The world’s oldest complete skiing equipment was found in 1924, in a bog close to the village of Kalvträsk in Västerbotten by a Josef, a Hugo and a Tyko, who had decided to dig a ditch around the bog. The skis, which are made of pine, are 2.04 meters long and are estimated to be 5,200 years old. Only one pole was used at that time, and the one beside the skis in Kalvträsk measured 1.56 meters. Thanks to the marsh’s low oxygen content, the skis and the pole are in surprisingly good condition and are now housed in Västerbotten Museum.
1100s - 1645 CE
During this period, pilgrims travel from all over Europe to Nidaros Cathedral, Norway, which was built in Trondheim in 1070 to 1300; on the way, they stop at Åre’s old church. The counties of Jämtland and Härjedalen belong to Norway but, after centuries of war in the Nordic region, the Second Treaty of Brömsebro from 1645 saw Norway giving the region to Sweden. After this, the number of inhabitants in the village of Åre grows slowly but surely. However, a few centuries remain until Åre starts its journey towards becoming the tourist destination it is now.
The Swedish King Charles XI visits Åre. He stays on a farm in Nordhallen, where the farmer lets the king try out the first pair of skis he has ever seen. However, he is not impressed. After all the years of war, the people of Jämtland and Härjedalen are less than enthusiastic about Sweden’s royals and, home again, Charles XI notes in his diary that “there’s not much to be done about Jämtland and Härjedalen”.
n the 1800s, Åre slowly becomes a destination that attracts people from industrialized towns and cities where the air is poor. These visitors are nicknamed “air tourists”, as the majority come to Åre to enjoy the fresh air. They mainly come in the summer months and stay with local residents, as there are as yet no hotels in the area. A new road is built in 1835, linking Jämtland to Tröndelag in Norway.
The railway is built and suddenly Åre is also connected to Stockholm and other Swedish cities in the south. The original idea is for the railway to pass the other side of the mountain, past the mine in Huså. But MP Gunnar Eriksson thinks otherwise, so the railway is built through Åre. King Oscar II opens the railway in Storlien on 21 June, giving Åre “tourist destination status” and summer visitors flock to the village.
Åre’s development as a destination continues, and the first summit cabin is built in 1892. The octagonal construction is built in Mattmar and provides protection from the weather; it is based on a Swiss model. More buildings appear on the slopes of Åreskutan and the village expands, but winter tourism is still undeveloped. Most visitors still come to the village during the summer, to walk and enjoy the scenery.
Kristina Hansson builds Åre’s first hotel, which is called Hotell Åreskutan. Locals now know it as Hotell Åregården. It remains in the same place as where it was first built, now housing both restaurant and hotel guests. Hotell Åreskutan is the first of many hotels that will be built and established in the coming decades.
Engineer Carl-Olof Rahm travels to the Alps in 1906 and returns to Åre with an idea that will increase interest in winter holidays in Åre. Rahm’s ambition is to make Åre “Sweden’s center for winter sports” and, among other things, he wants to invest in building a funicular. Which what happens: Åre’s funicular is built and opens in 1910. Bergbanan, as it's called, starts in Åre’s square and is still in use today, over a century later, and is one of the village’s most iconic buildings.
The winter season becomes more attractive to visitors, greatly due to the funicular. Annual winter sport competitions, such as bobsleigh, are organized and many singles come to Åre for parties and romance. The first Årebragden downhill race is held in 1921 and is Sweden’s first alpine ski race, starting from the top of the mountain, an altitude of 1420 m, and finishing down in the village.
Johan Malmsten reads an article in a local paper about a Herr Schlyter, who has just built a ski lift in Holmenkollen, Norway. One of Malmsten’s jobs is to carry tourists’ skis up the mountain and he is understandably tired of it. He travels to Norway, returns with a motor and starts to build Sweden’s first ski lift, Lundgårdsliften, which is finished in 1940 at a cost of 10,000 krona. This is four months before Germany invades Poland.
Parts of the Åre valley are closed for security reasons during some of World War II. Many of the valley’s hotels go bankrupt. But after the end of the war in 1945, the future looks lighter. New owners take over businesses in Åre and the tourists return. In 1946, Bibbo Nordenskiöld moves to Åre, taking over the Granen and Årebo hotels. He is one of the driving forces behind Åre hosting the Alpine World Championships in 1954 and, together with Serge Lang, he is involved in starting the Alpine World Cup.
Åre hosts the Alpine World Championships for the first time and it is also the first time that release bindings are used in competition. Stig Sollander and Sarah Thomasson each take home a bronze medal for Sweden. The Åre Fjällbana gondola lift is finished just before the World Championships, but Swedish tourist destinations now have competition due to the expansion of air travel. Many people choose to travel to the warmth of the South rather than holidaying in Sweden.
