This dramatic arrival is the epitome of this off-the-beaten-track destination, which first-timers and small children are better off avoiding. Riksgränsen is not for the faint-hearted – expert skiers, ski tourers and those looking for some of the best heliskiing in Scandinavia will find plenty of opportunities. The award-winning Niekhu Mountain Villa, a few hundred meters from the main 600-room resort, is known to a wealthy international ski elite, who fly their private jets to Kiruna airport and then get flown by helicopter to the remote outpost. Unlike well-known heliskiing destinations in North America, Riksgränsen is only a short flight from European capitals, with no risk of jet lag. A helicopter can whisk you up the steep slopes of Kebnekaise, Sweden’s highest peak, in 15 minutes.
Call in experienced powder hounds
But you don’t have to be a wealthy daredevil to experience the best of this northern skiing gem. The resort still has a lot to offer for small budgets, the 15 marked trails representing only about a third of the ski area accessible by the ski lifts. There are an equal number of off-piste trails that provide soft powder well into the season, and for the rest of the winter they are enough to challenge the most experienced powder hounds. Then, ski touring on the many surrounding peaks, starting with Nordalsfjället, the next mountain, which can be climbed in ski boots in half an hour on a well-marked track, to be rewarded with a view of the one of the fjords.
Poor visibility prevented me from reaching the top of Nordalsfjället and I never dared to tackle the station’s notorious falls, such as Sheriffen (the sheriff) or Käps (the cap). But the view from the top of Riksgränsen at midnight was quite breathtaking.
After nearly two hours of night skiing, the sun has indeed set, dipping behind Norway’s Bukkerfjellet mountain in the distance. But it did not bring darkness. The surrounding peaks turned a peachy pink and, as the slopes around us stopped shimmering, we still had over half an hour of skiing to do before the lifts closed – Riksgränsen is the secret to skiing in Swedish summer that just keeps on giving. Najs!