Finland is one of the 15 countries worldwide that can claim to be home to more than 100 ski centres. The proportion of those 130 or so Finnish ski resorts that are internationally well known is perhaps not so high as some of the best known countries in the Alps, but over the past decade or so the largest resorts like Levi, Yllas and most recently Ruka have made an increasingly big name for themselves around the world.
Skiing in Finland you’ll find that the country’s best known ski areas have many unique attractions for skiers and boarders looking for a very different experience to the Alps at almost every level.
To begin with when you ski Finland you’ll find the downhill ski areas are of modest size. One of the biggest is at Yllas (Ylläs, pronounced 'U-las'), which has the country's greatest vertical at just under 470m, and about the most runs (40km) and longest run (3km).
Secondly the hills on which the ski slopes are located or ‘Fells’ as they are known, are generally gently rounded so steep slopes are a rarity.
Next, the northerly latitude means the sun does not rise in winter from late November until late January in some ski areas, when temperatures can dip as low as -25ºC although somewhere between -5 ºC and -15 ºC is more common. Oh and most of the lifts are T bar drags.
So what are the attractions? Well skiing in Lapland is a very special experience, whether skiing in the unearthly dusk under floodlighting when the sun has gone below the horizon in mid-winter, or in the ‘blue light’ that is the norm once it returns, or at night when the northern lights may be dancing above.
Then the snow itself is something special, not suffering from the freeze-thaw pattern common in the Alps and North America, it instead falls as powder and stays as powder.
Prices for lift tickets at least are among the most affordable in Europe, transfers from local airports typically short and the major resorts have all built excellent base facilities such as tropical swimming pool complexes for après ski. Levi opened a leisure complex containing 17 themed swimming pools by its slopes in 2009.
Maximising their assets Finnish ski areas have also built excellent terrain parks for freestylers at many resorts, knowing that the terrain features they build won’t melt away all winter.
There is also an onus on the multi-Arctic-activity holiday and many guests arrive from the UK not to ski but to meet Santa in his homeland, go on a reindeer safari, dog sledding or snowmobiling.
Cross country skiing is very popular with thousands of miles of tracks and the Finns have built several indoor and underground cross country runs which have snow in them year round for training. Most ski areas are inter-connected by trails, which are usually floodlit close to the resorts themselves.
Ruka is Finland’s most ‘up and coming’ resort with a modern design by international resort planners Ecosign, who have worked on many other modern ski area designs around the world since their early success with Whistler Blackcomb. Ruka has built a name for itself as a cutting edge resort hosting Freestyle World Cup events and also for its long season – aiming to open its main slope by early October each year and keep it open until mid-June, making an eight months season, probably the world’s longest for a non-glacier resort. read more...
Finland: latest snow conditions round-up
Summary of forecast snowfall and ski conditions for resorts in Finland. Fresh snow is forecast at 1resorts. Powder is reported at 0 resorts and 0 are reporting good piste conditions.