by James Streater @maverixsnow
As a Snowboarder I’d heard about Riksgränsen (Riks) but I knew next to nothing about the place. Surely it’s just another resort that a few pros gravitate to at the end of the season to close out their video parts or grab a few last minute shots. It cannot be anything that special. I was more wrong than I could possibly imagine.
Our journey started with a flight to Stockholm, Sweden from Gatwick, UK. We then needed to jump on a domestic flight to Kiruna, one of the local airports to Riks.
Our arrival at Kiruna was the start of a throwback to another world. One of the smallest airports I’ve ever been to. We grab our luggage and promptly jump on a bus through a snowy wilderness littered with tiny towns, random reindeer grazing next to the roads and nobody around. The bus takes just over two hours to Riks. We pile out and head up to check-into our apartments for the week.
Riks is located at the very northern tip of Sweden, some 200km north of the Artic Circle. You can literally see, walk and snowboard into Norway, which is super cool.
There is a general feeling of chilled out freedom. The resort is open from the end of February to the end of May, so it misses a lot of the usual winter punters holidays.
A sparse amount of houses and apartments litter the area with a train line cutting through the middle that transports people and iron ore on a regular basis. It’s the tunnel over this train line thats created some iconic snowboard moments over the last decade and it was a must for us to build our own feature to session this spot.
So how did our week of adventure pan out?
Day 1 — Pistes
The resort in terms of lifts is pretty small with just 5 serving the area, yet the terrain offers a vast amount of fun shredding due to its mellow pitch and being littered with natural features and various rocks that create a playground for snowboarders. The pistes were practically empty and we were riding perfectly groomed runs until the lifts closed and we didn’t queue for a lift all day. On piste facilities are pretty sparse. You have one main cafe on the hill, but with the ability to ski in meant we could head back to home base for lunch or a snack. Our first day was a casual shred around the resort finding pockets of untracked powder and soaking up the awesome scenery.
In the evening we setup a stall feature near our apartments and shredded that until sunset. After a few drinks in the bar most of the guys managed to capture the Northern Lights. Not a bad first day.
Day 2 — Heli
The big draw for most riders is the heli. You’ll see them buzzing around the resort hitting up the 500 available local peaks. We had an afternoon slot that gave us 5 drops over 3 hours. We get picked up by a local mountain guide who works for Mountain Guide Travel and he directed the pilot to the best spots.
It’s a wild adrenalin rush as you bust out of chopper, hit the deck so your head doesn’t get chopped off by the rotors. You then grab your kit and ride down to the waiting heli.
The views are amazing and the whole experience is one to remember and certainly a big tick off anyone’s bucket list.
Day 3 — Skidoo
We developed a specialist product this year. We asked our guide to take us to some sweet local peaks. We would park at the base of a peak and jump on the back of his skidoo to be dropped off at the top and shred down. This is awesome fun and feels like something straight out of a movie. These guys are experts and found some epic runs that we wouldn’t even have looked at.
After a couple of big peaks we headed to a mountain hut for lunch and a high speed skidoo back to home base via a frozen lake that allows you to open her up to over 60km/h!
This is where we’ll be developing a lot more of our adventures in the future. You get to explore a lot more of the surrounding area and develop a whole new set of skills.
Day 4 — Off Piste
The weather rolled in on day 4. We had planned for a splitboard hike to a local peak, but the light was pretty flat, so we took the opportunity to scope out part of the route for a future tour. This would take us to a secluded mountain hut. A simple and safe route considering the conditions, but afforded us the opportunity to work on the more neglected skills of navigation.
We often overlook the value of the basics of mountain navigation. If you want to explore more interesting terrain you need to be able to look at a map and estimating the time the get somewhere, finding your way in poor visibility and relate what you see on a map to reality.
It was great fun to have the time and explore and boost our skills. After this day some of us headed to the spa within the hotel to recharge and relax for the afternoon.
Day 5 — Off Piste
When travelling back from our Skidoo adventure I’d seen some decent tree runs across the lake. Although not masses of vertical we could splitboard over the lake and then find some decent untracked snow for some mini shred fun.
This also gave the crew the opportunity to test their change over skills. A much neglected aspect of splitboarding. We ended up completing 6 change overs that day, with most guys managing between 4–6 minutes to swap over their gear and be ready to shred.
After shredding those trees we headed back for a welcome coffee and pastry from the local supermarket.
Day 6 — Norway Adventure
For our last day we ventured into Norway. There is a local resort called Narvik. On Saturdays it opens at 10am, so we jumped on a bus and 45 minutes later we were in Narvik.
It has some wicked cat tracks and a mini snow park with some sweet rollers, so it was great to get back into some more traditional park and piste shred. We spent most of the day there and then headed back to Riks on the most amazing train. That afforded us some awesome views and a relaxed wind down for the day. The added bonus being the train stops really close to our hotel, so a nice easy walk to finish the day.
Overall Riks provides a really unique experience that cannot be matched in other resorts in Europe. You get a taste of adventure and how pro-riders live their lives without having to travel to BC or Alaska. The resort and the terrain is quiet yet friendly which is perfect for aspiring snowboarders. Definitely a resort to add to your bucket list.