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jarvso sweden bike mtb_-11

This is the success tale about a place called Jarvso, a sleepy Swedish ski village that went from nothing to hosting one of the most exciting bike parks in the world – in just three years. A miniature Whistler, carved out of the Swedish countryside...

From Dirt Issue 134 - April 2013

Words by Tobias Liljeroth. Photo by Mattias Fredriksson.

In the beginning there was nothing…just Jarvso. Population 1,407, a small, sleepy village spread along a country road, three hours north of Stockholm. The local hill, sticking out of the otherwise flattish landscape, playing host to a small ski area come winter. It’s not big enough to call Jarvso a ski town or busy enough to label it a ski resort. Just a ski hill with a few T–bars and an old, quirky double–seater chairlift.

Not much going on in the summertime apart from a zoo with wolves and brown bears as their main attractions and people rallying the forests and fields with their ATV’s (forbidden to drive on public land none the less, something no locals seemed to care the least about) or shredding the local dirt track with their motocross bikes. They were all about motorized fun. Pedal a bike? Why the hell would you want to that for?>>

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[part title="Jarvso | Swedish Delight - Page 2..."]

Sign in Järvsö Bergscykel Park, Järvsö, Sweden. Photographed in June 2012.
Sign in Järvsö Bergscykel Park, Järvsö, Sweden. Photographed in June 2012.

She, if we can talk about a bike trail as a ‘she’, was the first trail to be carved out of the dirt on the eastern side of Ojeberget in Jarvso, and the beginning of what would soon become the Jarvso bike park. The trail is named after Swedish 60’s superstar singer, and Jarvso resident, Barbro Svensson. Famous for her voice, stunning looks and numerous high profile marriages and relationships. The rest of the trails in Jarvso Bike Park are named after her daughters and a few of her most famous songs, they like to keep things local around here and put a ton of pride in their heritage.

Barbro belongs to a rare breed of machine trail where you hardly have to touch your brakes, let alone put down a single pedal stroke unless you really want to. Even though it’s an intermediate trail it fits riders of all skill levels thanks to a series of alternative hits and take–offs. My hands don’t have to worry about annoyances like braking bumps and pot holes, because there aren’t any. Barbro, once again the trail is as smooth as a lady.

For almost four minutes I indulge in some of the smoothest and flowiest riding I’ve ever experienced. A perfect berm to a series of rollers, next perfect berm into an array of table tops with perfectly shaped take–offs that shoot me into the warm Swedish summer air, again and again. I aim for the alternative hits, turning some of the easier jumps into bigger step–downs and gaps. As I exit the last series of tight berms and come to a stop at the base of the chairlift I can’t help but quietly praise the trail builders.

The story about Jarvso Bike Park started some five years ago when local entrepreneur and outdoor man Lars Loov went to the Canadian west coast to see an old friend from home, Svenne Sandahl, who at the time lived in Pemberton outside Whistler. Svenne, who already was a frequent visitor to the world famous shred Nirvana of Whistler Bike Park, told his old friend he just had to try descending a mountain on two wheels. Lars, scared by the mere sight of the activity, refused for days. When he finally gave in and rented a bike he was instantly hooked after his first run. “First, I thought I would get killed within five minutes. But, it turned to be one the most fun things I had ever done."

An idea started to grow in his mind. Wouldn’t this be a perfect thing for Jarvso? At this time gravity mountain biking in Sweden was more or less focused on Are, a place that was at the forefront of the sport as early as the mid 90’s and with one of the biggest bike parks in Europe. On a trip there, Lars bumped into Martin Ekman and Frasse Fransson, two fellow Jarvso residents that also just had discovered riding downhill on bikes. “We told each other we just have to make this happen back home in Jarvso as well. I mean, we have it all; a mountain with a chair lift, plenty of lodging and good transportations with the railroad stopping in the middle of the village and the road from Stockholm passing right next to the hill."

Group in Järvsö Bergscykel Park, Järvsö, Sweden. Photographed in June 2012.
Group in Järvsö Bergscykel Park, Järvsö, Sweden. Photographed in June 2012.

It turned out Svenne was good friends with none other than Mr Tom Pro, owner of trail building company Gravity Logic and one of the original men behind the Whistler Bike Park. On a business trip to Austria, Pro made the detour to central Sweden to check out the possibilities of building a park in Jarvso. He liked what he saw. Ojeberget, the local hill, was a blank canvas, ready to be painted by dirt art.

Within a few months, in the fall of 2009, Pro’s colleague and partner–in–dirt, master crafter Rob Cocquyt, travelled to Sweden, ready to get dirty. Then came the next hiccup in the operation, Rob hated the dirt. Completely hated it. “I called Tom and told him “I can’t do shit with this piss poor dirt." There were rocks absolutely everywhere."

[part title="Jarvso | Swedish Delight - Page 3..."]

John Alm Högman in Järvsö, Sweden. Photographed in July 2010.
John Alm Högman in Järvsö, Sweden. Photographed in July 2010.

Together with a minor army of local volunteers, the Gravity Logic people managed to build four trails on the hill, from easy green to double black diamond difficult. All carefully and lovingly crafted with the grateful help from excavators and countless hours of digging by hand.

And within less than 24 months from the initial idea being born, Jarvso Bike Park was ready to welcome its first riders. Opening day was June 2nd 2010 and it blew everyone’s collective minds. Sweden’s gravity fed community showed up by the hundreds, ready to shred the new trails to pieces. No one had expected what they first experienced. The flow, the dirt, the quality of the trails…or the free beer at après that very same afternoon for that matter – the restaurant lacked the proper alcohol permits so they did the only legal thing possible, handed out beer cans for free.

