Learning to cross-country ski in Lapland

Posted on January 16, 2017 in Lapland by Ryan Graver in Ylläs Tags:

Our representative in Ylläs, Ryan gives us a fascinating insight into his new-found passion – cross-country skiing – discovered amongst the beautiful wilderness of Lapland.

I stopped in the middle of the track and my body became as still as the world around me. The only sound was my thumping heart. Silence and stillness unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. I looked around and thought about how little this place would have changed in the past thousand years and how insignificant I was in a landscape that feels limitless. The vastness and tranquillity of the frozen north has me hooked.

Ryan cross-country in Lapland
Day 2 of Ryan getting to grips with cross-country skiing.

Life up here is simple yet challenging, the two main ingredients that I believe are required for a wholesome life. It’s day 5 of cross-country ski school, a sport I knew would be right for me and one of the reasons I was so keen to spend my winter in Ylläs, Lapland. It suits my love of endurance sport and my passion for adventure. I’ve not been disappointed.

Over the course of the last week I’ve been learning this new skill, growing in confidence, ability and speed day-by-day. There’s no better way to connect with the beauty around the frozen expanse of Lapland than to glide through its forests using every muscle in my body to propel myself forward on skis, my lungs sucking in as much air as possible, the cleanest air in Europe no less.

As my skills improved I felt moments of grace, when everything flowed with ease. But being a beginner meant these periods were short and I soon felt like Bambi on ice once again. With me was the wonderful Katri from Iso-Ylläksen Hiihtokoulu ski school. She was teaching me to ski like a local and equipping me with the tools to be able to explore the 330km of trails around Ylläs.

Cross-country ski lessons Lapland
Katri – Ryan’s wonderful cross-country ski instructor.

Today we were skiing from Ylläs sport resort to Ylläsjärvi village, stopping in a café for a hot drink on the way. Old wooden skis and snowshoes were attached to the wooden beams as retro decoration. Outside the café a Finnish parent was teaching his children how to ski. It did not look like it had been long since the children had learnt to walk. It’s a way of life out here, all children learn to ski; I’m yet to meet a Finn that hasn’t.

For an outsider like me, learning to Nordic ski is my way into the culture. There are lots of cafés in wooden huts and shelters with fire pits dotted around the trails. So wherever I go I am never too far from a hot chocolate or a roaring fire.

Traditional hut - Lapland
Stopping at a shelter to warm up by the fire – you’d never find this place unless you took to the trails.

I feel like a whole new world of possibilities has opened up to me. I’m now going to have to split my time between my long established love for the piste and my newfound yearning for the trail.

If Ryan’s blog has given you an appetite for cross-country skiing check out our video below for a further insight into this fantastic sport:

Find out more about Ylläs >