For people used to the steeps of Switzerland, the scale of France or the powder of Canada, Scandinavia isn't the most obvious place to go on a winter holiday. But when you actually sit down and look at the facts it's puzzling why this should be so. Finland, Norway and Sweden all have a long tradition of alpine sports; each country has long, harsh winters; and each country has produced some of the best skiers and snowboarders the world has ever seen. And here's the point: if Scandinavia has a stronghold on the sports on an international level, then surely it must have some good places to go sliding around the mountains? Well, yes. And while it's often said that the only reason the Finns, Norwegians and Swedes are so good at the shorter descents (such as slalom skiing or halfpipe snowboarding) is because they don't have any decent mountains to ride, it's simply not true. This is a myth that anyone who has been to Riksgränsen or Hemsedal will be able to quickly dispel. True, they're low, and neither of them can even come near the vertical drop of most of the Alpine resorts, but their northerly latitudes mean they enjoy high snowfall and a low snowline, and there are some surprisingly large areas with some surprisingly fun terrain. Think of it like this: would you prefer one or two truly leg-burning runs in a day's skiing (for example, a top-to-bottom ride in Tignes), or would you instead like to have several, pleasant descents in a day?

conditions

Scandinavia experiences long, harsh winters, but since the majority of resorts span a large longitudinal distance there are correspondingly big regional variations in weather. The main factor here is the daylight – during midwinter, sunlight is a scarce commodity and many people find this off-putting. As Volcom team manager Jan Proust points out, during the deep midwinters, “Scandos are used to flat light and icy conditions; anything better than that is a bonus.”

when to go

Unfortunately it's the dark months of midwinter when Scandinavia gets the best snow, but if you like skiing or snowboarding in the slushy, spring conditions, then a trip to Scandinavia will be right up your street. Spring is an ideal time to visit – the smaller resorts and funparks begin to come into their own, and there are long hours of daylight, particularly in far northerly resorts such as Riksgränsen. In actual fact, if you go late enough (from the end of April onwards), you'll be able to ski under the midnight sun, a fantastic boast in itself!

off piste policy

Refreshingly for anyone used to the restrictive policies of Canadian or North American resorts, you can pretty much go where you want here. You're on your own if you venture off the beaten track though – make sure you're prepared with all the relevant safety equipment, and know how to use it.

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