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Photo: Felix Oppenheim

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Marit Sarri keeps it in the family

“Late winter is my favorite time, as this is when the mountains up here are at their most accessible. Not many people can boast of standing on skis at the top of Sweden’s highest mountain on a day like this.”

Marit Sarri, Manager of Kebnekaise Mountain Station, is standing on the summit of the South Peak basking in the glorious sunshine and panoramic views over the mighty massif. She has managed to pick one of her few free days when the weather is at its best.

“Yes, I must admit I don’t get much chance to get up here in the winter on days when there’s not a breath of wind and brilliant sunshine,” she says.

We have just inspected the new mountain shelter, the highest altitude building in Sweden, that is located on a plateau just below the South Peak.

Sarri returned to Kebnekaise in fall 2016 to raise the Swedish Tourist Board (STF) flagship station to new heights. It is almost thirty years since the last time, when she worked here as a receptionist.

“It is pretty amazing to be given the chance to grow operations here, especially as my grandfather Nils Olsson Sarri helped build the station over one hundred years ago. He also became a supervisor with STF.”

Summit trip and extreme skiing

The Sarri family were among the mountain tourism pioneers in the early 20th Century that helped create sustainable year round tourism here in Nikkaluokta.

“I also helped my dad and his brother in driving snow scooter deliveries to Kebnekaise when I was younger,” Sarri says, taking a big bite of her lunch sandwich. 

“Interest in summit trips is simply growing and growing,” she says, “but we can’t focus purely on summits and extreme skiing at Kebnekaise Mountain Station.”

She aims to bring back backcountry skiing, that attracted large groups in the 1970s and 80s here and promote the station as an excellent base for wonderful day outings in the valleys as well.

It is also fascinating that Kebnekaise attracts plenty of tourists from countries such as France, Germany, and The Netherlands. We meet a few of them a little while later. A group of French tourists are nearing the summit, led by mountain guide Walfroy Constant from La Grave.

“We are old pals that have long dreamt of experiencing your wilderness,” Constant says.

Their trip to Kebnekaise started in Nikkluokta via Vistas, Nallo and Singi, with a sledge and tent. Three of them have also chosen snowshoes, a clear challenge along the West Trail.

Sarri passes on her best advice and shows them possible routes to take for their onward travel. As the French tourists have chosen not to take a map and prefer to rely on their senses.

And while they take a breather and a long lunch, we get ready for our trip down, with Sarri as our highly experienced guide.

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