Cold War Relic Conscripted To Serve Skiers

The Cold War was far from a fun time. Once in while, though, we can appreciate a few of the things that came out of it – for instance, if not for the Cold War, who would drill into the impregnable granite rocks of the Swedish Jämtland to create a military installation? Only Cold War-era defense budgets could provide for building something like that; a facility that would bear an estimated cost of SEK 800 million (over EUR 80 million) were it to be built today.

On the other hand, we should appreciate the end of the Cold War; it was when the decades-long standoff ended that the underground complex near Gällö rapidly become an expensive liability – to the point that the military packed up and left a few years ago.

Finally, we, the skiers, should appreciate that the regional government of Bräcke Municipality, where the Gällö complex is located, suddenly realized: “Gee, the abandoned tunnels in the rock would make a perfect ski-tunnel!” The main job – ensuring the year-long insulation of floors, walls and ceiling – was already done by a combination of Mother Nature and the grit of military engineers.

Meet project MidSweden365. 1.4 kilometers of snow tracks (both classic and freestyle, of course), constantly maintained at -4 Celsius. The tunnel itself has a maximum inclination up to 8 degrees and a width of eight meters in most places. Most impressively, the tunnels feature record-breaking seven-meter-high ceilings (compared to the de-facto standard 4 meter in other ski-tunnels). Projected capacity – up to 200 skiers simultaneously. It even features a shooting gallery for biathlon athletes!

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It costs some SEK32 million (around EUR 3.3 million) in total to convert an underground facility into a ski-tunnel. Compare that to the perhaps best-known ski tunnel, the DKB Skisport Halle in Oberhof, Germany, which ended up costing around EUR 14 million. MidSweden365 estimates that it would need around 10,000 visitors per year to break even.

The location is strategic – but not in the military sense of the word. Charlotte Kalla, Stina Nilsson, Emil Jönsson, and many other top Swedish skiers live within short driving distance – much closer than the already existing ski-tunnel in Torsby. Tens of thousands of other skiers, organized or otherwise, are also nearby. Jämtland and Härjedalen are, indeed, the Swedish cross country skiing capitals.

Even better, the Norwegian skiing stronghold of Trondheim is not much farther (Norway still lacks a single ski tunnel!)

All of this is pointing at potentially a very successful venture. The ribbon cutting ceremony is set for September 23rd. Start booking your daily passes – or yearly ones.

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