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Toppstugan - Sweden’s highest café

Sweden’s highest café

Ludvig Tjärnström and Leslie Monroy operate Sweden’s highest café. It’s by no means easy, but they serve home-made cookies, waffles, and claim that they have the dream job despite (or is it thanks to?) the totally crazy weather conditions at the summit of Åreskutan.

In 1892, it was time to begin building what was to become Sweden’s highest mountain hut, the mountaintop hut on Åreskutan. It isn’t difficult to imagine the challenge then to build a hut at 1,420 meters altitude in one of the world’s nastiest climates. Åreskutan is located like a magnet for the low pressure patterns of the Atlantic Ocean, which gladly and often make their way over the mountain range at Åre’s altitude. Building material was carried up by horse and sled. It cannot be said that the hut has had an easy existence. Wind gusts of almost 60 meters per second and world-class ice coverage are not uncommon. As well, horrid thunderstorms make their way over the peak of Åreskutan relatively often, resulting in the hut burning down on several occasions.

From the beginning, you had to walk all the way from the village, a rather strenuous hike of 1,000-plus meters of altitude. But from 1910, when the mountain railway was inaugurated, you began walking up at 556 meters above sea level. The big change happened in 1976, when the cable car was inaugurated, taking you up to the plateau just 800 meters from the mountaintop hut. Today, winter visitors can go skijoring behind a snowmobile or tour ski the last section up, while in the summer, there is only one up and that’s to walk.

Swedish fika

Operating Sweden’s highest café is not simply any other workday. There is electricity up here, but no water, so everything we need, we have carry up ourselves – the home-made cookies, coffee, milk, etc. Everything that comes up has to also be carried down. So, trash is put on our backs and taken down by snowmobile.

The kitchen is very simple, but instead of plastic, the couple is focusing on recycling paper plates and mugs.

- We always have to be ready, says Leslie.

When the weather suddenly allows us to open, there has to be newly baked fika and all fresh food like cream and milk has to be bought the same day.

From Mexico to Åre

Ludvig is born and raised in Åre and has spent a lot of time in the mountaintop hut during his childhood, when his parents and his grandmother and grandfather ran the café for many years.

- My mother worked at the summit and father down in the restaurant Stormköket, which they ran at the same time. I went between both and ate ice cream, nobody had any idea how much I ate. I know every stone up here, says Ludvig, who began visiting the summit as soon as he could walk himself.

Leslie and Ludvig met in Mexico, where she is born and raised. Love brought her to Sweden and they now live in the Åre area, together with their 4-year old son.

- Before I moved here to Sweden, I had never eaten a waffle or even seen snow. I had never thought that I would move here or let alone that I would speak Swedish. I’m really happy that it turned out the way it did. Her family has never visited, but she usually tries to explain to them how it looks. But they still have difficulty understanding, they’re scared of snow and cold, laughs Leslie.

It´s a dream job

Even if it is a huge challenge to run the business with such hazardous factors that come into play, Ludvig and Leslie show constantly how much they love their work by serving fine fika and other goodies high up on a mountain, where you have a 360-degree panoramic view over the mountains.

- This is really the dream job. The morning walk in all types of weather. Of course, it can sometimes be very difficult. But when you haven’t been open for a few days, you long for it. To sit in the sun and drink a cup of coffee, while it’s cloudy down in the village – that’s pretty nice, says Leslie.