Famed professional skier Ingemar Stenmark, who was born in Sweden's Lapland, won more international races than any other alpine skier in history during the 1970s and 1980s. It was a Swede, the late Fredrik Ericsson, who was the first to ski the three highest mountains in the world. Swedish adventurer Ola Skinnarmo holds the world record for the fastest trip from Russia to the North Pole (he did it in 48 days of skiing in 2003), and in 2007, Olympian ski racer Anja Pärson became the first athlete in history to win gold medals in all five disciplines at the Alpine World Championships.
So what is it about Sweden that yields fearless skiers and attracts powder seekers from throughout the world?
Let's start in Åre, which hosted the 2007 World Championships and has been heralded as one of the best ski resorts in the world. Softer than the Alps, Åre welcomes skiers of all levels, with enough black runs to challenge those with advanced skills, plus plenty of easy slopes for beginners. Åre boasts over 40 lifts and 880 vertical meters of skiing as well as Europe's longest zip line park, if you're looking for a different sort of thrill.
Late in the ski season, serious Swedish skiers make their way to Riksgränsen, the world's northernmost resort. At this tiny Lapland outpost, located about 150 miles north of the Arctic circle, the exotic calls. Up is down, night is day, and ski season seems to never end. Small as Riksgränsen may be (the resort has a mere six lifts), it's loved for its off-peak powder: prime skiing happens from late February through June, when, thanks to the resort's northerly latitude, the sun never sets. You can embark on a guided ski tour under the dazzling midnight sun, or go heli-skiing; at Riksgränsen, it's affordable and an awe-inspiring way to see a piece of Europe's last remaining wilderness.
Other places to channel your inner Stenmark in Sweden include Sälen, a sprawling resort that is the country's largest, and Funäsdalen, known for great powder.