VÅLÅDALEN THROUGHOUT THE YEARS
The forest in the wide valley by the river Vålån, constitutes together with the surrounding mountains, Vålådalens natural reserve, with an area as big as the Swedish island Öland. The lowest parts are 500 m.a.s.l and the highest peaks are 1600 m.a.s.l. Vålådalens Fjällstation is situated on 600 m.a.s.l. In the natural reserve you find the sierras Bunner-, Härjångs-, Lunndörrs-, and Anaris, as well as the two mountains Hottögs- and Ottfjället. A quarter of the reserve is natural forests, with parts of untouched forest, meaning unaffected of modern forestry. Big and untouched mountains, morasses and rivers create a good ground for a varied and rich wildlife. Many threatened species, like arctic fox and lynx e.g, have survived here. The western part of the reserve is very calcareous, which supports a rich and varied vegetation. The area around Vålåsen, has a very rich flora with orchids, e.g. Here we can see remains and traces of the melting inland ice 9000 years ago, two examples are the ”pyramids” in Gröndalen and several deadice pits in the area. We may also find remains of life on the Stone Age, such as settlements, hunting pits, rock carvings and burial mounds.
The Samis lived in Vålådalen long before anyone else settled here. The Samis used this area for their work and reindeer care since the 17th century. The first Samis to settle here were Lill-Britta and Jonas Mårtensson. More families followed their example, and during many years there was a Sami school in Nyhem close to the lake Nulltjärn. (You can find remains of this school between Nulltjärn and Kyrksten). Mårten Thomasson Fjällsten (born 1849) lived in a hut between the lakes Matskål- and Lintjärnarna. In the summer of 1920 he made a fire of garbage, but sad enough, the hut and the forest around it were burned down. The forest from Vålåsen to Blanktjärnarna was burned down. He was completely destitute, but the people in the village helped him and arranged a small hut for him, where he lived the last years of his life. The red little hut is still to be seen by the parking at Vålådalens Fjällstation. In 1967 a reindeer farm was settled on Otfjället with a 40 km long enclosure, where new technology in the care of the reindeers was tested. The project saw its end in 1980, but many of the methods that were tried out during this time, are still in use. Today there are several Sami families still living in Vålådalen, two of them still work with the reindeers. In this area, the current work with the reindeers is carried out by two Sami villages, Handölsdalen and Tossåsen. All together 23 people have their domicile in Vålådalen.
The ”new settlers” came to Vålådalen already in the 1830s, but it was the family Möller who made Vålådalen to a renowned place. Mr Möller came to Vålådalen in 1890 together with his wife and three children, and they had later five more children. Through hard work, the couple’s farm was growing, and hikers and tourists started to arrive. Möllers Pension added a lot to their farm. Möllers Pernsion is today Naturrum.
The American William Widgery Thomas Jr, known as ”Minister Thomas” came to Vålådalen in 1905 with hunting- and fishing licence. He came back many times during the next 20 years and promoted the building of hunting huts by Skaftet and Ottfjället (the first windshiled on Otfjället). These became popular spots to visit. Minister Thomas indeed contributed to spread the word about Vålådalen in Sweden as well as abroad.
The Swedish Tourist Association – Vålådalens Fjällstation was built
The construction of the new tourist station started in 1921 and the opening was celebrated by Eastern 1923. By that time there was no road here, it was not built until 1936. The construction was delayed because of changed plans to install water supply and one bathroom. All together, 11 rooms stood ready and could receive around 20 guests. In the guest book from this year we can find many famous names, among them Dag Hammarskjöld, later Secretary-General of the United Nations.
Gösta Olander and his first wife Valborg came to Vålådalen in 1930 to be the managers for Vålådalens Fjällstation until 1970. During this period the Swedish Tourist Association was the owners but people called the place ”Olanders Vålådalen”. Valborg died of cancer after one year, and Gösta married Olga in 1934. She became the perfect host organizing food and shelter for everyone. Gösta Olander died in his home ”Olandervillan” in 1972.
Sportsman and mountain enthusiast
Gösta came from a sports background. Together with Torsten Boberg, he was the first to climb Kebnekaise during winter time, and repeated this 30 times during his life time. His interest for sports and his special training philosophy became famous worldwide and Vålådalen became an important sports center. Gösta was an appreciated guide among Vålådalen’s guests, who were not only sportsmen, but also writers, artists, actors and other ”famous people”. Everyone wanted to go to Vålådalen!
Filmmaker and photographer
During a visit in Vålådalen, the famous photographer Hasselblad’s wife forgot their camera here. Gösta asked if he could take some pictures, using what was left on the roll film. This was the start of Göstas career as a photographer. He was very successful and was awarded in many photo-and film competitions, and his films on sports, training, nature and animals became very appreciated. In Vålådalen you can still find many examples on his photo career, hundreds of photographs on the walls, and thousands in photo albums.
Gösta had a penchant for women. The manager at Storlien where Gösta worked as a guide, advised a woman when she was hired not to fall in love with Mr Olander. ”…because the last maid did, and she turned crazy…” However, his first serious relationship was with Valborg, and after her tragic death, later Olga became his great support in life. She also managed all the practical details at their Vålådalen, and made everything work while Gösta invited everyone and did not care too much for the budget. Olga was the perfect host, making every guest feel welcome and important. Besides Olga, Göstas sister, Karin Bohm, also helped out with the administration, and kept an eye on Gösta. So we could easily say that Vålådalens success during this time relayed on Göstas wife Olga and his sister Karin.
The sports valley Vålådalen
Athletics, boxers, and skiers were the first sportsmen who came to Vålådalen, and during the beginning of the 1940’s, the runner Gunder Hägg came to promote both Vålådalen, as well as Olander’s ideas about training. Hägg took 16 world records, and made Atheltic competions very popular. When he was asked about his success, he always referred to Olander and the training in Vålådalen. Later the Swedish and international ice skating elite started to come, and the ice on the lake Mellandalstjärn was prepared for them. The world champions in Boxing, Ingemar Johansson as well as Floyd Patterson were both also returning guests here. After Gunder Hägg’s period, many many sportsmen; football players, bikers, handball-teams, all came to Vålådalen, even the speedway drivers.
In 1968 Gösta och Olga Olanders Vålådalsstiftelse was founded, with Riksidrottsförbundet, STF and Jämtlands läns landsting as main sponsors. During the period until the mid 80’s many renovations were made and sports groups continued to come. During the second half of the 80’s the number of visitors was reduced and the development paused. In 1990 Vålådalen Sport & Conference started up, but got bankrupt two years later. The Swedish Tourist Association STF took over, and managed Vålådalens Fjällstation until 2004 when it was sold to the current owners. Great investments have been made since then to re-build a popular out door- and sports-gem in the most beautiful part of Jämtland’s mountains.
In the winter 1931 Gösta Olander and some of his friends, were discussing how they could get in some extra money. The hat “Vålåluvan” was one of the ideas. The red hat is a part of the traditional regional clothing. Gösta, who was a skilled drawer, created a logo that was used as a stamp on match boxes, and sold to tourists. The staff started to knit and soon the red “luva” became a symbol for Vålådalen. Ever since the 1940’s Olander’s logo and the red hat make together a signature for Vålådalen.