Hemavan and Tärnaby are ski resort towns located in the north-western province of Västerbotten in Sweden. They lie in the beautiful mountainous area of the country, along the border with Norway. A small airport services the towns; the flight from Stockholm takes 1.5 hours, and a bus operates between the two villages, and to and from Stockholm.
If you’re looking for a comfortable stay and easy access to the slopes, Hemavans Högfjällshotell is the perfect choice.” So says the website information for this hotel, to be found on the official Hemavan Tärnaby tourist information website: http://www.hemavantarnaby.com/en/ .This was why we chose to stay at this hillside family- and adult-friendly hotel. It also has a restaurant with excellent fine dining in the evenings, but although expensive, the dishes lack vegetables (apart from potatoes and a few root vegetables) – a characteristic feature of Swedish cuisine.
This is also where an excellent buffet breakfast (included in the tariff) is served until 10 am.
There is also a lounge bar which offers light meals (only at night), also expensive, and only protein and carbs: burgers, pasta and club sandwiches. I was told that as Hemavan is a ski resort, this was the reason for all the protein and carbs: to supply the energy required for all the healthy outdoor exertion!
Magnificent views over the valley and town can be seen through the large picture windows of the lounge, where there are also snooker and Ping-Pong tables, a small library (Swedish only, so bring your own books), a TV, and comfy couches and armchairs. Candles and a fire are lit here in the afternoons, creating a lovely cosy atmosphere. This was where I spent many happy hours writing, occasionally greeted by the odd guest taking a rest from the pistes (30 all told.) There is also cross-country skiing in this area, and snowshoe treks, and fishing. In winter the fishing is done through a hole in the ice – “maggots provided”. In fact the entire infrastructure is extremely well managed, publicised, and organised. Apart from all kinds of competitions, there are guided summit and snowmobile tours, local history walks (Tärnaby only), and dog-sledding. “Learn more about the mountains” includes saga-telling, nest-box building, making a snow monster and reindeer sleigh rides. And loads of fun for the kids: treasure hunts, tracking, competitions and challenges, and photography competitions.
As for the skiing: it is clearly never too young to learn; here is Sweden they begin as soon as they can walk.
The reception desk, manned by friendly helpful young staff, is open most of the day on weekends, and on weekdays for only a few hours in the morning and afternoon/evening. This is where one can find strong coffee and tea, with the addition of soup and bread on weekends, as the restaurants are closed during the day. I made a sandwich at breakfast each morning, and saved it for lunch later when I felt peckish. That and some fruit and nuts in the room kept us going until dinner time.
There are a sauna room each for men and women in the basement of the hotel, and, separately on the hill above the hotel, up a steep wooden flight, more saunas, and hot tubs and a bar-restaurant with a log fire. I have never seen the point of the hot dry sauna cubicle, when the air outside, and central heating indoors in winter is so dehydrating. A steam room makes more sense to me, which relieves the dryness without and within.
The double/family rooms have 2 narrow single beds, and a pull-out couch-bed for 2. Single rooms sleep 2 or 3, and some have double bunks. Each room has a bathroom with toilet, shower, basin, soap-dispenser and towels, and the rooms have TV, coffee- and tea-making facilities and wifi. A great disadvantage – and bad planning – is the location of the better (larger/family) rooms overlooking the muddy back yard of the hotel, where bob-skis with loud motors, and trucks, deliver and offload goods through the back doors, and refuse is tipped into large bins (especially the seemingly endless crates of bottles, from the previous night’s bibulous activities. The bob-skis regularly became stuck in the mud, making a terrible noise outside our window. Bizarrely, the smaller, cheaper rooms face down over the hillside, enjoying the better views.
The après-ski on weekends is terrific, with visiting artists entertaining the guests who can dance and make merry. Unbeknown to us, the Högfjällshotell, or Högs for short, has a reputation as the “party hotel” of the area.
For skiers, the hotel is conveniently situated right by one of the slopes, and near the Naturum, a centre where ski equipment can be pre-booked, hired and bought. The Naturum also has a delightful little museum, with displays of the local fauna and flora, ample free brochures, and books and souvenirs for purchase. The Fjällcentrum is at the bottom of the nearby slope, with a cafeteria and shop. Sadly there are no “sitting lifts” for non-skiers, to take visitors to a high peak for hot chocolate and fantastic views. Those can only be enjoyed by the skiers, and seen from the plane when approaching the little airport.
For those who don’t ski, the hotel is high up above the town, reached by a long switchback road (5 mins by car – or exorbitantly expensive taxi), or a long steep walk (about 30 mins). Bring plenty of books and hobbies, or enjoy a bracing walk in the snow. It was delightful indulging in one of my favourite things, walking in the snow-showers; Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes, silver-white winters that melt into springs…” (from The Sound of Music).
In summer there are many wonderful hiking opportunities in this area, including the famous Kungsleden (King’s Trail). Or there is excellent wifi throughout the hotel – a major plus – allowing for endless writing, blogging, correspondence, and messing around with social media.
Down in the town, down a stumbling shortcut through mud and snow, and then a tarred road, there is an excellent heated indoor pool complex with bastu (sauna), steam room, hot bubble tub (Jacuzzi) and “relax”, pre-booked massages and a café.
Also in the town are a centre with snowmobiles and other winter sports equipment for hire, several expensive restaurants, a Sibylla pizza and hamburger outlet, pubs, bars, cafés, and a small shopping centre with a good ICA supermarket, a few boutiques, an ATM, post office and cafeteria.
On the hillside leading up to the hotel are complexes of cabins available for rent. Below these stands a beautiful little chapel, a peaceful haven away from the quicksilver skiers.
Sånninggården (http://sanninggarden.com/ ) is an old country inn in the nearby settlement of Kilppen – 5 minutes’ drive by car (or expensive taxi) from Hemavan. Dating from the 19th century, this charming rustic farm building is set in the quiet beauty of the Swedish mountains, and also offers accommodation: rooms sleeping 2, 3 or 4 people. In summer fine views over the valley can be enjoyed on the outdoor terrace. Groups of up to 25 people can be accommodated. The inn has a restaurant which offers famous Swedish-Sami fine dining. The delicious, beautifully-prepared dishes are made from local ingredients, including game (reindeer, deer and birds), fish, mushrooms and berries. Starters include quick-cured Arctic char served with Sweet-sour pickled apples, thinly sliced, and three different sauces: apple, Dijon and dill. Gurpi (an egg cooked at only 65 degrees for several hours) is served with whitefish roe, pickled cucumbers and parsnips, and crisp bread, and there is smoked elk with roasted onion, tomato marmalade and creamed chanterelle mushrooms.
Main dishes (our choices) include marinated beef steak with cauliflower puree, butter-roasted potatoes, carrots and red-berry sauce, and braised forest bird (ptarmigan or snow grouse), liver, pork belly and whitefish roe served with red cabbage puree and white wine-marinated root vegetables.
For dessert we enjoyed delicious “hung” yoghurt (rich and creamy) with pureed rhubarb, meringue pieces and an oat crunchie, served in a pretty cup with saucer.
Served by charming young waitrons, our meal was exquisite, if expensive, and we loved the cosy atmosphere and quaint Swedish country décor of the restaurant. At one point we were joined by some “merry” Swedes eager to hear about our country and to tell us about theirs, and a fine evening was had by all.
Spring is the best time to go to Hemavan Tärnaby – March or April, when there are many more daylight hours, and still plenty of snow.