Ski weekend at Kittelfjäll

_MAL0001, originally uploaded by Michael A. Lowry.

I had a great long weekend of skiing at Kittelfjäll. Aside from the minor bus accident on the way home, the trip was just pefect. Joining me on the trip were Lotta, Matt & Lisa. We took a sleeper bus up on Thursday night, arriving early Friday morning at Kittelfjäll. We changed into our ski clothes and hit the slopes around 11. That first day was quite cold and overcast, so we made a couple of trips to the warming hut to sit by the fire and sip hot cocoa.

In the evening after the lifts closed, Matt & Lisa and I walked about a mile down th road to the “Handlar'n” grocery store, where we bought food for two dinners. After a quick sauna, we had a dinner of pasta with meat sauce and crashed for the night.

Saturday was a bit warmer and brighter. We were also well rested, so we all felt more confident on the slopes. Kittelfjäll had had record amounts of snowfall in recent weeks, so we could not have asked for better snow conditions. Most of the terrain at Kittelfjäll is unprepared, so we spent much of our time blazing our own trails through the trees on untouched powder — really fun, but also quite exhausting.

Saturday afternoon after the lifts closed, I sat for a while in the hotel sauna. There, I met Stina and Johan, two friendly folks whom I learned are fellow Lindy-hop dancers. Sometimes it really is a small world!

Dinner on Saturday was roasted chicken with Basmati rice. After dinner, Matt and I went to the bar at Kittelparken, where we chatted with the owners, who also run a heli-skiing operation during the day. A woman whose name is Ulla (I think!) played guitar and sang.

Sunday was even better than Saturday. The temperature had risen to just six or eight degrees below freezing, and the sun shone all day long. We spent much of the mornning skiing the far Eastern side of the mountain, accessible from the top of the Jan Express lift. No one else was skiing over there, so we had the area to ourselves. The top of the slope was a wide-open expanse of gently sloping terrain with sparse scrubby birch trees. But lower down the terrain plunged into a couple of powder-filled ravines, each lined with an assortment of birch and pine. The ravines were like half-pipes in a way — lots of fun, and thanks to the powder, forgiving of mistakes.

After an exhausting morning, we cruised down to the bottom of the mountain and had a bite of lunch at the bar at Kittelparken. There, we ran into Micke, the heli-skiing guide we had met the night before. On a whim, Matt and I decided to go heli-skiing after lunch. We went first to the top of a peak on the Southwest side of the valley, essentially opposite the valley from Kittelfäll. (I don't remember the name of the peak, so if you know it, please remind me! ) The top was a bit steep and somewhat icy in places, but once we got lower down the snow was a bit softer. Or to be clear, there was more wind-blown powder on top of the harder stuff beneath. It took a while to learn to read the snow conditions quickly. I tried to turn on patches of powder rather than the icy patches but it wasn't always easy to tell one from the other. What seemed at first to be soft often turned out to be hard and slick. There was a lot of hardened wind-blown snow up there too, making some bits quite bumpy. Lower down it was just powder galore, and lots of trees. My thighs were burning by the time we skiied onto the frozen lakebed for our rendezvous with the helicopter.

To conclude our heli-skiing adventure, we flew up to the top of the saddle above the area we had skiied in the morning. We then just skied down until we reached the part of the ski area accessible from the lifts. Heli-skiing is a lot of fun, and I'm glad I tried it. I'd recommend it only to stronger skiers though, mostly because of the wide variety of terrain and snow conditions one is likely to encounter.

After we had paid our heli-skiing bill, Matt and I headed back over to the other side of the mountain again, where we quickly hooked up with Lotta & Lisa. Kittelfjäll is a relatively small place, so if you get separated from your skiing buddies, you'll probably run into them again before you know it. I saw Lisa skiing down while Matt and I were on the lift on the way up. When we found them, Lotta and Lisa were sitting on the edge of a ridge, resting before their descent. The four of us did a few more runs together as a group, catching the last few runs and soaking in the last rays of the setting sun. Kittelfjäll is a blast. I can really recommend it to anyone who enjoys skiing on unprepared slopes.

After another quick sauna, I joined the group for dinner; and a bit after that, we packed up the bus and hit the road, homeward bound and expecting to sleep the whole way to Stockholm. As you know from my previous entry, our evening was not destined to be that simple. But all's well that ends well. Be sure to take a look at all of my photos from Kittelfjäll.

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