Relatives alerted police shortly after 6pm on Tuesday night when the three men, aged between 30- and 40-years-old, failed to turn up as planned at a cabin near the Riksgränsen ski area.
The men had set off earlier in the day from a cabin in Ritsem near Gällivare, about 250 kilometres to the south.
At the start of the search, authorities were hopeful the men would be found alive.
“We’ve got two helicopters out searching along the assumed route, one from the north and one from the south,” said Norrbotten police spokesperson Erik Johansson to the TT news agency.
“Even here in northern Norrbotten things are starting to thaw now, so it can be a little difficult to get through the mountains. There are hills, the snow is melting and the conditions can be bad. Our hypothesis is that they haven’t been able to make it through and had to change course or perhaps turn around.”
As it turned out, however, Johansson’s theory about why the men hadn’t arrived at their stated destination was a bit off the mark.
“They were found at tourist cabin and were in good spirits. They were actually in the sauna when our helicopter showed up,” said Johansson after the men had been found.
“They had committed a common error – changed plans without telling anyone. Although there was a mobile phone in the cabin.”