Åre first organizes an Alpine World Cup, two years after the first World Cup ever held. The village’s “strong man” Bibbo Nordenskiöld is one of the people responsible for the men’s races in Åre. Frenchmen Jean-Noël Augert and Patrick Russel win the giant slalom and slalom, but Sweden must wait a while for success. The first indications of potential come in 1970, when a freckly young man from Tärnaby wins the Kalle Anka Cup for 13-14 year olds in Duved.
The Swedish state, Åre Municipality and local businesses invest a total of 550 million krona in developing the “Åre project”, which aims to make skiing accessible for “ordinary people”. Among other things, the project finances the construction of the cable car that is completed in 1976. It contributes to the development of a number of Swedish ski resorts, but eventually the state turns off the flow of money from its coffers.
The boy who won the 1970 Kalle Anka Cup in Duved has grown up. Ingemar Stenmark wins the overall World Cup from 1976 to 1978, takes bronze in the Innsbruck Olympics in 1976, wins the giant slalom and slalom in the Alpine World Championships in 1978, and so it continues. Interest in alpine skiing absolutely explodes in Sweden thanks to Stenmark’s success, and 29,000 people come to Åre to see him win the 1977 World Cup.
The first lift, Olympialiften, opens and the now classic downhill, Störtloppet, is prepared. Snow guns had been used in Åre for the first time three years previously. The first lifts are built in the Björnen area and the economic boom of the 1980s is visible everywhere in the Åre valley. The municipal company that runs the ski field in Åre buys the lifts in Duved, giving visitors access to two ski systems with one lift pass.
Ingemar Stenmark races in his last international championships, finishing sixth in the giant slalom in the Alpine World Championships in Vail. He wins his last World Cup race in Aspen and, after being at the top for 16 seasons, he ends his amazing career with a total of 86 World Cup victories. His total dominance affected the whole of Sweden, as schools, workplaces and even the government took a break from work to watch him race.
Åre’s development is booming and the village expands rapidly, largely thanks to a generally increasing interest in skiing and snowboarding. The Olympia gondola opens and, outside Åre and Sweden, the Elan SCX is produced and released on the market for the 1993/1994 season. This is the first carving ski available for general use, starting the development that has made alpine skiing what it is today.
The strongest lighting system ever installed on a ski slope is put up on Gästrappet. Plans for the future are being made everywhere, there is talk that Åre will host another Alpine World Championships and investments start in efforts to win the honor of hosting the championships. And soon Sweden will also have a new star in the alpine heavens. The timing couldn’t be better.
Anja Pärson is the youngest person ever to win a World Cup race when she climbs from 15th to 1st place in the slalom race in Mammoth. This is start of a fantastic career for Tärnaby daughter Pärson. Over the next 14 years she will win 19 championship medals and 42 World Cup races, before retiring in 2012. 1998 is also the year a twin tip ski is first used in King of the Hill in Riksgränsen.
In 1999, Åre hosts the Mountain Bike World Championships, with races in downhill and cross-country. Previous discussions on hosting another Alpine World Championships continue. This result is that in 2002, the FIS awards them to Åre and preparations immediately begin. Many of the older lifts are removed, with the VM6 and the new Hummelliften replacing the old Hummelliften.
After many years of focusing on winter tourism, Åre’s summer attractions are also developed. The new bike park opens in 2005 and the village has 200,000 visitors in the summer of 2006. Extensive construction takes place in the village prior to the 2007 World Championships. A new railway station is built, commercial area doubles and a 130-meter-long tunnel replaces the 30-meter-long bridge across the E14 that was previously the lower part of Störtloppet.
It is finally time to put all the planning into action: over 15 days, 350 skiers from 60 nations compete in the Alpine World Championships in Åre, and television broadcasts reach 563 million viewers. It is a real Swedish success story, with seven medals. Anja Pärson takes one bronze and three golds. Maria Pietilä-Holmner takes silver and Patrik Järbyn takes a rare Swedish bronze in the downhill. Sweden also finishes second in the team event and the World Championships’ organization celebrates a successful championships.
A great number of rental and housing association accommodation was built prior to the World Championships. This development does not stop in the 2010s and the slope system continues to expand, to the joy of all ski enthusiasts. After its successful World Championships in 2007, Åre is once again given the honor of hosting an Alpine World Championships in February 2019 and the World Cup Finals in 2018. The Åre 2019 company is founded and, three years later, the organization has around ten employees.
The village once again has growing pains, with is a lack of housing in the village due to increasing interest in living in Åre. The mountain and slope system offer endless opportunities for ski enthusiasts and the area has become a home to growing businesses. Åre Municipality is blooming as its entrepreneurial spirit is rewarded. A number of top class hotels have been built and Åre is, with its restaurants and shopping, a world class ski resort.