik Nathanson) we headed over to the far side of the resort, taking the drag lift from Soltorget to the top of the mountain. From here we skied down the wonderfully cruisy run 3, which was absolutely perfect for me to practice my turns, picking up a bit of speed on the virtually empty slope. There were a few light tumbles along the way, but these were mainly from misjudging a section or crossing my skis slightly and I wasn’t put off in the slightest, it’s all part of learning, right!
The snow conditions were beautiful and as we lapped runs 3 and 4 a few times my confidence grew and grew, I even ventured into the wonderfully light snow off the side of the piste, skiing between trees which were widely spaced. The day ended on such a high for me that I didn’t want it to end, I would have strapped a head-torch on and continued skiing all night if I’d been allowed to.
Getting to Know Stöten
For me, a big part of this (and any trip) was the food. At Älvans Restaurang & Café in Skidtorget (Ski Square), I tried a delicious local dish ‘Wallenbergare’; a giant meatball made from ground veal, served with mashed potatoes, lingonberries and peas. The Brasseriet served hearty breakfast and lunch buffets, which catered to all tastes and set you up well for a day’s skiing. In the evening, we had a lot of choice from the restaurant’s à la carte menu, I personally enjoyed the Brasset burger.
Staff in all of the restaurants and throughout the whole resort were extremely friendly and happy to help with anything we needed. There was no communication barrier and we were really made to feel at home. The resort was charming and the small-town feel was something that really appealed to me as a beginner.
All lifts were manned by smiling attendants who helped you on and off, and I really liked the hot-drink stations at the bottom of these lifts. The pool complex (included with your lift pass) looked great for families or anyone wanting to relax and we learned all about the snowmobile safaris, dog-sledding and 4x4 test drives which all offer a great break from skiing.
From Stöten, we made the short transfer across the border to the Norwegian resort of Trysil. The resort had something for everyone and for those like me, wanting to improve skills and continue to build confidence, Trysil works really well. I had lots of fun lapping the Trysil Høyfjellssenter (High Mountain Centre), which has some lovely cruisy green runs that were a delight on a blue-sky day with views out across the valley... I was very happy to also complete a nice blue run before the day was out!
It was with much excitement and a touch of trepidation that I approached my first ski experience, having heard a lot of great things from colleagues and other friends, but holding the usual apprehensions that come with trying something new. I can safely say that after a few days on the slopes in Scandinavia, I am well and truly hooked. From the experience of being in a resort to the food, the atmosphere and of course the skiing, I can’t wait to get some skis back on. Now on to the next ski adventure… Whistler in March!