Ski, sledge, sleigh - Winter fun in Sälen

Posted by ~Summer~ on December 29, 2010
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With its 112 slopes, Sälen is a popular ski resort area in Sweden and if you are a adrenaline junkie, you should definitely visit it someday. During the winter of  2010, we decided to visit this place despite it was a 11-hours drive away from Karlskrona. The good news was: There were so many Singaporeans (over 40 of us) who were fearless of the minus 25 degrees Celsius weather and were fanatical about trying out skiing while we had the chance. Thus, we decided to book a bus to take all of us there, which was a smart choice because the husbands could avoid the torment of driving half a day on slippery, snow-filled roads and the wives had someone to help relief them of looking after a cranky baby on the gruelling journey. 

We stayed in Ski Lodge at Lindvallen, which we heard was family-friendly and suitable for people with kids. Well, Angel was only 1 year old then and not allowed to ski yet. So besides snow sledging, which considering how fast dusk fell in winter, all snow-related activities had to stop by the early evening, I had to find other means of entertainment for my girl too. Well, I had to say that Ski Lodge was the perfect choice for us. It was connected to the Experium in the adjacent building through a covered walkway, which offered facilities like a bowling arena, arcade, shopping boutiques and a fun-filled swimming pool which featured exhilarating slides, a wave pool, jacuzzi pools and kids section with balls, water guns and playground.

The apartment we stayed in was simple and cosy. We were able to cook everyday since there was a supermarket less than 200 metres away. Best of all, we had a view that faced the slopes! That meant that we could watch people ski outside our window and have a good laugh when some newbie fell head over heels or crashed into the bushes. Some newbie like me.

Like I mentioned, the temperature was below minus 20 degree celsius on average every day. Luckily, I had brought enough clothing to wrap Angel into a mummy and in case it wasn't enough, there was a winter sports shop that sold a range of adults and kids' clothing in the Experium. Actually I had nothing to fear because since she was a winter born baby, she was in fact more adapted to the cold than I was. Which meant that I had to wrap myself up in layers and layers of clothes till I looked even more pregnant than pregnant.

Though we arrived late the first night, we wasted no time in the second morning and went out to greet the snow right after breakfast. You know what, we turned into the cousins of Rudolph in less than 5 minutes with our bright red noses. Even jw, who was probably the best at surviving the cold. In spite of that, other than making sure we had more warm clothing on and took frequent breaks indoors, we were not deterred to indulge in some snow sledging fun. A friend lent us this really cute sledge which was meant for small children, it had a seat coupled with a backing and belt to ensure that the baby did not fall sideways. So, all we needed to do was put Angel in it and pull it along using the rope. Since our stroller would for sure get stuck in the thick snow, this served as a good method to transport the baby from place to place.

There was this slope nearby our ski resort which made the perfect slope to snow sledge, especially for small children. It was steep but not too steep, lengthy but yet not too long to reach the bottom. I did it with Angel probably around ten times. Anyway, she is really a baby who loves thrills and excitement, so she usually doesn't shun away or cry when we take her on rides like this. I'm glad for that because that meant that mummy could have her share of fun in the snow too while daddy was skiing away, instead of staying indoors to watch Barney. Let's hit the slope again, my baby!

Luckily for us, we managed to catch hold of the Snögubben who was parading round the slopes. There, Angel's first photograph taken with a snowman!

Despite the fact that I was initially hesitant about trying out skiing, since that meant that I had to leave Angel for that cold, lonely, forlorn-looking white slope, it turned out to be one of the best experiences I had ever had. Along with two other friends, we took up skiing lessons for three days. Besides the added bonus of the charming instructors, skiing turned out to be an adrenaline rush and fun-filled sport like no other. On the first day, I probably fell at least ten times and made myself wonder if I was ever going to stop landing on my poor butt. I couldn't control my skis, couldn't turn properly and didn't even know how to brake. Once, I went at such high speed downwards, not knowing how to stop myself, that I thought I was going to crash into my apartment window which was right in front and say hi to my hubby and baby in the most unique way. 

The thing is, persistence and determination does pay off. After some tips from my hubby and some self-reflection on the first night, it was like the light bulb suddenly lit up in my mind and somehow, I just got it. On my second and third day, I did not fall at all. I could do the S turn, I could control my skis and I could brake! Unlike how I frantically used my ski poles to help me to brake on the first day (which was wrong but I couldn't help it!), now I didn't even need to use them at all except to gain some momentum at the start. I was really indeed so proud of myself. Ok. That didn't mean I was ready for the black slope, or even the blue/red one. I felt contented to be on my favourite colour slope, for now.

Lindvallen was where the first McSki opened. Yeah, the smart McDonalds had opened this in 1996 where skiers could ski right up to a ski-through window, get the order without having to leave the slope or take off their skis. Way cool. Well, when you have a baby, you'd still prefer to sit inside and put her in the baby chair while you enjoy a McNuggets meal, upsized.

This was the indoor swimming pool that I mentioned earlier. We made two trips to the pool because we thought it was really fun and enjoyable for Angel. Ok, for ourselves too. There was this sort of lazy river pool that I liked, all you needed to do was to relax and the current in the pool would make you whirl round and go in circles around the pool. That were a couple of times that we got 'stuck' in it, because every time we tried to make our way to the exit, we would be sucked back into the pool. There were also a couple of exciting slides for us to try, like this long and winding one which you had to go in a float, and another one which you could go in superman style, front down, and just slide your way down the twisting and somewhat pitch dark slide. That was awesome, too bad Angel was not allowed to be a superbaby or I would have let her do it too. 

