The worlds’ oldest preserved skis and pole were found in the marshes close to the village of Kalvträsk, Västerbotten, Sweden, in 1924. The skis are 2,04 metres long and are made out of pine. The rod pole (back then only one was used) looks like a shovel and measures 1,56 metres. The low oxygen levels of the marshes have preserved the skis in great condition considering their age which is estimated to be about 5 200 years.
1100s - 1645
Thousands of pilgrims from all over Europe travel to the Old Church of Åre, which dates back to the 1160s, on their way to the Norwegian Nidaros Cathedral. The region of Jämtland, where Åre is situated, belongs to Norway. But from 1645, after centuries of war in the Nordic countries, Jämtland becomes a Swedish county. After that the population grows and over the centuries to come Åre becomes a tourist attraction due to its fresh air.
The Swedish king Charles XI visits Åre and gets to see and even try on the first pair of skis he’s ever seen. He stays at a farmers home in Nordhallen and the farmer shows him the skis and then lets him try them on. Despite this he wasn’t impressed with neither Åre nor the region of Jämtland. When he comes home he makes an entry in his journal: ”There is nothing to do about Jämtland or Härjedalen”.
Åre becomes a real tourist attraction. People from newly industrialized cities come to Åre to enjoy the fresh air. This is the first period in the making of Åre as the year-round destination it is today. However, it was not yet a winter destination. People came during the summer and stayed with locals as hotels didn’t exist in the village. The travel routes were developed and a new road was built in 1835 to connect Jämtland with Tröndelag in Norway.
The railroad is built and connects Åre with Stockholm and other Swedish cities. However, the idea was that the railroad was to pass on the other side of the mountain, close to the mine in Huså. But thanks to a member of Swedish Parliament, Gunnar Eriksson, the railroad is built in Åre and king Oscar II ordains what will give Åre the status of a real tourist attraction in Storlien on June 21. Summer tourists burst into the village.
The first hut on the top of the mountain is constructed. It’s an octagonal hut with tarp roof constructed in Mattmar which functions as protection in case of bad weather built after a Swiss model. More houses are built further down the mountain and the village expands. However, winter tourism is still not established.
The first hotel in the village is built by Kristina Hansson. She calls it Hotel Åreskutan and it still exists today, though under a different name: Hotel Åregården. The ancient and beautiful hotel is situated at the heart of the village, by the village square. Hotel Åreskutan is the first in a long row of hotels that will be built and established over the next few decades.
Engineer Carl-Olof Rahm takes a trip to the Alps in 1906 and comes back with an idea that will increase the interest for Åre as a winter time - resort. He wants to make Åre a ”central place for winter sports” in Sweden and amongst the things he wants to build is a funicular. Said and done. The funicular, Åre bergbana, is constructed, starts running in 1910, and still stands (and works) today.
The winter season is becoming increasingly attractive to visitors, much thanks to the funicular. Yearly winter sport competitions are held, in sports like bobsleigh and young singles come to Åre to party and seek romance. In 1921 the downhill race Årebragden is held for the first time. It’s the first large alpine competition in Sweden and it runs from the top of the mountain at 1420 metres above sea level, down to the village.
Johan Malmsten reads about Carl Schlyter in the local newspaper. Schlyter has just built a ski lift in Norwegian Holmenkollen. Malmsten works with carrying skis for the tourists up the mountain and is, understandably, sick of it. He goes to Norway and comes back with a motor and starts building Sweden's first ski lift which is finished in 1940, four months after Germany's invasion of Poland.
Åredalen is closed down during a period of WWII due to safety reasons. Many of the hotels are close to bankruptcy but after the war, in 1949, new owners take over. They restore the hotels and the tourists return. In 1946 Bibbo Nordenskiöld moves to Åre and takes over hotel Granen and Årebo. He is the key factor which leads to Åre hosting the Alpine World Championships in 1954. Together with Serge Lang he also starts the World Cup of alpine skiing.
Åre hosts the Alpine World Championships for the first time. Stig Sollander and Sarah Thomasson win one bronze medal each while Norway, Austria, Switzerland and France are the big winners. Just before the competitions the new car lift gondola Åre Fjällbana is built. The Swedish vacation destinations experience new competition as flying is increasingly available to civilians. Many go on holiday to southern, sunny destinations such as the Canary Islands.
