Being a seasoned skiier, I normally head for the French or Swiss Alps in winter.
Iconic peaks, world class pistes and a lively apres ski atmosphere keep me going back year after year.
But eager to try something different, I agreed to pack my salopettes and head to Scandinavia.
Though famous for flat-pack furniture, blonde-haired beauties, ABBA and Stieg Larsson crime novels, Sweden is not so well known as a ski destination. There are, however, 13 major ski resorts in the northern region often referred to as the Swedish Alps.
I flew into Sweden’s Ostersund airport from London Heathrow via Stockholm to spend three nights in Are (pronounced or-a).
Located in Jamtland, Sweden’s second largest province, Are is Scandinavia’s main mountain city. The ski area stretches across six main resorts from Duved in the west to Are Bjornen in the east, and the Alpine World Championships were held here in 2007.
A cluster of colourful wooden buildings make the area look like a large village, while the vast lake Aresjon and the smooth-topped Areskutan mountain provide a scenic backdrop.
I checked into the large ski-in ski-out Tott Hotell, located at the bottom of the Tottliften lift, servicing several red and blue runs.
Clean lines, glossy surfaces and bright colours characterise the hotel lobby, while other communal areas are more traditional in style. Vintage skis, beaten-up leather sofas and reindeer-skin throws make the place feel distinctly Scandinavian.
If my days were to be spent hurtling down mountains, my evenings would be enjoyed in the lounge bar, hot tubs, sauna and spa.
My spacious, en suite room featured basic cooking facilities, mini bar and a view of the lake.
Keen to hit the slopes, I got kitted out at the on-site Skistarshop before meeting my Skistar instructor. The most noticeable difference skiing here compared to France or Switzerland is the terrain.
Similar to the Scottish Cairngorms, the black, tree-covered, Neolithic-looking mounds are a sharp contrast to the jagged peaks which reach as far as the eye can see in the southern European Alps. The slopes were also much quieter and lift queues were non-existent.
The pistes had certainly exceeded my expectations, but would the food and drink be equally as impressive?
Veering off the piste at lunchtime, I dined at Buustamons restaurant, halfway up Areskutan, followed by an aquavit tasting session in the cellar at the adjoining Buustamons Distillery.
The boutique production house is one of the smallest legal distilleries in Sweden. Gently warmed by the locally sourced, herb-seasoned spirits, I returned to the pistes until sundown.
There are also plenty of non-ski activities to try in Are. But that evening it was time to relax and try some traditional Swedish food. I dined at former farmstead Hotell Karolinen at Taljstenskrogen. Karolinen offers a pick-up from your hotel by snowmobile or dog sled, but I made the short journey along the lake by car.
Inside the cosy chalet, we were served a dish similar to fondue. As elk and beef steaks sizzled on hot stones, I sipped wine and chatted to new-found friends.
Tori Mayo was a guest of Visit Are, Sweden and Neilson Holidays who offer seven nights at the three-star Are Fjallby Apartments in Are Village from £379pp. Price includes return flights from London Heathrow, return resort transfers and accommodation. Based on a January 20 2013 departure. For more info or to book, visit neilson.co.uk or call 0845 070 3460.
For more information on ski holidays to Are, Sweden visit skistar.com