Resort Scorecard

Snowsure


Beginners


Intermediate


Advanced


Snowboarders


Après Ski


Families


Base elevation: 500 metres

Top elevation: 680 metres

Number of lifts: 5

Number of runs: 15

Access: Ivalo is the nearest airport, 16 miles away. Flight from UK via Helsinki or Enontekiö.

Tucked away over the other side of Lapland is Saariselkä, Finland’s northernmost ski resort. Buffering the huge wilderness expanse of Urho Kekkonen National Park are two gentle fells, which the ski lifts straddle to creating 15 recognised slopes of varying difficulty, a Freestyle Park for snowboarders and the worlds' best designated toboggan run. It's not a huge ski area by comparison to Levi and Yllas in the west, but there is enough to keep most easy-going cruisers happy for several days and it makes for a wonderful resort in which to learn, or teach others.

Saariselkäitself is a pretty little town, with a few notable restaurants and bars. It creates a very pleasant wintery atmosphere. But getting out of the town, leaving behind the light pollution to make the most of the northern lights, is largely the reason you are here - this is an awe-inspiring corner of Lapland. You'll see the Finns heading out every day, strapping on cross-country skis and following the miles and miles of marked trails. We encourage you to join them (and can organise introductory lessons), but thin skis are not your only option - husky, snowmobile, snowshoe and reindeer sleigh all take you out in to the nature. In our opinion, a holiday to Saariselkä should be equally balanced between the downhill slopes and the many actvities.

Skiing in Saariselkä

This is a resort in which cross-country skiing takes top billing. If truth be told, it is only a small downhill ski area, which is best suited to beginners and those pushing through to intermediate. The resort is divided in to two separate areas, one on each side of the road. At the lower end you will need to remove your skis to cross, further up the road ends but there's a flat area to pole or walk across.There are six slow lifts, five of which are T bars, and one a double chairlift. In total a dozen runs, five of them floodlit for the short winter days, and the longest is the longest 1.3 kilometres (a mile) long.

So let's be honest - if this is one of your first forays in downhill skiing or you looking to teach friends or family, then this is the resort for you. If your holiday is as much about the winter activities and the northern lights, then Saariselkä is still ideal. If you enjoy cross-country skiing, then you're in the right place. If you like to ski-hard and be challenged, head elsewhere.

The ski slopes are a five minute (one kilometre) bus ride from the resort centre and, rather unusually, you've got a choice of being dropped at the base or at the top of the slopes (180 vertical metres apart). If you get cold - a real possibility this far north - you'll find a welcoming bar at the base of the lifts and an excellent panoramic restaurant at the top, where the bus terminates. The ski hire facility is also very good and conveniently located right by the lifts.

Most of the runs start very gently on the flattish tops of the two fells (Kaunispaa & Iisakipää), but then begin to fall away a little more quickly a third of the way down. Counter-intuitively take the bus to the top to make your first efforts and then work up to a full descent. It really is very gentle, with wide pistes and few other skiers - a beginners paradise.

There is nothing to offer any real challenge to the more experienced skier - there is a single black and its fun to venture in to the powder to be found between the pistes. Fortunately, this stays in good shape for longer, due to the constantly freezing temperatures. All told, there's enough to keep you entertained for several days.

There is some good tree skiing if you have a guide. That's it.

There is an excellent terrain park, reputed to be Finland's largest. It features an impressive half pipe and lots of jumps and the chairlift makes it easier to get up if you're not keen on boarding up on the T-Bar.

"If the children are enjoying themselves, then so are the parents" is a direct quote from the person in charge of Saariselkä's ski fields when we last talked to her. This is why there is a children’s slope, professional and trustworthy English-speaking ski instructors, the afore mentioned sledging hill and campfire spot with lean-to shelter. It's all about inclusion and creating activities in a safe environment for the whole family.

The Children's Snow Park, which is located right next to the Ski Bar, will take care of kids for the whole day.

Surprisingly for such a small town, things can get lively in Saariselkä. With one of two larger hotels in town and being a popular holiday spot for the Scandinavians, if you go looking, then you will find. There are 29 restaurants to choose between (the minced elk and sweetbread at ​Petronella... to die for!) and then there are plenty of choices for a late night drink - The Kieppi has live music twice a week with a local band and a Sami evening once a week and Panimo is also an ever-popular hangout.

