What do Ingrid Bergman, Britt Ekland and Greta Garbo all have in common? They are of course all famous actresses and they all come from my newly discovered Sweden. I have had the good fortune to visit most countries in northern Europe but Sweden was the missing piece of my Scandinavian jigsaw and I leapt at the chance to complete the picture when I was invited to attend a FAM trip in April.
This was to be a game of two halves with the first couple of days centred around Sweden’s premier ski resort of Are, a short one hour flight north of Stockholm. I went a day early to get a day’s skiing in which turned out to be an inspired decision with door to door skiing from my hotel, Copperhill Mountain Lodge. The conditions were fabulous with an abundance of fresh snow across a huge ski area. The rest of the group arrived from England that evening and so the silliness began.
Our second day continued on the snow, or should I say ice. In the morning we experienced an extraordinary snow mobile safari across the frozen lakes and tundra wilderness following our impressive guide and owner of Camp Are, Johan Landorf, who surely must have one of the best jobs in the world. Lunch was followed by rally driving on ice (yes, you really had to pinch yourself) at the world renowned Kall Auto Lodge which the late great Colin McRae had a hand in setting up. Our return to Are morphed into a treasure hunt with a heady cocktail of zip wires, sledging and an après-ski with live bands. An exhausting, exhilarating and extraordinary day!
Day three, we packed our bags and waved a tearful but extremely grateful farewell to our Ylva, our wonderful Are Convention Bureauhost and flew south to Stockholm to take up residence in the Sheraton. The next two days was peppered with a series of show rounds demonstrating an impressive variety of unique and unusual venues and hotels pandering to all group sizes, budgets, and styles. Common to all was an overwhelming friendliness and flexibility with everyone we met inspiring confidence in this cities enthusiasm and ability to deliver a great solution.
Day four was our final day and our programme host Christian, from Stockholm Convention Bureau, was determined to make this a day never to forget. A beautiful spring day with the sun shining and the sky blue, we headed to one of Stockholm’s 14 islands to meet our Ridid Inflatable Boat (RIB) which would take us out to the archipelago and explore the other hundreds of islands at ridiculous speed. But no, myself and two others were removed from the group and ushered round a corner to a floating pontoon to be greeted by the indelible sight of a helicopter approaching low over the still waters. This was our lift and lift-off we did, high over Stockholm for a breathtaking flight over the cityscape and out to rendezvous with the rest of the group on a tiny island.
My four days in Sweden have left an enduring impression of a beautiful, dynamic country furnished with an expansive range of activities to entertain and a diverse portfolio of venues to accommodate. Large conferences and small incentive groups would be equally at home in Sweden and both would certainly be embraced by a splendid Swedish welcome and friendliness. I look forward to returning!
Hotel in Are: www.copperhill.se