Our history

A Ski Resort in Sweden with a legendary history

More than 80 years of history, culture, luxury and frivolity – Sälens Högfjällshotell 1937–2018

J W Klüver, who established the hotel in 1937, was a bold entrepreneur. He would have approved of our ambitious plans to take the business to new heights. Our hotel has a history like no other, though we say so ourselves.

Thommy Backner

The 1930s. Norwegian entrepreneur finds the perfect hotel location

J W Klüver was a bold young entrepreneur with a dream: to build a luxurious ski lodge in Sälen. Having studied snowfall patterns and temperature conditions, he chose Sälen on account of its long ski season and excellent snow cover. But Klüver’s preferred site was above the treeline and had no road access. Another problem was how to pay for this ambitious venture.

1935. Wallenberg invests

So Klüver invited some of Sweden’s leading financiers to visit Sälen, among them Jacob Wallenberg. The only way to clear a route into the mountains for the visitors was to put a dozen men to work shovelling snow for a fortnight. The financiers arrived by sledge, and Klüver outlined his spectacular plans to invest millions in this location at the back of beyond. A French chef served suckling pig and lamb roasted on an open fire, and Klüver was promised financial support for his hotel project.

The newspapers of the time described the plans for a spa hotel in the mountains, eight kilometres (five miles) from civilisation, as the boldest undertaking in the history of Swedish tourism. The hotel cost 1.5 million kronor to build, equivalent to 300 million kronor in today’s money.

1937. Sälens Kur- och Högfjällshotell opens on Easter Sunday

The great and the good came from all over Sweden to attend the hotel’s opening – the gentlemen in tails, the ladies in long dresses. Their main interest was not so much skiing as to enjoy a taste of the good life and breathe the healthy mountain air.

The hotel in 1938

The hotel in 1938

Klüver buys a 17th-century log cabin

Klüver purchased land for footpaths, sports fields, fish ponds and hunting cabins. He leased land for grouse shooting and bought a 17th-century log cabin – now Gammelgården Hotell & Restaurang – to serve as a waffle house and destination for ski excursions.

Safe haven for royalty in wartime

In spring 1940, Nazi Germany invaded Denmark and Norway. Amid great secrecy, Crown Princess Märtha of Norway and her children took refuge at Sälens Högfjällshotell. One of those children is now King Harald V.

The 1950´s. Klüver forced to abandon his life’s work

Klüver ran into financial problems. In 1950 a local businessman, Per Daniels, took over the hotel in partnership with Ove Ohlsson. To attract visitors during the summer, the new owners brought in reindeer and horses. They also built a private ski lift for hotel guests and a roof over the swimming pool in the Winter Garden (Vinterträdgården).

1964. The hotel is sold to Torsten Widing

Torsten Widing, a leading hotel proprietor from Falun, ran the hotel from 1964 to 1983 and expanded its amenities. Thanks to its indoor swimming pool, the hotel could now be rented to the local health authority for use as a convalescent facility during the summer.

Historien om Högfjällshotellet på 50-talet i Sälen

The 1970´s. Onkel Jean – gourmet restaurant

Torsten Widing, the hotel owner, had worked for the Danish chef Jean Iversen and promised him that if he ever opened an upmarket restaurant, it would be named after him. And so Onkel Jean opened in 1978 with a grand ceremony attended by many dignitaries. The restaurant offers fine dining with spectacular mountain views.

1979. Bostadsrättsföreningen Högfjället builds a timeshare apartment complex.

The 1980´s. The hotel becomes a pleasure palace

The property was acquired by Mats and Erik Paulsson through their company Lindvallen, now known as SkiStar. The new owners expanded the restaurant and entertainment offerings, turning the hotel into a pleasure palace.

1989. Storfjället built: 109 self-catering apartments in a ski-in, ski-out location.

The 1990´s. Thommy Backner arrives in Sälen

The current owner, Thommy Backner, took over as manager of the hotel to which he was to dedicate his life. None of Thommy’s predecessors stayed at the helm for so long. With his constant stream of exciting new ideas, Thommy has become a prominent and popular figure in Sälen.

Thommy Backner is a lifelong winter sports enthusiast. In his youth he had a successful skiing career in both freestyle and speed skiing.

1993. The hotel hosts Folk och Försvar for the first time

The annual Folk och Försvar conference, the premier meeting place for the Swedish security and defence policy community, has been a regular fixture at the hotel since 1993. Prominent guests over the years have included King Carl XVI Gustaf, Crown Princess Victoria, prime ministers, defence ministers and NATO secretaries general.

1995. 21 apartments acquired from the Lillehammer Olympic village.

1999. The Backner family company acquires Sälens Högfjällshotell

The Backner family took full control of the business through their company Topeja (an acronym of the names Thommy, Petra and son Jack).

Gammelgården

Gammelgården

2002. Gammelgården Hotell & Restaurang acquired

Things had come full circle, since it was Klüver who moved the building to its current location in 1945, to serve as a waffle house and destination for ski excursions.

2008. Scandinavian Resorts established

A chain of iconic hotels with a truly Scandinavian ambience.

2014. Clüwerbyn luxury suites

Clüwerbyn is an exclusive development comprising eight well-appointed, state-of-the-art apartment suites adjacent to the hotel.

2017. Sälen Högfjällshotell celebrates more than 80 years of enjoying life, the great outdoors, fine cuisine and personal service.

2019. A bright future: The world comes to Sälen

Sälen Högfjällshotell is one of the prime movers behind the new Scandinavian Mountains Airport – an up-and-coming destination for visitors from all over the world.

Scandinavian mountains airport

The haze of cigar smoke has lifted, and the counts and barons of yesteryear are gone too, but the spirit of the hotel endures, its steady heartbeat fuelled by the crisp mountain air.