Last Updated: 02 October 2013
It costs to be on top
Copperhill Mountain Lodge, situated at an altitude of 730 meters, is the highest hotel in Åre. Even when it comes to architecture, interiors and service, Copperhill is at the very top. In addition to the 112 rooms and suites, the hotel offers an exclusive spa, ski-in ski-out facilities, its own ski lift and approaches to Åre's system of slopes, a helicopter service and two White Guide listed restaurants.
When it opened in 2008, Copperhill had taken two years and cost over SEK 750 million to build, encountering numerous delays, considerable delivery problems, runaway costs and a change of ownership along the way. The whole purpose of the building had also changed.
It was almost a miracle that the project was completed at all. That it would transform into a real success story was perhaps even more unexpected.
From serviced apartments to a mountain hotel
Property Manager Lars Nyander is always happy to talk about the hotel's complicated development at the summit of Mount Förberget.
"The two developers who started this project, both Swedish guys, initially planned an exclusive apartment hotel and the project started with a bang", says Lars. The American architect, Peter Bohlin, was awarded the task of designing the building and interested parties were invited to sign up for an apartment. However, sales were slower than expected and once the money started to run out, the project was put on hold.
A couple of new owners, two Dutch investors, showed up at this point. They changed the concept into a genuine mountain hotel. An additional floor was added and the designs were changed to make room for the facilities that were needed.
They asked Swedish architects AIX to develop Peter Bohlin's vision based on the new requirements and to turn it into reality.
"The hotel rooms were delivered in ready-made modules that could be assembled quickly and easily on site", Lars explains. At least that was the idea. Unfortunately many of the modules had been packed poorly or were left out in the weather without protection.
Moisture damage was therefore inevitable. 77 hotel rooms had to be repaired and decontaminated, while additional rooms had to be built on site. It was in connection with this work that Lars became involved in the hotel. At the time I was working as a supervisor for one of the construction companies in contracted to work on the project.
"I understood straight away that this was a special building. I've seen many great projects started here in Åre, but this was something else. Every day I drove to work and seeing the hotel appear in the valley, I couldn't believe it was there for real. It was a kind of dream. I knew I wanted to stay here."
The copper connection
Once the hotel was finished, the first season went reasonably well, but it was not enough to cover the enormous debts that had been accrued. By the summer of 2009, the hotel was inevitably on its way to bankruptcy — and majority owner Frans Scholte suddenly passed away from TB.
But as the hotel reached its darkest hour, the receiver found a buyer who boasted a great deal of financial muscle. Norwegian billionaire Petter Stordalen and his hotel chain, Nordic Choice Hotels, bought the hotel for SEK 190 million. It was a good deal for Stordalen and a guarantee for the continued existence and development of the hotel.
Large investments have been made in the building since the Stordalen takeover. Amongst other things, the spa facility is twice the size and now offers two swimming pools, a sauna, hot springs and panoramic views of Åreskutan.
The threat of nature
The wind is the greatest threat to Lars and his colleagues. The hotel is exposed to the full strength of the wind, and for a building with such a large amount of glass, the situation can become very dangerous when the wind is blowing over 60m/s. The automatic doors stop working and entire facades can be covered in ice, if you are unlucky.
"It’s difficult to keep an even temperature indoors during the storms", says Lars. "Suppose it's there's a westerly gale blowing, the rooms at that end of the hotel will get cold, so we raise the temperature. But then the other rooms on the other side will be too warm."
But despite it all, the many positives at Copperhill outweigh the negatives for the property manager. There is no mistaking that Lars really likes the hotel.
"None of the other mountain hotels have this level of quality throughout, down to the smallest detail. There have been no compromises made here, not in the interior, in the installations or in the choice of materials."
Finally, we have to ask that inevitable question when you are talking to the property manager of a large hotel high up in the mountains. Does Lars ever feel anything like Jack Nicholson in The Shining?
"Well no, winter is our peak season so you never get that really isolated feeling. But sure, when we are closed in May and there's only me and my friend Ola, the janitor, here it can be a little desolate. But no, you don't go crazy."