Published: February 7th 2007December 17th 2006
No visit to Finland is complete without visiting the part above the Arctic Circle; Lapland. Lapland embodies everything that is about Finland; unabound stretches of untouched white velvet, pine forests gracefully carpeted in snow, rolling hills and dotted lakes. And don't forget that it is above the Arctic Circle. It is a fine example of an Arctic wonderland, and for a sun-bred Australian Lapland is a very different place. It is a truly magical sight to step outside to step outside a bus at 11am to witness a red sunrise glowing across the sky... at 11am! The entire surroundings are covered in white; cars, buildings, houses, signs, trees, roads, paths... I urge you to look outside the window nearest to you, take that image and coat everything you see in white and that is just a tiny hint of what it is like here. I just love snow! It makes even the ugliest places look enchanting... but of course it just enhances the already present radiance of Lappish beauty. But I was really disappointed about one thing about the Lappish natural experience; I did not see the Aurora Borealis which is a real shame... it looks so breathtaking!
see it, one can have one of two "Lapland experiences". Most people tend to go to Lapland to see Santa Clause in person at the world famous Santa Clause Village near Rovaniemi. No doubt some of these things are really interesting; I would be pretty interested in the unique Sami traditions and who would not want to go on a dog sled! I could have gone to Lapland with different people and learn about the Sami people, I could see reindeer and I could see Santa. But I was not in the mood for Santa, I've seen plenty of culture around Europe and Tunisia this year and although reindeer are really cool, none exist with a bright red nose. What I really wanted was to carve up some snow, and that is plainly satisfied by the second characteristic of Lapland - snowboarding!
Levi is the capital ski resort in Finland. Of course it does not compare with the famous resorts of the Alps, but another reason I was happy to go Lapland for snowboarding is to train myself here in order to fully enhance my future snowboarding experience in the Austrian Alps with Joel, Michael and Mrs Meadows. I
stayed in the most perfect
cottage in Levi with between 7-9 of my friends from Turun Kauppakorkeakoulu (Turku School of Economics - try and pronounce that word). I could not ask for a better environment to relax in the peaceful serenity of the Lappish countryside. Our cottage was out of town, right next to not one but two lakes, everything covered in snow (as mentioned). It was made entirely out of wood and had a fireplace. After a hard days snowboarding everybody would just come back, relax by the fireplace listening to chilled out music like Nirvana Unplugged, then we'd have dinner and drinking games... and then sauna! Of course, typically Finnish, our cottage had a sauna. My friends and I repeated this routine every night, chucking in a movie here and there, enjoying our last times together in Finland The Promised Land. I have many a fond memory in that cosy cottage!
And then of course there was the snowboarding. How could I forget?! But I mean snowboarding is obviously incredibly awesome so do I really have to mention it here? Yes, I do! Pre-Lapland my snowboarding skills very amateur at best; I could only go down turning
Chris (Switzerland), Bruno (Brazil), Jochen (Germany) and some random guy I don't know :p
left, so if I had to stop or turn right my technique included purposely falling over... this meant getting hurt. The Swiss, having snowboarding/skiing in their genetic formation, quickly and efficiently taught me the true technique of snowboarding (i.e. cutting and weaving left and right down the slopes). The key to learning this technique is persistence and not being afraid to fall. Unfortunately for me, I was really persistent and not afraid to fall. As a result I progressed very rapidly, but with the cost of falling over and rolling down the hill EVERY time I tried to cut right... by the end of the trip I was so sore I could literally not move. That last morning I could not actually get out of bed naturally. I am not joking! That indicates just how much I fell and how hard I fell... it took me many days to recover from that. And to compound that pain, let us not forget that the temperature on top of the mountain reached -30°C! When screaming down a slope at that speed and at that temperature, the air hitting your face feels like a sharp knife cutting deep. It is BITING cold! This
A Sauna Next to One of the Lakes
Gotta love the Finnish sauna/ice hole swimming culture.
also explains why there are not many photos on this blog, I tried to keep my gloves on for as long as possible!
But it was so worth it; for the 2nd of half of my 2nd day (my last) I was ready to tackle the proper runs and it was one of the best feelings; to slide down weaving and cutting at high speeds virtually through forest all around you and the velvety white Finnish countryside laid out all beneath you... it really was a dream come true for me. That was something I have wanted to experience since I was a wee child.
So now I'm ready for the pinnacle of snowboarding... bring on the Alps!
There are more photos below