But this is the place for the Northern Lights - perhaps you'll simply spend your evenings looking up? The moonlight trail walking route will get you to the best spots - take a hipflask.

More mid-ski than apres, if you do fancy a bit of cross-country skiing then we insist you take a trail to a nearby hotel for 2pm (until 5pm), for the local dance - monotanssi. This is the weirdest, yet somehow coolest, ski party in the world. Hundreds of cross country skis are lined up outside and the dance floor and balcony are absolutely crowded, as traditional music is played by a live band. Since 1984, Laanihovi has hosted this shindig and... grab your partner because it's the best fun you could possibly have in ski shoes! You can ski across beautiful fell trails to get there or take the shortest on the 'perfume trail' (3.5 km from Saariselkä). Alternatively, you could just jump into ski bus and let the party begin!

Most of the runs start very gently on the flattish tops of the two fells (Kaunispaa & Iisakipää), but then begin to fall away a little more quickly a third of the way down. Counter-intuitively take the bus to the top to make your first efforts and then work up to a full descent. It really is very gentle, with wide pistes and few other skiers - a beginners paradise.

There is nothing to offer any real challenge to the more experienced skier - there is a single black and its fun to venture in to the powder to be found between the pistes. Fortunately, this stays in good shape for longer, due to the constantly freezing temperatures. All told, there's enough to keep you entertained for several days.

There is some good tree skiing if you have a guide. That's it.

There is an excellent terrain park, reputed to be Finland's largest. It features an impressive half pipe and lots of jumps and the chairlift makes it easier to get up if you're not keen on boarding up on the T-Bar.

"If the children are enjoying themselves, then so are the parents" is a direct quote from the person in charge of Saariselkä's ski fields when we last talked to her. This is why there is a children’s slope, professional and trustworthy English-speaking ski instructors, the afore mentioned sledging hill and campfire spot with lean-to shelter. It's all about inclusion and creating activities in a safe environment for the whole family.

The Children's Snow Park, which is located right next to the Ski Bar, will take care of kids for the whole day.

Surprisingly for such a small town, things can get lively in Saariselkä. With one of two larger hotels in town and being a popular holiday spot for the Scandinavians, if you go looking, then you will find. There are 29 restaurants to choose between (the minced elk and sweetbread at ​Petronella... to die for!) and then there are plenty of choices for a late night drink - The Kieppi has live music twice a week with a local band and a Sami evening once a week and Panimo is also an ever-popular hangout.

But this is the place for the Northern Lights - perhaps you'll simply spend your evenings looking up? The moonlight trail walking route will get you to the best spots - take a hipflask.

More mid-ski than apres, if you do fancy a bit of cross-country skiing then we insist you take a trail to a nearby hotel for 2pm (until 5pm), for the local dance - monotanssi. This is the weirdest, yet somehow coolest, ski party in the world. Hundreds of cross country skis are lined up outside and the dance floor and balcony are absolutely crowded, as traditional music is played by a live band. Since 1984, Laanihovi has hosted this shindig and... grab your partner because it's the best fun you could possibly have in ski shoes! You can ski across beautiful fell trails to get there or take the shortest on the 'perfume trail' (3.5 km from Saariselkä). Alternatively, you could just jump into ski bus and let the party begin!

Getting There

The closest airport in Ivalo, which is just 16 miles down the road. Finnair flies from Helsinki to Ivalo, as do Norwegian Airlines three days a week. There is also a new service, routing through Enontekiö on the way out (also in Lapland) from London Gatwick, which flies on Tuesdays and Saturdays.

Each and every flight which arrives in Ivalo is met by a bus connection to Saariselkä. Alternatively, we can organise a taxi direct to your accommodation.

Resort Scorecard

Snowsure


Beginners


Intermediate


Advanced


Snowboarders


Après Ski


Families


Base elevation: 500 metres

Top elevation: 680 metres

Number of lifts: 5

Number of runs: 15

Access: Ivalo is the nearest airport, 16 miles away. Flight from UK via Helsinki or Enontekiö.