Ordinary people come to Lapland for the experience of a lifetime, the extraordinary stay.
But creating that experience for others is more than just strapping on a pair of back-country skis and marching off into the wild, the interesting part starts back at base. This is the life of the extraordinary guides that create extraordinary experiences. Today, we follow them for the day.
8:00am at the Beyond Arctic home base in the centre of Rovaniemi and Maiju Karhu, a photography guide, is preparing all the gear she will need to take with her for the next back-country ski tour. Sausages, hot berry juice, a first aid kit and even a traditional lappish hunting knife get put into a backpack along with her camera. She’s taking provisions for preparing and grilling over an open fire at the many campsites dotted around the wilds. Maiju heats the juice while she makes sure the camera equipment is all in order from last nights photography tour under the northern lights. Guiding is often about working unusual hours of the day, and sometimes even the night. Last night she was out with a group hunting the northern lights till the earliest hour of the morning.
9:00am and time to pick up the guests. Beyond Arctic collect the guests directly from their hotels. Today it’s at Santas Village, only a short drive from the city centre. On the way, she’s excited to share stories of her last guided tour…
– On last nights tour, we saw the most amazing aurora.
10:30am, we arrive at the location after picking up six guests in total. It’s late spring and the snow is melting fast at the location. Many of the trees have already lost thier snow covering and the river running next to the campsite has burst into a torrent of life.
To get them to the campsite, a wide short modern interpretation of cross-country skis, called back-country skis, are needed to traverse the deep snow. Maiju prepares a set for each adventurer joining the tour and also an extra pair for an intern, Laura Lövgren, working to gain experience while she completes her studies in International Wilderness Guiding. There are many opportunities for students to work in the field that are unique to Lapland. Laura is joining the Beyond Arctic team, helping Maiju with tours by ski and snowshoe as well as ice fishing, aurora hunting and many others.
Both share a keen interest in nature, and both are keen to share nature as a profession.
Maiju teaches the guests the basics of snow skiing. The trick is to stay upright. Easier said than done, but with her help they pick it up quickly.
– It can be really satifying to help others experience something they’ve never done before, she explains.
But this is no ordinary tour, Beyond Arctic specialise in photographic tours for people looking to hone their camera skills, or are new to photography. They share their experience on how to photograph in challenging conditions such as the bright snow we have today, or the special settings needed to capture the Aurora Borealis come night-time. Their cars are intergrated with special monitoring equipment that help them track the lights as they drive around Lapland on the hunt. Maiju’s task is to find the best location possible to view the show.
For Maiju, it allows her the opportunity to pursue her passion for photography, professionally, throughout the winter season.
While sitting around the campsite, Laura begins to inspect some of the surrounding saplings, and shares her finding with the guests. She describes how to determine the age of the pines in the forest, by counting the pairs of branches along the trunk. One pair for every year.
Meanwhile, Maiju offers out the provisions she packed earlier. The sweet smell of a smokey fire and grilling sausages fills the forest.
– The only downside of this job is that I’ve eaten enough sausage for a lifetime.
It’s now past noon after a full two hours on the skis. The guides have the opportunity to lead another group in the afternoon at the peak of the season but today, Maiju and Laura have the afternoon to enjoy the warm spring sunshine when the tour is compete. They pack up the gear and drop off the guests, one by one, back to their hotels. Today’s group thank them both for their kind finnish hospitality, which is very contagious when working in such beautiful surroundings.
–It’s hard to beat a workplace as special as this. An experience of a lifetime, and I get to do it every day, Maiju concludes.