Every night, we would hang out at the arcade and children's playground where there were some fun games for Angel, and us, to play. I think we played almost every game there was, from basketball to motorbike racing to smash-the-duckies-with-the-hammer to shooting games to table hockey to Whac-a-mole, it was no wonder my arms were aching after that.

Angel also took part in her first bowling session ever! Well, not that she could really walk up to the bowling lane and throw out the heavy bowling ball. In the first place, she couldn't even walk yet! However, she had a super daddy who would carry her in one arm, let her touch the bowling ball, then squat down, bend over and bowl, letting her feel like that was indeed her own bowling game. What I couldn't really understand was how I could still lose when my hubby had a handicap.

You know, Angel was the only kid who went to the bowling alley. We tried to ask our friends to join us for a game, but most of them were either sick or tired, and those who came on the first night didn't bring along their kids. On the second night, no one came to join us at all. While I understood that a lot of kids had strict routines and they had to stick to it by hook or by crook, that wasn't going to happen in our family because we believed that instead of us changing our lives to suit our baby, she was going to blend into our lives somehow. 

Ok, that doesn't mean we will bring her to clubs or to movies and hang out till 1am every weekend. But it does mean that we had some leeway especially when it came to vacations and we allowed her to have some fun too. Of course, if she was tired, we would naturally let her have a good night's rest. But if she was wide awake and craving for some action, what's stopping us from letting her have a good time with us on this happy holiday?

The highlight of our Sälen trip had to be the dog sleigh ride, which was likely a once in a lifetime experience. We heard from friends who went that it was going to be super duper wuper cold, so we not only wrapped ourselves in at least 6 layers of clothes (yeah, 3 mummies now!), but we also brought along goggles and heat packs. I bought a neck warmer for Angel and myself from the winter shop, which came in pretty handy during the dog sleigh ride as I could use it to cover the whole of our faces, leaving only the eyes exposed.

When we first saw the huskies, we thought they looked really skinny and they were howling like they had not eaten for days. After that, we realised that it was because they didn't want to stay put and they were more than eager to set off asap. Wow. Jw said that was what these dogs were born to do. To keep running and pulling heavy sleighs. That didn't change the fact that they still looked skinny to me. But as I eyed the rest of the sleighs which were going to carry as many as three sturdy, brawny Europeans, I suddenly felt that two petite Asians and a really tiny baby was going to be chicken feat for the dogs.

There were a total of about 8 sleighs in a group, excluding our guide who travelled on a snow mobile instead. That meant that for every sleigh, we had to pick our own driver from the group. Well, naturally that was my hubby, leaving only me and my baby to sit down in the freezing sleigh. While it was a golden opportunity for jw to have such an experience, it was definitely not an easily achieved one. For one, his goggles kept blurring up and he had to get them out of his way, leaving his eyes exposed to the cold winds. Also, whenever he needed to brake or veer the sleigh, he needed to step his foot into the thick snow.

What was rather interesting was that as we predicted, our sleigh was really relatively light and thus, our seven huskies did not have a hitch gliding through the snow. In fact, they were able to run so fast that we ended up overtaking the sleigh in front of us. Which you were not supposed to do as the sleighs had to stay in a single line. That meant that when jw wanted to try to stop the sleigh, he would end up stepping so hard that his whole lower leg would be immersed in snow up to the knee level. Try doing that for 1 hour and you pretty much will know how it freakingly cold it was.

As for me, I couldn't say I had it easy either. Firstly, the sleigh, which seemed to be made of wood and rugs, was not as warm as I would have liked. I felt all my ten toes go numb within the first half an hour. I mean, seriously numb that I couldn't even twitch them. Secondly, since we were literally on ground level, that implied that not only was it freezing cold, we also had to endure the harsh winds and the constant splattering of snow, which sometimes felt like ice bits, onto our faces. Thirdly, I had a baby lying against my chest and I was constantly worried about her breathing because all I could see were her eyes. At one point, she went motionless for some time and my heart almost skipped out of my mouth. Then, I realised she had just dozed off. Gosh. She actually slept more than two-thirds of the journey and didn't even act up at all. Some other kids who couldn't withstand the cold actually cried the whole journey. Good job, my little one!

When the guide told us that we would have a break in between, we thought that maybe we could go into some warm hut and have a cup of to-die-for coffee. To the contrary, all we did was stop for at most 3 minutes, took a couple of precious shots with our dogs, then we were on the way again. What a break, I probably couldn't even finish my Kit Kat in time!

Well, although I had mentioned the arduous part of the experience, there was also the breathtaking part of it. That was the awe-inspiring scenery we saw along the way. W-o-w. It was beautiful beyond what my vocabulary could describe. Although it meant risking my hand turning into ice, I had to keep snapping away at the splendor of the snowy environment and the brilliant sunset against a white backdrop. I took so many pictures and videos that I lost count. When I first realised that my camera could not withstand the cold and the battery kept dying, I almost went berserk. Thankfully all I needed to do was put it beside the heat pack in my pocket for a couple of minutes at regular intervals and the battery worked just fine. Phew.

Thanks to our amazingly obedient huskies for the unforgettable experience. You should see them listening to jw's commands of 'Go' and 'Stop'. When he first said them, I was contemplating whether they would heed and if we should try Swedish instead. Not that I knew how they sounded in Swedish but we could trial and error. To prove me wrong, they actually did as per told from the start! We were really flabbergasted and pleasantly surprised by how well-trained these creatures were. Three cheers for the doggies!

That marked the end of a wonderful winter holiday in Sälen. We definitely had some great times here and had the opportunity to try out new experiences that could only exist in dreams back in Singapore. I now relate better to the story in Eight & Below and my eyes get misty when I see the poor huskies trapped in the snow. Well, who knows, we might come back again next year! Till then!

To see more of the world, visit my Travelogue page here.


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