Optimism Abroad – Snowmobiling in Sweden for XX Freeriders Camp
We travelled for 24 hours straight to arrive in the dark of night at the Saxnäsgården Hotell in northern Sweden. Come morning, I would finally be snowmobiling in Sweden — exploring all new terrain and foreign snow that lie far across the big pond and 13 lines of longitude from home. But for the moment I was just excited to go to bed, so I could wake up and see the land in the light of day.
Prior to leaving home, I had been warned that the Scandinavian country was in the midst of an unusually dry winter. I had chosen not to accept the reports. I was here now, and maybe all we needed was one good storm. After all, things can change overnight—and often do. But I wouldn’t find out until morning.
Photos by Joakim Kostet
Sweden has been at the top of my sledding destination dream list since I started riding in the mountains.
Working as a sled guide for the past seven years at home in Revelstoke, BC I have crossed paths with many Swedish sledders. There are some general rules about Swedes in my experience. They are talented riders who can’t sit still for a minute. Swedes are stoked at all times. And they like to burn a lot of gas in a day, regardless of the conditions. The Swedes I have met are up for any kind of adventure and I would be lying if I said that they don’t like to party. Every time I’ve guided a Swedish group, it ends up feeling like I’m riding with a group of buds I’ve known for years—friends who share a respect for the mountains and a desire to push further and farther. These people have made me want to meet more Swedes. And eventually of course, to visit their homeland one day.
I knew long before my trip that the terrain in Sweden is like an anthill compared to the mountains in the interior of BC. But knowing that fact made me even more curious about the homeland of these talented and optimistic riders. I wanted to discover the land from which this passionate breed of humans comes forth.
And so came my wish. After years of nagging my friend Stephanie Laroy-Schwartz to bring me on one of her Swedish riding trips, the call finally came. I was headed for Saxnäs, a little community almost 800km north of Stockholm and less than 100km east of the Norwegian border. There, along with my local shred buddy Shelly Ferguson, I would act as a guest coach at the XX Freeriders Camp—a well-organized event that brings more than 60 women from all over the European continent to one place to share their love of sledding.
A Revelstoke Shredder Finds True Passion for Her Sport in Sweden
At the hotel, I was the first up in the morning. With a cup of steaming coffee in hand, I was ready to get after the day. The hotel was amazing in the light of day: a five-star accommodation with a beautiful location and amazing service. Unfortunately, the snow conditions were the opposite; the view outside the huge panoramic windows in the great room displayed my fate.
It was cold and the snow windblown. For miles on end I could see scrub brush and birch trees lacking coverage. The only piles of snow in the parking lot looked like they had been pushed up over a month prior. There were not many people around, let alone sleds or trucks. I went for a short walk to explore the village and had various locals tell me that this was the worst winter they had seen in 30 years. Great. And so the story goes that my optimism about a conditions reset was misplaced. But, like they say, adversity breed creativity. Whoever they are, I was about to test their theory.
After a meet and greet with the rest of the jet-lagged coaches, we were handed the keys to some brand-new Ski-Doo 850 Gen 4 Summits—compliments of dealers, Lindblads Motors and B. Lundstrom. The sleds still had tags on them. And I couldn’t help but think oh my, there sure are a lot of scratchy looking trees out there on the horizon. And I was quite certain that the rocks to match were only nanometers below the surface. I sure hope they have insurance on these babies. Either way, it was time to ride. We had one day to scope out the terrain before the girls would arrive for the clinic.
Venturing into New Terrain
The wind was blowing as we ventured out to explore the hills across Lake Kultsjön. As we crossed the lake the wind grew stronger. In Mother Nature’s amusement, she spun our sleds around backward and blew us across the lake with no hope of getting back until the wind died down. Instead, we travelled for over 100km exploring all the nearby areas with our fantastic tour guides—Johan Lundström, Viktor Lindblad, Erika Lindblad and Carro Ohlsson. We found all kinds of terrain that would be great for the clinic. There was just one problem; the maximum depth my probe entered into the snow the whole day was just 60cm
The lack of snow didn’t seem to matter though. Just like every Swede I’d encountered prior to this trip, the prevailing attitudes were of positivity and excitement. We climbed into ice caves and sidehilled hardpack. The first scratches were put on brand new machines as we boondocked through scrubby birch. And we climbed the highest plateaus. And we saw a whole new country through the lens of the backcountry—a country full of respect and natural beauty, where reindeer roam and wood-fired hot tubs fill the air with steam. I wouldn’t trade that experience for a million bucks, despite the lousy conditions.
Optimism Abroad – Snowmobiling in Sweden for XX Freeriders Camp
By the following morning the ladies had arrived, and we spent the next four days getting extremely creative and searching out every patch of snow that wasn’t bulletproof. In the end it was a success. There were smiles for days, great food, laughter and a lot of wheelies. The ladies were fearless and naturally talented and I might add—very, very bright. I am quite certain those women exited the womb with the ability to pin it. It didn’t matter that it was overcast; there was enough light reflecting off all the fluorescent outerwear for days on end. It was like being surrounded by a pack of tropical Skittles all day long. I was also very excited that I managed to survive five days straight of riding without bending any metal or breaking any plastic.
And so this trip has made me understand why Swedes make such desirable companions. They have a true passion for snowmobiling; one that burns so deep that even the shittiest snow in 30 years cannot extinguish. One that ignites your spirit. Passion so strong cannot go unshared with like-minded souls, no matter the distance.
From the Swedish people I have learned that being able to do something you love is the greatest gift. We should take full advantage of that ability every chance we get, regardless of poor conditions or other adversity. Sometimes you have to reach far and wide to find some fresh snow and in this case I definitely searched far. Although I didn’t find the freshest of snow, I did find a fresh outlook on my love of this sport. Even though I have the most incredible backyard, I will never stop the pursuit of exploring the world through the eyes of her mountains.