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Published: January 26th 2016
The strange frozen scenery of Ruka, like something from a sci fi film.
Normally I wouldn't blog about a ski trip as they are pretty predictable (up, down, up, down etc), however as this was a trip to a new country I thought it was worth a quick blog. I decided I wanted to try Finland as for many years I've been meaning to try some non-downhill skiing activities, I also hoped to catch the Northern lights and so off to Lapland I went.
Naturally it being January, Santa had finished his Christmas duties and left Lapland and gone off on a well deserved holiday ( I believe he likes a few weeks in the sun to recover), so I wasn't expecting Lapland to be too busy. Also the fact that the days are short (sunrise 9.30am - sunset 3pm) and the temperatures are a little bit chilly (down to -30C), holidays in January are rather good value.
Arriving at Kuusamo airport, not too far from the Russian boarder, it was clear as soon as we got off the plane it was going to be a bit chilly and after a short transfer along roads lined with snow covered trees we arrived in the resort of Ruka. The resort is small by
Where is everybody?
The empty slopes of Ruka
skiing standards but since I wanted to do more than just ski, it was the perfect place to try a few new snow sports as the scenery is so beautiful. After checking in to the hotel we took a quick walk around town and realised how cold it was, brr... Still seeing my first husky made up for any chills felt, so cute.
But first a couple of days skiing was in order and having carried my skis all the way to Finland, I put them on and discovered I had a bit of a problem. When last used the temperatures were rather warmer than the -20C of Finland and I soon discovered that my skis had the wrong wax on and were actually sticking to the snow and I was going nowhere. So I had to run off and get them re-waxed and didn't actually get on the slopes until about 11am, which when the sunsets at 3pm, doesn't leave you with a lot of daylight to ski in, but the Fins don't let a little thing like darkness stop them skiing and all the slopes were lit up allowing lots of night skiing which was rather good
Get out your sausages
The shelters dot the slopes ready for anyone who wants to start and fire and get out their sausages for a bit of toasting.
fun. Once wax-off, wax-on had been completed, I hit the slopes and as expected, it didn't take me too long to cover much of the mountain, still I was expecting that and also as it is so cold, I needed to go inside quite a lot just to warm up a bit, boy it was cold.
Still Ruka would be a great resort for beginners (if you can take the cold), the slopes are empty and well groomed, lift queues are non-exisitent and the instructors are meant to be excellent. From the top of the resort (492m high - thanks Ruka pub quiz) you can see the Finnish landscape stretching out before you, most of the area is flat and Ruka stands out from the rest of the landscape. The area is mostly pine trees and lakes, Finland is the land of lakes (about 180,000 in total- thanks Ruka pub quiz) and of course in winter they are all frozen, so the trees are interspersed with many patches of flat white and I imagine the scenery is like that most of the way to the top of Finland.
After a couple of days on the slopes (and one
The sun doesn't get very high in the sky during the short winter days.
pub quiz) it was time for the first new activity, cross country skiing. We'd signed up for a taster session and so met the group about 3.30pm for ski and boot fitting. Having never tried it before it was quite strange to put on the boots and skis as they only attach at the toe and of course the skis are so thin and light. It was the coldest day of the trip so far (-31C) and so we headed out to a track around one of the lakes in the dark. The first few minutes were rather strange as I couldn't get used to not having my feet properly attached but in the end I finally got in to the rhythm and started to enjoy myself. I must confess I did have my only fall of the week trying stop downhill on the thin skis but apart from that it all went well, also it was the warmest I'd been all day as it was quite a workout.
Just as the lesson came to an end, we glanced upwards to the night sky and caught our first glimpse of the famous Northern Lights, I was thrilled. For days
Wrap up warm
Skiing in -30C requires quite a few layers, a good look I am sure you will agree.
I'd been following the KP index which tells you the predicted level of activity and finally it hit about KP5 and the skies were clear, so a green stripe was dancing across the sky for our entertainment. Later on in the evening we headed out on another lights hunt and got an even better show, it was very exciting although my photography doesn't do them justice.
The next activity booked in was a snowmobile trip out into the wood, 3 hours including a stop for lunch. Strangely all the trips seem to include a stop for sausages at some point and ours was no different. Initially I was a bit scared on the snowmobile and was rather slow and then managed to get up to my top speed of 40KPH, not very impressive considering I can ski faster than that.
We stopped off for lunch at some kind of wooden teepee in the middle of the woods, our guide Ralph retrieved the key off a nearby tree which seems a bit pointless as the footprints in the snow reveal which tree the key is on. Once inside Ralph started to get lunch ready and began to make a
Only a small resort but very pretty
fire. Before leaving for Finland I'd watched a Ray Mears show about life in Lapland and made a comment about it, our guide's face then lit up on hearing that I liked a bit of Ray Mears began to get rather animated about his hero. This was to my advantage as then I got a few lessons in bushcraft as he showed me how to make my first fire and also some Spruce Pine tea, it was great fun. Once we'd cooked our sausages (seriously, every trip you have sausages) and had our tea it was time to head back on the snowmobiles, happy in the knowledge that now I was a firestarter...
The final activity of the week was husky sledding, being a bit of a dog lover I was looking forward to this a lot. On arrival at the husky farm the noise of the dogs barking was incredible, they had rather a lot of them but they are all so cute. The morning started with a briefing from a man named 'Susi' who looked like he belonged in the Yukon. Realising that we had to stand on some very thin runners as we drove the sled,
I got a bit nervous as I thought I might fall off. We were led down to the husky sled park and assigned our team, they all bark lots when waiting around but as soon as they are off and running they stop barking and concentrate on their work. And we were off, as soon as you step off the break they dogs sprint off but as they know the route well it wasn't too scary after all and I managed not to fall off, it was a really great way to speed through the woods. The only small downside was the odour when one of the dogs needed a quick stop but apart from that it was great fun. Returning back to the farm we were then taken to see the oh so cute husky puppies, oh so cute..
So that was about it, apart from a quick bit of reindeer feeding off one of the ski slopes and wondering how many letter 'K' tiles Finnish Scrabble has in it, Finland was a lot of fun and I really enjoyed the new activities and learning how to make fire, maybe next time I'll try the five day husky
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