Downhill skiers are rising up to the top of Pyhätunturi on a chair lift.
Photo by: Pyhä Ski Resort/Jani Kärppä

Pyhätunturi grows rapidly without forgetting about sustainable development

Bold investments in accommodation and the ski resort progress at Pyhä in Lapland. Pyhätunturi wishes to be the world’s cleanest ski resort and does not hold back on sustainable choices.

It’s buzzing at Pyhä since Pyhätunturi Ltd is boldly developing its operations and making investments at a rapid pace. Pyhä, in the Municipality of Pelkosenniemi, is one of Lapland’s most quickly developing travel destinations. In addition to the ski resort, Pyhätunturi Ltd runs equipment hires, Hotel Pyhätunturi and its stores as well as more than 100 Ski-Inn apartments. In terms of the Pyhä-Luosto National Park, the ski resort is one of the area’s attractiveness factors in the tourism sector.

Pyhätunturi’s turnover during the financial period 2020-2021 was 5.4 million euros, which was a growth of up to 43 per cent compared to the previous coronavirus year. Prior to the Covid-19 crisis, in 2019, the company’s turnover was 4.1 million euros, and the turnover has been ascending. Pyhätunturi Ltd employs an average of 36 people, and during seasonal periods almost double the amount.

Pyhätunturi Ltd is the subsidiary of Rukakeskus Oy, which operates Ruka Ski Resort. Aho Group owns both companies. The family business has been responsible for Ruka Ski Resort since 1973 and Pyhätunturi since 1987. The Group is one of Finland’s most successful tourism companies and a market leader of ski resorts.

– Pyhä has successfully grown by utilising its own natural strengths: a stunning national park, freeriding and the best slopes in Finland. We wish to keep Pyhä as it is and emphasise its uniqueness, says Ville Aho, CEO of the ski resort Group.

Anu Summanen, Operations Director of Visit Pyhä-Luosto, says that Pyhätunturi Ltd’s operations, as a prominent company in Pyhä, have promoted the start-ups of investments and SME operations in the area, such as the investment of Kurula’s apart-hotel, Parkside Pyhä accommodation apartments and Adventure Park Pyhäkuru. In addition, new companies help develop the destination’s service offering further.

– Pyhä has strong momentum, and the area is strongly developed from a sustainable perspective. As a result, customers, who value the principles of sustainable tourism, come to Pyhä, Summanen states.

Pyhä Ski Resort in Pelkosenniemi, Lapland
Photo by: Pyhä Ski Resort/Tomi Turunen

Sustainable business is promoted in Lapland

The promotion of responsibility and sustainability has been part of Pyhätunturi’s operations already for the last 30 years, and its objective is to be the world’s cleanest ski resort. The ski resort’s Arctic location in Lapland almost makes sustainable business operations mandatory: the world’s cleanest air and drinking water surround it, the winters are long and snowy, and the beautiful wilderness-like nature in Finland’s oldest national park is next to it.

As a result of important work, in 2011, Pyhä Ski Resort became the first carbon-neutral ski resort of the Nordic countries in terms of energy consumption. Pyhätunturi, together with Ruka Ski Resort, is also Finland’s first ski resort, which has been granted the Sustainable Travel Finland label.

One of the most recent changes has been the introduction of renewable fuel oil, made of waste, used in slope machines during the season ’21-’22. Furthermore, Pyhä Ski Resort moved over to use emission-free electricity in 2008, resulting in, e.g., greenhouse emission-free lifts, artificial snow and lighting. In addition to this, natural snow is collected in Pyhä, which reduces the need for cannon-made snow, firework shows have been discontinued, and the EU Energy Efficiency Directive is observed.

– My brother, Kari Jussi Aho, who was the CEO at the time, started Pyhä’s first environmental programme already in the 1990s as a true pioneer. My sister, Miia Porkkala, reinitiated the work in 2008 when the objective was set to become a carbon-neutral ski resort. As the CEO since 2013, I have been able to continue this important work in the family business, Aho states.

Strengthening year-round tourism has played a significant role in developing a sustainable holiday resort. At Pyhä, you can reach the peak of the fell in a chair lift and admire the summer and autumn landscapes as well as experience the thrill of speed on a mountain bike. In summer 2022, the Municipality of Pelkosenniemi, in cooperation with Pyhätunturi, start the construction of Pyhä DH, i.e., downhill bicycle routes. In addition to activities, interesting events attract people to the area, such as the Pyhä Tunturimaraton running competition and the Pyhä Unplugged music event.

Particularly domestic visitors have been attracted to Lapland during snow-free periods, and its success can be indicated by, e.g., the increased number of visitors at Pyhä-Luosto National Park. During the coronavirus crisis in 2020, the number of visitors at several national parks experienced an ascending peak, and there was further growth in 2021. There were approximately 138,000 visits to Pyhä-Luosto National Park between January and July of 2021, which is 27 per cent more than during the same period the previous year.

Biking opportunities are part of development for year round tourism
Photo by: Kota Collective | Visit Pyhä-Luosto ry

Investments and capacity growth at Pyhä

Pyhätunturi Ltd, which was selected as Company of the Year 2019 in Lapland, is developing rapidly and making large investments.

The most recent investment of the ski resort is a four-million-euro PohjoisExpress ski lift for the Northern Slopes, and the lift is said to be the most anticipated ski lift in Finland. The fast, dome-covered lift attracts visitors to the Northern Slopes even during windier weather conditions.

PohjoisExpress has been acquired in accordance with sustainable principles, second-hand and restored. The first visitors will be able to use the lift in January 2022. The four-seater PohjoisExpress transports 2,400 people to the peak of Pyhä every hour, and the journey up takes less than five minutes.

In addition to the lift investment, Pyhä has boldly invested in increasing the accommodation capacity.

– Tourism in the area of Pyhä has been growing for some time now, and the capacity must keep up with the development. We respond to demand and ensure that sustainable principles are observed in the implementation of the contract, says Aho.

The ten-million-euro Kultakero project is implemented in three different stages. During the first stage, Kultakero 1 shall be built to provide 200 additional beds to Pyhä: 28 luxurious hotel rooms and 14 apartments with private jacuzzis. In addition, new store and equipment hire facilities, totalling 400 square metres, shall also be constructed in Kultakero. The aim is to launch stage I of Kultakero by Christmas 2022.

The pre-marketing of the 26 apartments, included in stage II of Kultakero, has been initiated at the end of 2021, and the first apartments have already been reserved. The project of more than 10 million euros is aimed to be launched in the summer of 2022, and it is aimed to be completed by Christmas 2023.

The expansion of the existing Hotel Pyhätunturi is the final stage of the Kultakero entity. When the entity is complete, the old hotel will become part of the new Hotel Kultakero.

The objective is to complete the construction of Pyhä resort by 2024.