Living in Skellefteå
Part 1. From Missenträsk to Skelleftehamn
In this five-part series, we embark on a journey together. Starting and ending in different locations in the municipality, we get to know Skellefteå a little closer. Who are the people that bring the place to life? What are the villages and the slightly more hidden gems? What is the experience of the sea, the river and other natural values? And what do we already know about Skellefteå's future? Come join!
Most places in the world are what they are because they are either natural meeting places for people and trade, strategically important for the military to defend a country or due to natural assets that we need. Not Jörn. We will begin our journey there, along highway 95, in the northwest of our municipality.
To be clear. Six kilometers east of what is now Jörn, there was another village called Jörn since 1778. Today, that village is Österjörn. How did that happen? Well, the marshlands where Jörn is currently located turned out to be a suitable location for a station building when the main trunk line was constructed in 1888. Since the trains only ran during the day, it was necessary to build an overnight station, and this was the chosen location. As a matter of fact, Jörn had six hotels back then, and the most prominent guest is said to have been Lenin, who stayed the night in 1917.
Jörn did well in its heyday in the 1960s. But much like other inland villages, Jörn has been struggling with a declining population. It has been halved. However, that does not mean that Jörn should be counted out or that the people here have given up. On the contrary, many of the residents would tell you that they are headed towards a bright future. But if they were previously dependent on public actors, they have now taken matters into their own hands. The entrepreneur Örjan Berglund is determined to bring the area back on the map. He runs the berry-picking company Norrskensbär and has invested in several businesses further south. He now uses the profits to invest in his home town. To name an example, he has become the part owner of Storklinta Skidcenter External link., a ski resort with three lifts and five slopes some ten kilometers from Jörn, and at the moment of writing, he is in the middle of building a bowling alley. If you ask Örjan, Jörn will soon be the entertainment capital of the inlands.
“My plan is to start two new businesses in Jörn every year with lots of different activities. That makes 20 in 10 years, and that makes a difference out here of course.”
That’s not to say that there are no challenges. A lot of public services have disappeared from Jörn, where a significant part of the residents come from non-European countries. But according to Örjan, the population is only a benefit.
“All you hear anywhere else is how hard it is to find the skills you need. We don’t have that problem. We have everything we need right here, and it’s never difficult to find the right people.”
The railway is still important to this society. Pending the Norrbotniabanan railway, Jörn is the only place in Skellefteå Municipality where you can catch a train to or from outside the municipality. And speaking of the world outside; what impression has Jörn made there? Its main claim to fame is likely that it is the birthplace of Sara Lidman (1923–2004), who lived in Missenträsk, a small village along the railway between Jörn and Arvidsjaur, right next to the county line between Västerbotten and Lappland. Sara Lidman is one of Sweden’s most notable 20th-century authors, and her “Jernbanesviten” (the Railroad Suite) comprised five novels with strong local ties.
She is buried in Österjörn and anyone who visits her grave is met by her very concise motto and recommendation: “Live!”
Jörn is also the place where Pär Wiksten grew up. He was in a band that sounded like this:
The Wannadies are without question the number one music export to come out of Skellefteå. With songs like “My Hometown” and “You and Me Song”, the band had great success in the indie pop scene, for example in England.
Pär Wiksten started his first band African Breakfast together with drummer Gunnar Karlsson (now festival general for Stadsfesten) in Jörn in order to “impress girls”. When he moved to Skellefteå in the 1980s, he was involved in starting the music association Musikfabriken (the music factory), which provided rehearsal rooms and organized gigs. Musikfabriken was also the founder of Trästockfestivalen – Sweden’s largest free festival – which is organized annually in Nordanå, Skellefteå.
Alongside bands like This Perfect Day and Hardy Nilsson, The Wannadies lead the celebrated Skellefteå pop movement, which made a strong impression on the Swedish music scene in the first half of 1990s. As a matter of fact, Skellefteå was nicknamed the “Seattle of Sweden” due to the cities’ industrial similarities and the concentration of successful bands. But that’s another story.
This is a classic baking recipe of a cake from Jörn, it's a real treat. See for yourself!
- 150 g melted margarine
- 2 eggs
- 3 dl sugar
- 2 tsp vanilla sugar
- 3/4 dl cold water
- 3/4 dl milk
- 3 dl flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 2-3 tbsp cocoa
- Preheat oven to 175°
- Beat the eggs with the sugar.
- Mix the dry ingredients and sift them into the egg batter together with water, milk and butter.
- Pour into a greased 24-cm diameter cake pan.
- After 25–30 minutes, cover with foil and finish baking. It will need a total of around 40–45 minutes in the oven.
- Set out to cool.
- 1 dl sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla sugar
- 1 dl icing sugar
- 1/2 dl cream
- 50 g melted butter
- Bring all the ingredients to a boil and then leave them to cool down.
- Once cool, pour over the cake.
Highway 95 through Skellefteå Municipality was not built to take you along the scenic route. Although there are some pretty views along the way, it’s as if someone has drawn a straight line across the map from Skelleftehamn in the east and some 60 km inland towards Boliden and Renström. The intention is quick and easy transport from A to B and you don’t need to spend a lot of time on this road to understand why: Ore. It is transported back and forth on heavy lorries to the smelting plant in Rönnskär, Skelleftehamn.
On 10 December 1924, gold ore was struck on the freehold of Bjurliden, thirty kilometers northwest of Skellefteå. This was the start of an incredible growth period in the area around Skellefteå, which became a northern European Klondyke. The Skellefteå fields have one of the highest mineral contents in the world, with excellent mining conditions. As a matter of fact, 28 mines have been opened since the mining operations began. A misprint on the map replaced the name Bjurliden with Boliden, and this is the name given to the mine as well as the now famous mining company opened at the location. In those days, there were no settlements in the area, only forests and marshes, and Boliden was set up to be “an island of industrialism in a sea of farmers, where the company would act as a strict but just father”. In other words, the company had an entire society build in the woods, which they practically governed entirely for decades.
