Drove a VW Golf in Arjeplog where the auto industry does winter testing

The lakes freeze in the winter & become the ideal places to test vehicles, especially traction control systems like ABS, ESP, tyres, etc.

BHPian fiat_tarun recently shared this with other enthusiasts.

Arjeplog is a small town in Norrbotten, Sweden (province of Lapland, Sweden) with a permanent population of only around 1977 people (2010 record).

Frozen Arvidsjaur (closest town with an airport to Arjeplog)

Arjeplog is surrounded by ~9000 lakes and being close to the arctic circle, these lakes freeze in winter which the auto industry realised is the ideal place to test vehicles, especially traction control systems like ABS, ESP, tyres, etc. around 50 years ago.

In the months when it is most inhospitable with temperatures around -20 to -30 degrees around 5000-6000 people flock to this sleepy town. Almost every OEM and major supplier has a track here where development takes place or for experience events.

A test track on a frozen lake

Back in the day, when I picked up my monthly copy of Autocar or Overdrive, every winter would have an ice drive article where Audi/JLR/Porsche/BMW/AMG and the likes would have a media drive in the Swedish Laplands where journos would have the time of their lives learning to drift on ice in powerful cars. A friend in an auto publication also dreamt of getting a chance to go on one of these ice drives, but it was always the editors that took this up (of course!)

I even entered a contest where the prize was an 'Audi Ice Experience in Switzerland' which I ended up winning but Switzerland became MMSC in Chennai - Link to that experience. Driving an R8 around a race track was a super cool experience but my ice drive dream remained so.

Fast forward a few years and a job change brought me into the world of vehicle dynamics where winter testing at Arjeplog in Sweden is a yearly affair! My first trip was back in 2019, but my recent trip last month gave me the chance to explore and admire this place more and we were also blessed with relatively good weather this time.

The Arvidsjaur airport scene - a car enthusiast's dream! (pardon the picture quality, had to remove some people from the foreground to have a clean image)

Reaching Arjeplog is not so simple. The closest airport is Arvidsjaur, but there is very limited connectivity. The more likely airport to land in is Lulea which is about 300 km away from Arjeplog. Taxi services are very limited and very very expensive and hence the best way to travel is to hire a rental car.

The very small Arvidsjaur airport.

The Indian license is valid for 6 months and is enough to get you a rental car. Having said this, driving here is not a piece of cake with no prior experience of driving on snow/ice, especially when it is snowing as visibility is extremely limited. My last trip ended quite badly.

In addition, you have the added factor of Moose or Reindeer jumping onto the road (not that we Indians are not used to such surprises on the road), but hitting a Moose can be fatal.

Reindeer and Moose also form the core food in this region and are on the menu of all the few restaurants that exist in this place!

Driving in Arjeplog - Swedish Lapland (VIDEO)

Collecting my VW Golf 1.5 TSI MT (yes, manual) rental car later in the day. Shifting with the right hand does take some time to get used to.

Driving around north Sweden is truly beautiful when the weather is clear. All cars here have studded tyres, so grip levels are pretty good for the most part.

Normal sunset view around here 

Sunrise on a clear morning

Breakfast view from the hotel. Ahead is a frozen lake

A workout every morning to brush off all that snow. Cars here come with heaters that can be plugged into an external power supply provided in all parking lots so that cleaning is easier and the car stays a little warm. My car had an auxiliary remote-activated heater which was way more convenient as I could turn it on remotely 15-20 minutes before I had to leave and all that remained was brushing off the snow.

While I had a lot of fun (and learning) driving a variety of cars on the frozen lake tracks with some truly future technology, unfortunately, I can't talk about that here. Car control is such a fine balance and it's really really hard to get it right in such slippery conditions (no studded tyres on the frozen lakes) but it is so much fun (especially the drifting) that I can ramble about it all day long!

Studded tyres for the extreme conditions here

The full virtual cockpit in my rental Golf. Had all the other features needed here, heated seats, steering, ADAS tech., electric parking brake...

If not for work, there is honestly not much else to do in Arjeplog. There are a few adventure sports options where you can ride snowmobiles, go skiing, etc. but it is quite expensive.

We took a drive to the Norway border on one of the most amazing roads on a free day and it was an experience of a lifetime.

Crossing the arctic circle

Driving heaven - Arjeplog (Sweden) to Norway (VIDEO)

Out of this world views. What a drive!

Our small convoy taking in nature's best

Entering Norway and the navigation immediately alerts you

Looking back at Sweden from Norway

VW group parking

Standing on another frozen lake

You can't get a bad picture in this dreamland!

And now for the icing on the cake with a cherry on top! The Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis. I missed it on my last trip as we had snow and a cloudy sky all through.

This time as well, we had cloud cover in the evenings and I had lost all hopes of being able to catch the lights. Luckily my last day was a super clear day but the probability of the lights was quite low (there's an app that can predict the possibility based on solar radiation levels in your location).

There was nothing till about 9.30 pm and we had more or less lost hope when we got messages to step out and witness this amazing natural light display. It truly is an experience to see the lights moving around the way they do.

What I witnessed was a level 3.5 on the KP index and hence wasn't as bright to the naked eye (above 5 is supposed to be bright), as the pictures suggest. This was a huge bucket list item that I never imagined I would be able to strike off and I feel incredibly lucky to have seen it.

I would have never visited this place on my own and very few are likely to hence I wanted to share this experience here. If you are somewhere near the Laplands, you must try to experience it for at least a day or two.

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