Are, the prestigious host station of the Worlds, is an exception in Sweden, where skiing is practiced with family, in small villages lost in the mountains.
This traditional model is challenged by large companies that want to adapt to international demand and rely on Are-Stockholm's bid for the 2026 Winter Games.
How can a country whose climax painfully reaches 2,117 meters above sea level produce so many alpine champions? In an attempt to answer this question, one has to make a leap into the great Swedish north, nearly a thousand kilometers north of Stockholm, along the Norwegian border.
"A small ski country with great skiers"
Lakes as far as the eye can see, some whitened nipples and a small fishing village. Here is Tarnaby, 480 inhabitants, who gave birth to five famous riders cumulating 130 victories in World Cup, including two multiple Olympic champions: Anja Parson and Ingemar Stenmark, raised according to the national legend reported by the latter, "With lake fish and potatoes who consent to grow in the corner".
"We are a small ski country with a lot of good skiers, a bit like Slovenia, I think"he said on February 12 during one of the few press conferences he gave at Are, the current World Ski Championships.
From the top of its thirty lifts, Are would be in the category of low-altitude mid-stations in our Alps. With its dozen hotels, train station and small guest houses dotted along a huge frozen lake, it is here a megalopolis of winter sports. Displaying the title of Scandinavia's largest ski resort at the tourist board – even if impartiality led Norwegians Lillehammer, the host of the 1994 Winter Games, to a comparable line.
Ingemar Stenmark, the other king of Sweden
"Here, a station, it can be three lifts around a parking lot, with toilets for campers, a bus stop and if possible a village not too far", says former champion Luc Alphand, who is married to a Swede and whose daughter, Estelle, runs in the Yellow and Blue Ski Team. "She tried her luck in Team France, but it did not work. Here it's cooler, he says, we trust the kids who have to manage to train in the dark, with three poor slalom pickets, but no adult to monitor their physical preparation. "
In the dark ? The winter in the far north is as long as the days are short and the ski-loving kids train after school, using spotlights or even the extra powerful headlamps on the grille of the parent cars. "It forges the character and it's used to evolve without seeing where we put the spatulascontinues Luc Alphand. Moreover, many Swedish or Norwegian victories were obtained in bad weather conditions, snowfall and fog disturb them less than others. "
Just stand at the foot of the area reserved for beginners Are to understand. No instructors' ballet care for the little ones, no worried moms: the slips of cabbage slip alone, back with a carpet the small track they fall down under the eyes of their parents as encouraging as casual. From 3 years, or 4 for the less bold, we ensure them with a long harness, which allows parents to leave them free. And hop on the slope. "Here skiing is natural, kids do it every day, often they go to school with, in addition there is not only the alpine: we do cross-country skiing, joëring (skier pulled by a horse, Ed) "continues Luc Alphand.
This village ski, very far from our ski factories, is the trademark of Skistar, a Swedish company in full development that intends to sell this model to all Europe, especially Germany and the British Isles. Already owner of five sites, including Are, an airport under construction for foreign customers and sports shops, this Stockholm-listed group wants to turn Scandinavia into a white gold mine.
It is based on a wider range of activities than ours. The location of the resorts along frozen lakes in winter makes it possible to increase the number of activities excluding alpine skiing: cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, but also kiteskiing (skiing pulled by a kitesurf kite), joëring, fatbike (mountain biking on big tires) ). "This diversity is a big argument, and in addition they have less snow problems than we do, concludes Luc Alphand. It is clear, we will have to count with them. "
Are-Stockholm compete with Milan-Cortina d'Ampezzo
After a cascade of defections, two files remain in contention to organize the Winter Games of 2026. The Olympic Committee will decide in June between Milan-Cortina d'Ampezzo (Italy) and Are-Stockholm. The rarity of the Swedish Olympiads, reduced to Stockholm-1912, gives the Scandinavian candidacy a head start. But the 600 km separating the site planned for the alpine skiing (Are) of Stockholm (Olympic stadium, ice tests) give an advantage to the Italian file.
Jean-François Fournel, in Are (Sweden)