A-Z of Resorts: Riksgransen

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The Independent Travel

About 150 miles inside the Arctic Circle in Swedish Lapland lies a winter-sports resort called "State Boundary". It may well be unfamiliar to you even when its name is translated into Swedish, as Riksgransen. Unless, that is, you are a keen snowboarder. For skiers, the resort's six lifts and its tree-less, undulating slopes – with a vertical drop of 400 metres – wouldn't seem to justify the long trek north. But for snowboarders, the trip to Riksgransen has become something of a pilgrimage, its name sufficiently iconic to have been purloined by a self-styled "straight-edge, hardcore skate punk band" from Cardiff.

About 150 miles inside the Arctic Circle in Swedish Lapland lies a winter-sports resort called "State Boundary". It may well be unfamiliar to you even when its name is translated into Swedish, as Riksgransen. Unless, that is, you are a keen snowboarder. For skiers, the resort's six lifts and its tree-less, undulating slopes – with a vertical drop of 400 metres – wouldn't seem to justify the long trek north. But for snowboarders, the trip to Riksgransen has become something of a pilgrimage, its name sufficiently iconic to have been purloined by a self-styled "straight-edge, hardcore skate punk band" from Cardiff.

Skilful promotion is partly responsible for this; and the late, February-to-June season helps, too. But the key to Riksgransen's appeal is its unusual slopes, whose dips and crests naturally provide the sort of "fun-park" environment that other resorts struggle to create.

Riksgransen is unusual in many other respects. The most northerly resort in Europe, its slopes overlook an Arctic wilderness that stretches beyond a frozen lake as far as the eye can see. Its location at a national frontier, on a single-track railway that runs from Sweden's Baltic coast to the Atlantic port of Narvik in Norway, gave it an importance that warranted the building of a railway station bigger even than Stockholm's a century ago.

As early as 1930, Swedish Railways built a ski hotel, a wooden building run by a youth organisation for much of its life. It survives (unlike the station) as the resort's main centre. The hotel's bedrooms still have a youth-hostel flavour; but in the basement is a restaurant, Lapplandia, which serves the finest food I have eaten in any ski resort (main courses from £12). Maybe the skiing can't justify a trip to Riksgransen. But you wouldn't want to miss the Lapplandia.

Info (mainly in Swedish): www.riksgransen.nu

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