Q. I would like to take my partner and two teenagers on a skiing holiday during the May-June half term. It's an important family holiday as the teens will soon go off the idea of holidaying with us elders. I've been looking into Riksgransen, in north Sweden, and would appreciate some help in planning the journey. The options I have found so far include flying from Stansted, and taking the train to Riksgransen. Any advice on travel, prices and accommodation would be most helpful.
Lucy Smith, near Peterborough
A. These days, seasons are almost optional - we can pretty much choose which climate we want to experience at any time of year if we're prepared to travel. Not surprisingly, skiing in the summer is increasingly popular. Chile, India and New Zealand all offer exciting packages, but Riksgransen, in the far north of Sweden, has the advantage of offering skiing under the midnight sun, the result of its being 300km within the Arctic Circle.
The small town of Riksgransen (00 46 980 40080; www.riksgransen.nu) is located up by the Norwegian border, below a treeless mountainside and in front of Lake Vassijaure. It claims to be the most northerly ski resort in the world and delights in turning the image of skiing upside down. The summer season lasts from mid-May to late June, and on some nights lifts stay open until 1am.
You can fly from Stansted to Stockholm Skavsta airport with Ryanair (0871 246 0000; www.ryanair.com), with returns currently costing around £140 at the end of May. Skavsta is 80 minutes from Stockholm's central station and coaches aim to meet each Ryanair arrival; a single fare is Skr130 (£9.50).
From the station you can catch the night train to Riksgransen. Prices start at Skr599 (£44) one-way for a couchette with a journey time of 18-and-a-half hours. Tickets can be booked in advance with Norrlandstaget (00 46 771 26 00 00; www.connex.se). Most trains depart around 6pm and arrive around 12.30pm the following day. By taking the overnight train you will be able to watch the Swedish countryside slip by in the early morning. You'll see unspoiled landscapes of forests and lakes, and may glimpse elks, bears and reindeers. The train moves at a leisurely 48km per hour, as it winds its way through Ostersund, Vilhelmina and Arvidsjaur, crossing the Arctic Circle at Gallivare.
Alternatively, SAS (0870 60 727 727; www.flysas.com) flies from Heathrow or London City to Stockholm Arlanda, with returns currently costing £95 at the end of May. SAS connects from Arlanda to Kiruna, the nearest airport to Riksgransen. Transfer to Riksgransen (135km) is one hour 45 minutes by bus.
There's only one hotel at the resort, the Riksgransen (00 46 980 40 080; www.riksgransen.nu), which offers everything from luxury suites to basic rooms and self-catering apartments. It also has a shop, doctor, alpine spa (with gym, massage, therapists, sauna, pool and outdoor hot tubs) plus the award-winning Lapplandia restaurant. Three nights' bed and breakfast starts at €210 (£145) per person, €315 (£218) for a week. Alternatively, you might consider a four-bed apartment which starts at €463 (£320) for three nights or €684 (£474) for the week.
If you don't fancy organising the trip independently, packages are available through Original Travel (020-7978 7333; www.originaltravel.co.uk), which offers return SAS flights from Heathrow to Kiruna via Stockholm, transfers and four nights' b&b. Inevitably, this is more expensive - five days during May half term would cost £875 per person, but would save you the hassle of organising each leg. You would also receive a 10 per cent discount on lift passes and ski hire.
In May and June, you can ski daily, 10am-4pm, and twice a week (often Wednesday and Friday) in the midnight sun, from 10pm-1am. Conditions are generally good in May, if a little wetter than in winter. Temperatures go from minus 5C at night to 7C by day. Ski passes cost Skr300 (£22) a day for adults, Skr250 (£18.50) for under-16s; both include midnight skiing.
There are plenty of other things to do in Riksgransen, such as snowmobiling around to Lake Vassijaure or golf in Bjorkliden (30km from Riksgransen, where the snow has already melted). You can also try dogsledding with huskies for Skr1,050 (£77) per person (three hours with coffee break in a Sami tent). Heliskiing is also available from Skr1,100 (£81) per person.
For something less energetic, you can visit the Gabna Sami settlement, where a Sami, Nils-Anders Kuhmunen, shows visitors around the reindeer enclosures and talks on Sami (or Lapp) culture in his tent. E-mail Nils-Anders on firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
Also popular is the Rombak-tour, which involves a train ride and wilderness walk to the Norwegian fjords, then a boat to Narvik followed by a spectacular train ride back to Riksgransen, all for Skr800 (£59) per person.
Finally, there are some summer skiing options closer to home, such as Les Diablerets (00 41 24 492 3358; www.diablerets.ch), a glacier in Switzerland, near Gstaad. There are also several glaciers in France where you can summer ski, including Val Thorens (00 33 4 79 00 08 08; www.valthorens.com). Lifts are only open if snow conditions are right, so these options are best considered last minute. Details from the Ski Club of Great Britain: 020-8410 2009; www.skiclub.co.uk.
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