Åre hosts the Alpine World Cup for the first time, thanks to local strong man Bibbo Nordenskiöld. Only men are competing and Frenchmen Jean-Noël Augert and Patrick Russel win the giant slalom and slalom respectively. Sweden has to wait another year to see the first notion of a new Swedish alpine star when a freckled young boy from Tärnaby wins the youth tournament Kalle Anka Cup in Duved for boys aged 13 - 14 years.
The state, the municipality and local businesses invest 550 million kronor in development in a project that aimed towards making skiing available to ”regular people”. The project, which financed the aerial tramway built in 1976, among other things, was aimed at developing several destinations in the Swedish mountains but the Swedish treasury eventually stopped it.
The boy who won Kalle Anka Cup in Duved 1970 has grown up. He wins the World Cup totals from 1976 to 1978, takes a bronze medal at the Olympics in Innsbruck 1976, wins giant slalom and slalom at the World Championships in 1978 and so the story goes on. The interest for Alpine skiing explodes in Sweden thanks to Ingemar Stenmark and 29 000 people comes to see him win at the World Cup in Åre in 1977.
In 1981 the new snow cannons are used for the first time in Åre. Three years later the first chair lift, Olympialiften, is built and the slope Störtloppet is prepared.The first lifts in the Björnen area are built and the economical boom of the 80s makes Åre blossom. The municipal lift company buys the privately owned lifts in Duved and skiers get access to two different alpine systems in one ski pass.
Ingemar Stenmark competes in what will be his last international championship and finishes in sixth place in giant slalom during the World Championships in Vail. He also wins his last world cup victory in Aspen and after being at the top for 16 seasons he ends his career. His dominance affected the whole Swedish society as schools, work places and even the Swedish parliament paused to follow him in competition.
The development of Åre has escalated and the village is growing quickly, much thanks to the ever increasing interest in skiing and snowboarding. Olympiagondolen is put into use. The Elan SCX is released on the market in 1993/-94 and over the next 25 years the carving type becomes the only alternative available because of its superior qualities. Skiing is suddenly faster and even better looking.
Development continues in Åre and the world’s strongest lighting in a ski piste is installed in Gästrappet. Things are looking up and talk of hosting another World Championship is buzzing again. Åre goes for applying for the championships of 2007. And soon, Sweden will also have a new international star who will put Sweden on the world map of alpine skiing again.
Anja Pärson becomes the youngest person ever to win a world cup competition when she rises from 15th to 1st place in slalom in Mammoth. It’s the official start of an amazing career for Pärson who grew up in the same village as Ingemar Stenmark. Over the next 14 years she will win 19 championship medals (seven world championship- and one Olympic gold medal) and take 42 world cup victories before she ends her career in 2012.
Åre hosts the Mountain Bike World Championships in 1999 which includes the events downhill and cross-country.The previous discussions on whether Åre should apply to host the Alpine World Championship again results in the FIS giving that honor to Åre in 2002. Preparations for the Championships starts immediately. Many of the older lifts are replaced and the old Hummelliften gives way to VM6:an and the new Hummelliften.
The new Åre Bike Park is put into use and brings new opportunities. In the summer of 2006 around 200 000 people visits Åre. Free skiing, or New School, has developed rapidly over the last few years, following the pioneers who made free skiing a public interest in the 90s, as well as extreme skiing and in winter time the whole mountain, not just the pistes, is used for skiing.
Åre hosts the Alpine World Championships once again. 60 nations and 350 skiers compete over the course of 15 days in February. The event reaches 563 million TV-viewers and Sweden wins seven medals - the event is a success. Anja Pärson wins three gold and one bronze medal, Maria Pietilä Holmner takes silver and Patrik Järbyn grabs a downhill bronze medal. The Team event also resulted in a second place for Sweden.
The village and the ski system continue to grow much to the delight of the great family of skiers from all over the world. After the successful event in 2007 Åre is once again given the honor of hosting another World Championships in 2014. It is determined that Åre will host the championships in February of 2019. The preparations begin immediately and the World Championship Corporation is founded.
There’s a shortage in housing because the population of the municipality is growing rapidly. There are infinite opportunities for ski-lovers to practice skiing in all forms. The village is a tech cluster and has been voted the fourth best location for young entrepreneurs. It has also become a gastronomic hub with great restaurants and grand hotels: Åre has become a world class skiing resort.