This Summer, our travel-away-from-home vacation was spent in Sälen, Sweden. Sälen is normally considered a winter destination, one of the biggest ski resorts in Sweden – but they are working on making it more of a year-round attraction. To be more precise, we went to Lindvallen, which is one of the seven or so separate “villages” that form the “Sälen” area. It was a nice and relaxed place, with little stress from having too many things to do, but enough to keep the kids happy. Seeing the mountains in the Summer was nice.
The big activity that is being pushed by the ski resorts for Summer is biking. Lindvallen as well as most of the other resorts around the area have a “bike park”, some cross-country trails, and a set of downhill tracks of varying difficulty. The business idea is clearly to use ski lifts to bring bikers up to the top, and then have them bike downhill. In this way, you can reuse the existing infrastructure for an extra season There were quite a few bikers making use of the opportunity when we visited.
Downhill biking is not really my thing though. I prefer exercising on the bike on forest trails or regular roads but not racing down steep inclines. If you ignore the downhill option, there was still a lot of opportunity for biking in the woods and otherwise around the area. Some not-to-well-marked tracks are available. I did not really see anyone use these tracks and trails, it really seems that downhill is where the focus of the guests is.
There is also a small practice park (kid’s bike park) with some simple jumps and obstacles, and my preschool-age kids found this quite a bit of fun on their regular bikes. It is good practice for terrain and downhill biking too, and it was pretty busy at times.
You can also use the lifts to get up to the top in order to take a short hike or just have a coffee or lunch in the “Snögubben” restaurant. You can also take the lift down again, and my kids loved riding the lift up and down taking in the view. A bit like a slow-motion amusement park ride, I guess. In the Summer, you can even just keep going without getting off at the top – you would not be allowed to do that in the Winter.
The biggest attraction for Summertime use in Lindvallen is the Experium water land. It cannot compare to Lalandia in Denmark, but it is big enough to keep the family happy for a few days of visits. The water slides were appreciated by my three-year-old and six-year-old, but could have been a tad steeper and faster. Fun, but not exhilarating like the ones at Lalandia. It did get pretty crowded on a day with bad weather, so it might be smart to go there on a day when the weather is nice (and everyone else is taking the chance for outdoors activities).
We chose to rent an apartment for a week. Apartments or entire houses seem to be the most common form of accommodation, and the apartment was fully furnished and we could run our own household for the week. Everything is clean, well-kept, and modern. You can tell that Lindvallen is a booming place.
Off-Season and Backstage
The place was definitely off-season. While there was a significant number of people around and the car park in from of Experium did get pretty full, it was clear that you have ten times more people around in the Winter. This is also reflected in pricing: it seems that Summer is about one third to one fourth the price of Winter season, depending on precisely which week you compare to. Very reasonable.
Still, a surprising number of restaurants and cafes were open, but the ones close to the ski slopes were all closed. Lindvallen features a normal ICA shop, but it had closed some sections and was not as richly stocked as it would be in wintertime. There is a better selection of groceries in the shops down in the main village of Sälen – but that is some 5 km away by car, and really not necessary for most needs.
The staff at Lindvallen was very friendly and definitely relaxed thanks to the low customer pressure. It seemed that they let things pass that would not be accepted in Winter. In contrast to last year’s vacation in Denmark, the occasional broken glass in the apartment we rented was no big deal. It was almost too relaxed at times, feeling a bit disorganized, and that they let some small problems with the houses pass for fixing later.
I got a feeling of being “backstage” at a show, seeing how things really work. In the Summer, you can walk around and look at the lifts without snow and crowds being in the way. At the edges of the area, there are parking lots full of ramps (for snowboarders) to be deployed in the slopes and snow groomers resting until the season starts.
Here we see the base station for a small lift, with the machines that are used to check the ski passes of the skiers covered up and the T-bars removed. It is not very distinct here, but lots of the equipment sat on raised platforms to become level with the “ground” once half a meter of snow or so has fallen.
They did not take down the signs used in Winter either. There were advertisements reminding you to check your skis along the lift tracks, and the signs like this one showing where the ski school gathers:
It all just feels a bit off. But off in a nice way.
For full disclosure, I should note that I am a shareholder in Skistar, the company that runs most of the places in Sälen as well as several other skiing destinations in Sweden. Skistar is a fun company actually, and they even run their yearly shareholder meeting in one of their resorts with a special rate for share holders who attend. If you buy a lot of stock, you also get a discount on vacations – but you need a very large family or to be a busy winter sports addict to turn a profit on that discount.