The History of Riksgränsen
In 1902 the wilderness in Sweden's northernmost parts took a first step towards civilization when a railroad was constructed, the Malmbanan/Ofotenbanan railroad. This was the start of the development of Riksgränsen.
The reason for this new infrastructure was the iron ore. As early as the 17th century, it was known that the area in Kiruna was rich in iron ore, but it was only at the end of the 19th century that mining methods were developed and expanded. This contributed greatly to the community and the railway between Kiruna and Narvik was planned and initiated. About 4000 workers were involved in a huge project by current standards. The railway was opened for traffic on November 15, 1902, but the inauguration by king Oscar II took place on July 14, 1903, as the king would not travel so far north during the dark wintertime.
The railroad between Kiruna and Riksgränsen was the first major railroad in Sweden to be electrified, which occurred already in 1915. For a long time the railroad was the only means of transportation between Kiruna and Narvik, until 1984 when the E10 was completed. Many stops were needed along the train line, and most of them remain today.
In 1928, the Swedish Skiing Association opened the hospitality operation Lapplandia in Riksgränsen. A couple of years later, in 1934, modern alpine downhill skiing was introduced in Sweden by gymnastic directors Sigge Bergman and Olle Rimfors, following a trip of theirs to Hannes Schneider's famous ski school in St. Anton am Arlberg, Austria.
Olle Rimfors, also known as the father of skiing, then worked as sports director in Riksgränsen between 1950 and 1966. In 1952 the first ski lift was installed and during the winter of 1960/1961 Ulf "Mr Ski" Edborg started Sweden's first paid ski school at the site. Previously, skiing gymnastics was performed on the slopes, but now the focus shifted to professional skiing in small groups. The admission price for the ski school was 10 SEK. It soon became extremely popular and customers had to wait for several years before being admitted.
Ulf Edborg was famous for his bold skiing and always took his students to steep slopes in order to practice jumping, not seldom setting off avalanches. Today one of the slopes in Riksgränsen is named after "Mr Ski": "Uffes vägg".
Ulf "Mr Ski" Edborg decided as a 12-year old boy that he wanted to dedicate his life to skiing. Ulf came to Riksgränsen for the first time in 1947 and in 1950 he became responsible for maintenance at nearby Björkliden. After learning to ski here he further advanced into a professional skier through trips to the Alps and later on moving to Vail, USA.
While living in the US, Ulf married his former studen Cathy. They settled in a big house in the middle of the slope, regularly inviting the Swedish World Cup ski team with open arms. Champions Ingmar Stenmark and Pernilla Wiberg have had breakfast served by Ulf while staying at his villa. In Vail Ulf found enjoyed the best skiing in the world and worked as a private ski instructor for various celebrities and royalty.
Despite living in the US, Ulf always returned to Sweden and Riksgränsen in the spring. For 21 years he worked as a ski instructor here and was involved in the creation of "University of Ski " and the Swedish lifting facilities organization, among other organizations.
According to Ulf, the time period between the 1950s and the 1970s at Riksgränsen was the real highlight of his life. As it was only possible to access Riksgränsen by train the felling was that of being in a "lawless country", exciting and with many special characters present. Rumour has it that famous illusionist Joe Labero got his first paid job as a magician when Ulf realized that the resident DJ liked to do magic tricks. Ulf paid him extra to perform at his birthday party, and perhaps this is where Joe decided to switch career track.
But who coined the name "Mr Ski", the name that became known throughout Sweden? In 1962 famous department store NK's CEO Erik Söderberg learned to ski under Ulf's guidance. Planning a new sports department, NK Ski, Erik Söderberg invited Ulf to Stockholm for the launch. Ulf suggested the slogan "Meet Mr Ski at NK Ski", and the rest is history - from now on Ulf was "Mr Ski" with all of Sweden.
At the time of writing Ulf is 83 years old and looks back on a life working as a ski instructor, learning thousands of people to ski and experience the fantastic conditions of Riksgränsen.