In Finland, skiing is serious business: for health, for fun, for life. But when Finns talk about skiing, they usually mean cross-country skiing. And nowhere in Finland is skiing more popular, challenging or rewarding than Lapland.
In February and March, you’ll see schoolchildren trundling along the sidewalks, skis and poles in tiny hands. Behind them, a pair of grandparents, white tufts of hair poking from their knitted caps. Everyone is on their way to the ski paths. In Lapland, skiing starts early in life and continues as long as you can grip a ski pole and stay upright. The towns and countryside, and even the frozen rivers, are criss-crossed with ski paths as soon as the snow settles, usually in late November.
The largest ski resort in Finland
The village of Ylläs in western Lapland boasts of being the largest ski resort in Finland, and with good reason. Hundreds of skiing trails are laid over the village and its environs like a silken spider-web. You could stay here for a month and never take the same route twice! Almost 40 kilometers of these tracks are illuminated for a great experience no matter the hour.
For those with the need for speed, the largest ski resort in Finland also has the most downhill skiing paths, with 63 slopes and over 50 kilometers of trails, spanning a variety of difficulties. Or test your skills on Finland’s longest slope: Jättipitkä.
Heaven for Ski Lovers
In Finland, every February or March, there is a week called hiihtoloma, or skiing holiday. And the Levi Ski Resort is the perfect place to strap on your boots, lock into your skis and take off. Levi and and its municipality Kittilä feature over 200 km of ski tracks. They’ll carry you away from the hustle and bustle of Lapland’s most popular ski resort and into the awesome, vast silent spaces that epitomize Lapland.
If you’re more into verticality, Levi has slopes for first-time skiers all the way to Alpine World Cup class challenges with 28 ski lifts and 43 pistes. Snowboarders also frequent the slopes. There’s even a brightly lit park, offering kickers even in the evenings.
Rising from the Syöte National Park is Finland’s southernmost fell: Iso-Syöte. With 17 slopes and ten lifts, the ski center offers plenty of variety and challenge. Cross-country skiers can also test their limits on the 120 kilometers of maintained tracks that weave around the fells and through the unspoiled nature. Next to Iso-Syöte sits her little sister Pikku-Syöte. Here, skiers can learn from the best at the Pikku-Syöte Ski School during the day. At night, a stay in the Hotel Pikku-Syöte offers unparalleled views of the surrounding hills and fells. Kids of both the Finnish and international variety can enjoy campdays and activities hosted by the Pikku-Syöte Youth Center.
And, as a special treat for Finnish parents and kids who love to learn, the Pikku-Syöte elementary school allows for Finnish students to enroll while their families spend the holiday in the area.
Let there be snow
With skiing such a Finnish thing, it’s no surprise that you can find ski tracks near every village and town in Lapland. In winter, sometimes it’s easier to go by ski than by car!
Rovaniemi, hometown to Santa and the capital of Lapland, has an extensive network of ski tracks, many illuminated. You can even climb down to the frozen Kemijoki and ski for a couple hours, dozens of kilometers or hundreds of calories–whatever metric you choose!
In Pello, on the border between Sweden and Finland, you can ski trails near the village of famed Olympic ski champion Eero Mäntyranta. As you flow past the snow-capped trees and down the gentle hills, you can almost feel the weight of the gold medals around your neck.
At the Aavasaksa Ski Resort, just north of Ylitornio, you can take a few laps around the bottom of the hill before hitching a lift and blasting your way back down the kilometer long slope.
Did you bring your dog along? Does she yearn for speed, for unbridled distance? Try out Salla’s dog ski tracks, and let your good girl feel like an Iditarod husky for an hour or two.
In Pyhä-Luosto, take the day and travel from one fell to another (35 km). Stop along the way for a cup of coffee or a sandwich at one of the many cafes and rest areas. When you’re done, hop on the Ski Bus and head back to your hotel room for a sauna and a nightcap at the Pyhä Lounge.
As far north as north goes in Lapland, you can ski through the idyllic villages of Sámiland in Utsjoki, just as the Sámi peoples have done for thousands of years.
Further south, the Ruka Ski Resort is a great place for skiers and rides of all levels. Their range of wellbeing services, delicious wild food, and comfortable lodging make sure you are fully recharged for the next wonderful day of winter fun.
Or maybe snow is your thing. The towns of Pudasjärvi, Posio and Taivalkoski get the most snowfall in all of Finland. The only sounds you’ll hear are the crunch of your skis, the wind in your ears, as you travel along this crisp, white fairy tale landscape.
Off the beaten path
Sometimes, you just want to glide off the path, away from the lit track and find your own adventure. Lucky for you, Lapland has plenty to offer if you’re looking for a thrilling freeride, altai skiing, trek skiing and more!
The Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park, beginning at Lake Ylläsjärvi and stretching north for 100 kilometers, has more than 500 km of ski trails, with wilderness ski trails are maintained only by snowmobiles.
The guides at Tundrea Resort in Kilpisjärvi, at the northwest tip of Lapland, can point you toward the fells that offer the most thrilling and fun backcountry slopes. Remember to bring your GoPro!
Altai skiing (using short forest skis) may have been invented in the central Asian mountains, but Ivalo has perfected it. Take a couple days, and go on an altai skiing tour from the Safari Club house in Saariselkä to the fell highlands (2 hours ski time). Enjoy an evening in a cozy cabin with a roaring fire. The next day, you’ll take an alternate route back to Europe’s northernmost holiday resort, ensuring you see landscapes that few others have dared experience.
No matter the village or town, if there’s snow on the ground in Lapland, there’s skiing happening not far. With hundreds and hundreds of cross-country ski paths, Lapland is truly made for skiing.