Finland was almost unknown as a ski destination in the UK ten years ago but, although less publicised than other recent developments such as in Bulgaria, has had meteoric success and is now a firm fixture for the major UK operators.
Finland is not like most other ski destinations. Of the country’s 130 ski areas most of the half-dozen or so chosen by British operators, and indeed the country’s largest, are up in the Arctic Circle. This of course means they can be very cold and dark in mid-winter. It also means the ski areas aren’t huge, the slopes are rarely steep, and the lifts are mostly surface tows.
So, few people come to Finland just to ski and snowboard. The attraction is more the winter adventure experience, with ice hotels, reindeer sleigh safaris, dog sledding, snowmobiling, Santa, saunas and the northern lights.
It would be very wrong to write off the country’s skiing altogether though. The larger resorts like Levi, Yllas, Ruka and Pyha all have mid-sized ski areas that will keep at least early intermediate skiers happy for the best part of a week. Beginner skiers are also courted with great nursery slopes, friendly ski schools and we can also offer learn-to-ski packages at very generous prices. Indeed, although they have been rising lately, lift tickets tend to cost between a quarter and a third of the price of most major resorts in the Alps.
Cross-country skiing is of course huge in Finland, as it is right across Scandinavia, with hundreds of kilometres of tracks, often floodlit, close to each resort.
Snowboarding is also big in Finland, and one advantage of the constant low temperatures is that the snow stays in good shape right through the winter, and doesn’t get in to the thaw-and-freeze cycle that can break down terrain park structures in warmer areas. So even smaller ski areas like Saariselka can contain one giant terrain park taking up much of its slope area but creating a great attraction for freestylers.
The resorts do not in fact usually receive huge snowfalls and there are many fine days through the winter, but what falls, and what is made through the extensive snowmaking systems, usually stays put on the slopes from November to May.
Ski holiday packages are often good value with comparatively low prices for high quality accommodation and flights that usually take you direct to airports only a few minutes from your resort. The exception is December when prices are driven up by Santa Claus fans, but then prices plummet along with temperatures and the hours of daylight (there’s floodlighting and lots of warm huts to jump in to if the cold gets too much).
Many accommodations also have excellent facilities such as swimming pool complexes and night clubs so you may not feel the need to step outside too often.
The things that do cost a pretty penny in Finland are food and drink, particularly alcoholic drink, and most of the activities offered are in the £30-£70 price range.
What should be no-extra-cost is the sauna, as most accommodation will have its own. Nor is the view of the Northern Lights, you’d be unlucky not to see on at least one night of your visit. There is also a great sense of freedom as you realise there’s little between you and the North Pole and a naturally ambient ‘blue’ light that many people find has something magical about it. The Finns themselves are very friendly and welcoming hosts, so it’s no surprise that Finland has become so popular.