Åre’s past prepares it for the future

Åre, Sweden has hosted more than 100 FIS World Cup competitions. Stars such as Ingemar Stenmark, Anja Pärson, Hermann Maier, Lindsey Vonn and many other greats in international ski racing have celebrated victories in Åre which today is a venue beloved by racers at all levels. 

The first step toward Åre becoming an international ski resort was when Åre organised the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in 1954. Those are known as Norwegian Stein Eriksen’s Championships. The then 27-year-old legend became the first ever racer to win three gold medals at a single Alpine World Ski Championship. Sara Thomasson, an Åre native, and Stig Sollander from Frösön represented the Swedish team with style, winning bronze medals in the ladies’ slalom and the men’s alpine combined.

The Swedish National Arena in Åre today is a venue with modern floodlighting and snowmaking systems and infrastructure that houses both the Åre 2019 organising committee and the Swedish Ski Association’s alpine activities. Against that backdrop, it is easy to forget all the effort that was previously required to stage competitions.

It is not just snow-making and equipment that have improved over the years. Transporting racers, officials and volunteers, today taken care by a lift with a capacity 3’200 people per hour, used to be a logistical nightmare. The Olympic lift, replaced by the so-called World Champs 8-seater in 2006, was only built in 1984 and the gondola in 1989. Before that, the only lift available was the Åre cable car that went to the start. Everyone had to be transported by bus to the cable car and then by cable car to the start. 

In 1984, the Gästrappet and downhill slopes were built, and the race arena was moved to its current site. The first downhill FIS World Cup race was staged in 1986. 

Since the mid-1980’s, Åre has hosted FIS World Cup events almost on an annual basis. At the end of the 1990’s, the discussions began about Åre bidding for the World Championships in 2005. 

The second FIS Alpine World Ski Championships were ultimately awarded to Åre, not for 2005 but for 2007. They were a huge success, even though the competitions were postponed for the first three days for weather reasons. Sweden won seven medals, of which three gold and a bronze went to Anja Pärson, a silver to Maria Pietilä-Holmner, and a surprising Swedish men’s downhill bronze to Patrik Järbyn. In addition, Sweden won silver in the nations’ team event.

Over the years Åre and its organisation have collected valuable experience. Spring of 2014 saw the election of Åre as the host of its third edition of the FIS World Ski Championships in 2019 and only eight months remain until the world’s ski racing elite return to Åre to fight for the medals. For Åre, the World Ski Championships and World Cup events are an important catalyst for the village’s development.