Jarvso went for the hard route when they set out to build their park. Instead of letting a group of experienced riders create trails on their own, trails that tend to end up way too advanced and hardcore for most riders, they set out to create a bike park that not only caters to the upper echelon of bike riders, but also to those that are trying downhill and freeride mountain biking for the very first time.

“About 80% of the people in a bike park are intermediate riders or even beginners", Pro claims. “You can’t build a park for just a core group of riders", Loov fills in, “It’s not a feasible business model. It’s kind of like skiing, the whole family should be able to enjoy a day’s riding in the park."

Today, three season’s into operations and moving into its fourth full swing, the Jarvso Bike Park has grown far beyond the founder’s wildest expectations. Last year the park saw close to 10,000 biker days, and an increase in rental bikes to a total of 50. Numbers of course dwarfed by those of Whistler and Morzine, but still extremely respectable for a relatively small park in the Swedish countryside, more than three hours from the closest major city in a country that lacks a solid and widespread biking tradition. And the numbers keep growing, with no apparent end in sight as the word spreads throughout central Sweden. Because if you’ve been to Jarvso once, you’re most likely to return again. It’s that good. This time you’ll to bring your friends…and then they’ll bring a few other friends the next time around.

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jarvso sweden bike mtb_-7

The number of trails have now grown to eleven, with everything from the super easy beginner trail Monica, to the gap and drop infested mayhem of Lite For Liten. All built in close cooperation with Gravity Logic.

[part title="Jarvso | Swedish Delight - Page 4..."]

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jarvso sweden bike mtb_-16

Every day a small trail crew tirelessly sets out to smooth out any damage caused by nasty weather or biker traffic. Braking bumps? Na, not here. Pot holes? Nope, not those either. And if a jump proves to not work out as well as expected it gets fixed until it does so. The flow and the quality of the riding simply comes first and last here. Jarvso takes pride in being one of the most well shaped parks, not in Sweden, not in Europe, but in the world. It’s simply that good.

Even though the relatively small number of trails, Jarvso has a variety that few parks in the world can match. And with a bit of imagination and puzzling different pieces of trails together that number grow substantially. In fact, riding Jarvso creates a similar feeling to that of Whistler. The quantity of trails or the massive vertical can’t be found here for obvious reasons. But as far as the quality of the trails go, or the diversity, it’s not far behind. Jarvso has used every tiny bit of its relatively small hill to its advantage. It’s non–stop action from the get go to the very last pedal stroke. There are no dead spots, the trails are packed with action all the way from top to bottom. Basically, Jarvso is a mini–Whistler, morphed into the Swedish countryside.

What’s even more impressive is the seemingly endless imagination of the trail builders. Jarvso has turned into something of a testing ground for Tom Pro and the Gravity Logic team to try out new and wacky ideas for the first time. With the installation of the newly constructed jump trail, Twist Twist, this coming summer, trail building has been taken to a whole new level. The name is scarily fitting, it’s bike riding cranked up to eleven. It’s yet another trail that cements Jarvso’s place as one of the most progressive and exciting bike parks in the world today.

Whatever the future holds fro Jarvso, one thing still remains the same for the time being; that quirky old chair lift. It’s a slow but beautiful ride. From my rusty seat up in the air, I see a seemingly endless pine forest spreading out as far as I can see in every direction with small red farming houses dotting the few clearings in the otherwise dense forest. Sweden at it’s most Swedish.

I get off the chairlift, jump on my bike and head for a small ladder bridge leading onto a super fast rock slab with plenty of twists and turns. A short pitch of open gravel road shoots me into the trees once again into a tight left handed berm.

This is En Tuff Brud (A Tough Chick, another Barbro Svensson ‘classic’), a hand built, very flowy, singletrack packed with alternative lines, a myriad of small boulders and more features than you can shake a stick at.

Rolling rock to right hander. Left onto a gigantic timber bridge, three metres up in the air above Barbro. Super steep roll–down into more rocks as the suspension fights to stay on top of things. Small doubles. Another left onto a 360º bridge. Bounce between even more rocks and roots, this time only faster than before.

Rob Cocquyt portraited in Järvsö, Sweden. Photographed in October 2009.
Rob Cocquyt portraited in Järvsö, Sweden. Photographed in October 2009.

My hands are shaking, neurotransmitters flooding and clogging my system. The corners of my mouth start twitching until I reach a hysterical state of giggle. I get back on the rattling lift without even thinking twice about it. That’s what Jarvso does to you. It’s mind boggling to think that a little over three years ago, this whole thing didn’t even exist. And now this. What comes next? I can’t even imagine. We’ve only heard the beginning of the fantastic tale of the little bike park in the depth of the Swedish woods so far, of Barbro and her songs and family. What I do know is, I want to hear more of it all.


The bike park

Eleven trails for all skill levels. 200 metres of vertical.

What bike?

Jarvso's trails work well with everything from a sturdy enduro bike to a full–on DH sled. Just bring whatever you're most comfortable on, it's more a matter of personal taste and preference than the trails.

Bike rentals and shop

Scott Gambler 20 bikes for rent, including safety gear and protection. The park also has a fully stocked work shop with experienced mechanics should something break down on your bike.

Bike park information

More info at www.jarvsobergscykelpark.se or phone +46 651 76 91 92 (English spoken).

Getting there

Jarvso lies three hours driving north of Stockholm. Take the E4 freeway to Tonnebro, then highway 83 to Jarvso.

There’s a daily morning train from Stockholm central that makes a stop in Jarvso. www.sj.se

The Harjedalingen bus is another convenient means of transport from Stockholm. harjedalingen.se

Staying there

There’s a number of well priced lodging alternatives right next to the bike park. en.jarvso.se