The famous architects John Åkerlund and Tage William-Olsson designed the society from the ground up, drawing inspiration from the grandeur of classicist lines and the intimacy of the garden suburbs that were all the rage at the time. The strict hierarchy that characterized the work in the mines could also be seen in the environment around it, and the town was designed in the unusual shape of a fan (which sometimes makes it a challenge to find your way around the city’s road network). Supposedly, it is modelled on Paris. In any case, it is interesting to walk around looking at the buildings and feel the belief they must have had in the future in the decades it took for this town to emerge. The church in particular is of a very special architectural style, which ties into Boliden as a mining community. It is said, by the way, that the original streets laid here were so rich in ore that they eventually had to be mined. The streets were literally made of gold.
Today, there are around 1,600 people living in Boliden. Many still work for the mining company, which is an important growth engine for the entire municipality, but others work for the companies that have emerged from it. Bergteamet is one example. The town is otherwise characterized today by its many clubs and associations, and much like in other societies in the woodlands, there is a strong interest in hunting, fishing and snowmobiling among the Boliden residents.
Fun fact: as late as in 2017, there were 12,044 snowmobiles registered in Skellefteå Municipality, which means it has the third most snowmobiles out of all Swedish municipalities. Luckily, there are 1,750 kilometers of snowmobile trails to ride.
When you are in Skellefteå, you are in snowmobiling country, with around 1,750 kilometers of snowmobile trails External link. allowing you to get around pretty much everywhere in the municipality.
In the past, highway 95 ran from Boliden towards Skellefteå passing a number of villages. But the road was redrawn through the forest, and today, you will only know that Strömfors, Svanström and Varuträsk are there by looking at the signs. They are worth the detour if you want to see anything other than forest in these parts. Not least in Varuträsk, around 15 kilometers west of Skellefteå, offers some interesting activities. Sights include Vildmarksgruvan (the wilderness mine), which has one of the world’s finest mineral collections. At least one of them, called varulit, has only ever been found here in Varuträsk. The mine was in use during the 1930s and 1940s, but today it is open to visitors, who are also allowed to take stones with them when they leave. This attracts visitors from all over the world!
More adventurous visitors can chose the nearby Skellefteå Adventure Park for a more fast-paced option. With seven high-altitude courses at up to twelve meters above ground, this is not for those with a fear of heights.
The village Varuträsk dates back to the 16th century and is located next to the lake Varuträsket. The lake is known to produce sizeable pike (you can rent a boat from the local fishery association if you do not have one of your own), but for many it is synonymous with ice racing.
The area offers various types of ice-roading activities including technical driving, ice rally, four-wheel tracks and snowmobiling.
There are some hundred residents in Varuträsk. It may not sound like much, but don’t let the number fool you. The people of Varuträsk are an industrious bunch who are invested in their village. There is a strong voluntary sector, making sure to keep the exercise tracks open and lit at night for example. Another example is the popular preschool Utflex, which attracts families from miles away.
We continue along the 95, pass Skellefteå, and stop around 10 km east of the city limits. In Ursviken. Compared to the towns further west, the mining industry has left less of a mark here. Ursviken was for a long time an important location in both the sawmill and shipbuilding industries. Next to Skellefteå, Ursviken is the largest built-up area in the municipality and the community has everything you could really ask for in terms of public services and communications, supermarkets, restaurants and forest, along with the beautiful bay. After it stopped being an important industrial hub, the bay has become a popular haunt for canoeing enthusiasts.
At Kanotudden (the canoe cape), formerly a wharf where vessels from all over the world would empty their ballast, there are Canadian canoes and sea kayaks for rent if you want to take a day trip. And if you get a taste for it, there are plenty of lovely sites along the Skellefteå river to launch a canoe from. See for yourself! External link.
Ursviken is also the cradle of Skellefteå’s massive hockey interest. Although Skellefteå AIK is the most successful team around here, the predecessor of Clemensnäs HC was actually the first to introduce hockey in Skellefteå. As early as in 1942, a group of pioneers started a team that became known over time as the “Norrland Comets” due to their early successes. To this day, Clemensnäs HC has viable activities in both men’s and women’s hockey, and the club also operates the upper-secondary hockey school that secures the local regrowth of the city’s hockey world.
And speaking of hockey. West of Ursviken is Skelleftehamn, where the world’s first plastic hockey visor is said to have been made. It was done at Rönnskärsverken by national team member Roger Nilsson who played in the 1960s and 1970s. Being Sweden’s only smelting plant for base metals, this is just a parenthesis in Rönnskärsverken’s history.
Due to the ore deposits found in Skelleftefältet in the 1920s, construction of the smelting plant began in 1928. Rönnskärsverken’s owner Boliden also had an entire community built around the industry, and many traces of it remain to this day. In those days, the town was called Kallholmen, originally a fishing village, but soon changed its name to Skelleftehamn – the final stop on this journey.
Much like other industrial towns, there used to be plenty of small shops and cafés here, but most of them are gone today. That doesn’t mean that Skelleftehamn has come to a halt. With its excellent communications, schools, supermarket, restaurants, cinema and swimming baths that are currently being renovated, the town has become a good option, not least for families with children who can find good housing for cheaper than in the big city. Skelleftehamn is also popular among boaters, as it is a good jump-off point to the archipelago. There are fascinating excursions External link. like the old lighthouse at Gåsören. No boat of your own? Don’t worry – there’s a tour boat! And plenty to discover. So what are you waiting for?
Read more! Here's part 2. From Kinnbäck to Kåge