Skiing in the Arctic Circle is ... different. The ski mountains may lack the grandeur of elsewhere in Europe. During the height of winter, sunlight can be a scarce commodity. And then there is the cold - my goodness ... it's cold.
All the above are unassailably true, but now lets look to the many positives; the season is long - ski well before Christmas and then the snow will still be there in May. The amazing snow stays pristine, not deteriorating through the freeze / thaw / freeze cycle that blights pistes elsewhere. There are few crowds. The unspoiled Arctic wilderness is jaw-droppingly beautiful, with an other-worldly quality. And there are so many exhilarating ways to get in amongst it - snowmobiles, cross-country, husky safaris, snow shoes, reindeer excursions. Indeed, there are probably more winter activities available than time to try them all. The Finns speak excellent English and create a welcoming, hospitable vibe. Look up on a cloudless winter night and you'll likely see the Northern Lights. The resorts are far less frequented with British skiers, making it a perfect destination for families or adventure seekers.
It's different up here - whether its the light, the latitude or the snow, there's something truly special.
"What a magnificent experience! As you know, we were worried about the lack of light but it just wasn't an issue. If anything, the floodlit slopes just added to the atmosphere and the regular northern lights show was amazing."Alice Paisley (Great Malvern, UK)
The resorts open a few runs in late November, but most don't completely open until later in the season. This is because during the deep winter months the sun simply does not rise, not at ground level at least - but most resorts have floodlit skiing. In truth, it's a hard sell persuading skiers to travel in December, January and even February - we won't pretend otherwise, although we actually quite enjoy the moody murkiness and empty slopes. Temperatures can be extreme, yo-yoing between zero to -30ºC and the best skiing days are normally the coldest.
It's late in the season that skiing in Finland normally comes into its own, and from late-February onwards normal skiing days are possible and snow reliability, even really late in the season, is excellent - hard packed powder or fresh snow until mid-May. Warmer temperatures and longer daylight hours create idyllic conditions.
Excellent, reliable snow conditions, decent quality accommodation, few lift queues, many incredible activities and the chance to see the stunning northern lights. Finnish Lapland remains a 'best kept secret' by the Scandinavians.
There are around 75 ski resorts in Finland, but most of them small local hills next to cities and villages. The resorts Different Snow feature, however, lie in Lapland, being larger and with plenty of facilities. The ski terrain may be more round fells than steep mountains, but they offer varying terrain for skiers and snowboarders of all skill levels - everything from kids’ runs to black slopes, and snow parks to backcountry exploring.
The mood in Finnish ski resorts is 'chilled' (literally!) - far more laid-back than the crowded fashionista boltholes in The Alps. You don't have to sharpen your ski poles to hold position in lift queues or dodge the nervous newbies on the M25-like slopes. English is widely spoken in both ski schools and in the cosy resort villages.
Levi is the most famous resort - a ski hill so highly regarded it has hosted World Cup events annually since 2004. Ylläs, the country’s largest resort is home to 62 slopes, and also boasts the longest runs to be found in Finland. Saariseklä is a less-known alternative, over in the East of Lapland and a particular favourite of ours. We also feature Luosto & Pyhä, but you'll find these in our 'Arctic Adventures' section - the balance perhaps having swung more to wilderness cabins and winter activities than the more limited downhill skiing.
Tap on the resorts below to find out more:
Ylläs is actually the largest ski mountain in Finland. Nearby Levi may have the reputation ... which suits laid-back Ylläs just fine. This is where the Finns like to holiday - a cross-country Mecca - and the charm of the two villages, linked by one ski fell, is infectious. Mellow and beautiful.
Tucked away in Eastern Lapland, Saariselkä has an easy charm. It’s not a large ski area ... but for beginners and improving novices, the quiet slopes are the perfect practice ground. It’s not just about the skiing - Saariselkä is in the most beautiful natural wilderness, perfect for exploring on an Arctic holiday.
The ski resorts are in Lapland, which is Finland north of the Arctic Circle (for our purposes). It takes just shy of three hours to get to Helsinki and a further hour to get up to the north. We can organise departures from London and a few other regional airports.
We use scheduled flights from the UK, which more often than not requires a change of plane in the capital, Helsinki. For Levi and Ylläs, the airport is Kittilä. Finnair flies between Helsinki and Kittilä daily and Norwegian have four weekly flights during the ski season. SAS also fly. There are a handful of charter flights direct to Kittilä and we'll can check to see what is available.