A Winter Wonderland
The Republic of Finland is bordered by Sweden to the west, Norway to the north and Russia to the east. Estonia lies to the south across the Gulf of Finland. There are around 35 ski areas in Finnish Lapland, but typically they don’t have huge vertical drops, and only a handful merit reputations as destination resorts. These include Levi, Ylläs, Pyhä and Saariselkä. But there’s so much else to see and do that a typical Lapland holiday will incorporate not only downhill and cross-country, but husky-sledding, reindeer safaris and reindeer racing, and snowmobile safaris.
Most skiers, particularly beginners and intermediates, will be enchanted by the slopes beyond the Arctic Circle in Finnish Lapland - one of Europe’s few remaining wilderness areas. And Finland’s famous “Santa Claus” village is close to the airport at Rovaniemi, so tourists flock here just to see him even if they don’t ski. Because the skiing in Lapland is not particularly high altitude and rarely crowded, it is easy to learn to ski here. English is spoken at almost all the ski schools. Most transfer journeys are short - often less than half an hour from airport to ski centre.
The ski areas regularly have good snow conditions till late in the season – in March and even at the beginning of April.
Levi – the “official ski resort of Santa Claus” - and its neighbour Ylläs, 50 minutes away, are Finland’s biggest resorts. Levi is the closest Finland has to an Alpine resort: a bustling little town, with interesting and surprisingly extensive skiing: 65 miles of slopes served by 26 lifts.
Although the majority of the skiing in Finland is intermediate, there are challenges: the black World Cup slope has a very steep final section. (For those who prefer cross country skiing in Finland, there’s a vast wealth of opportunity with more than 140 miles of tracks.)
Ylläs is located at the southern base of the region’s highest ‘fell’ and has Finland’s longest ski run (two miles). The resort - Finland’s biggest, with a vertical drop of 1,519 feet (463m) – has two base areas – Akaslompolo (where skiing started as long ago as the 1930s) and Ylläsjarvi. Both are old Sami villages.
Saariselkä is a friendly uncommercialised resort close to the Russian border. Apart from snowmobile, husky and reindeer safaris, you can go gold-panning and spend the night in an igloo.
Other Finnish resorts include Pyhä and the neighbouring resort of Luosto - an 80 mile drive through pine forests from the airport. Pyhä’s altitude is only a modest 200 metres (650ft) and it has a vertical drop of just under a thousand feet. It is based around a 17th century pagan site of worship and sacrifice, Holy Hill, where Lapps worshipped the sun, which disappears almost completely for the months of December and January in this part of the world, During these months a blue twilight envelops the arctic landscape and days pass in a palette of rose-coloured dawns and dusks . (There are 51 days when the sun doesn’t really rise – but there again there are 73 days when it doesn’t really set!) During December and January many of the slopes are floodlit - and the lively après-ski more than makes up for the early nights.
After dinner, it is always worth checking the night sky for any signs of the Aurora Borealis. As the Finns are anxious to stress: “When the sun goes down, it is not pitch black. You will experience the atmospheric blue polar light, and if you are lucky, catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights”.
As for snowmobiling, there’s so much terrain that you can travel for mile after mile, enjoying the endless snowscape, with its abundance of picturesque forests, lakes and rivers until you realise that you have to find you way back. So make sure you travel with someone who knows where they’re going - preferably a guide. You’ll be given protective clothing and a helmet, of course. And gloves too, but you’ll find the snowmobiles have hand-warmers.
The idea of using reindeer for racing would have seemed bizarre to the traditional Lapps, but now some of the herdsmen’s modern counterparts even use mobile phones! Reindeer – which can run almost as fast as snowmobiles - play a vital part in the Finnish Lapp culture: they’ve been herded for centuries for their meat, hides, antlers, milk and transportation.
Long before the advent of snowmobiles and mobile phones, the native Sami people traversed Finland’s winter landscapes for centuries with teams of huskies. Today husky safaris are hugely popular with tourists, who can drive and look after their own husky team for up to a week or more as they explore the hauntingly beautiful landscape.
No. of Airports: 1
Fly from: London Gatwick, Birmingham & Manchester
Ski and Winter Wonderland Holidays in Ylläs
Ylläs combines all the ingredients necessary for a perfect Lapland experience. Guests return year after year to enjoy its stunning unspoiled natural scenery, Finland’s longest ski slopes, an excellent network of cross-country trails and superb choice of accommodation...More information
Ski and Winter Wonderland Holidays in Levi
Levi is our most popular Lapland resort with good reason. In recent years its infrastructure has been developed to an enviably high standard with an impressive range of accommodation and a wide choice of excellent restaurants and cosy bars.More information
Ski and Winter Wonderland Holidays in Saariselkä
Located in the wild mystical north of Lapland, close to Russia and just a few hours from the Arctic Ocean, Saariselkä is an exceptionally friendly uncommercialised resort with a unique frontier atmosphere.More information
Ski and Winter Wonderland Holidays in Pyhä
An authentic unspoiled Lappish resort situated just north of the Arctic Circle and surrounded by the magnificent natural beauty of Finland’s oldest national park. Pyhä (pronounced POO-ha) means ‘holy’ in Finnish and was a sacred area revered by the ancient Lappish people.More information