After a late start to the UK paddling season, the first significant cold snap arrived and set about drying and freezing all of Dartmoor’s water, locking it in well into the New Year. Thankfully, I had other plans. I flew to Helsinki to meet the lovely wife, and the head straight to the ski hill with some of the Finnish paddling crowd. Conditions were not much better for snow sports, with only 2 slopes open and temperatures just around freezing, so we set about clocking up laps to get the legs ready for the Christmas trip north to Lappland.
With a few more days back in Helsinki, we packed up the car and drove to the train station for the night train, where your car came along for the drive on its own carriage. Through the night the train headed north into the Arctic, and after a few beers and a movie the rumble of the wheels on the tracks sent us into a restful sleep. On arrival, the most authentic Santa Claus I’d ever seen was waiting to greet everyone off the train, it was quite the site, and the young children could not belief their eyes. A big open wood fire set the scene for waiting passengers, as their car driver’s collected their cars.
We arrived on Christmas Eve, so a quick afternoon nordic skiing to get the legs going, then sauna before a traditional dinner with Satu’s family in the small ski village of Levi. The restaurant was made to appear like a local Salmi dwelling, with a huge open grill pit in the mid of the room. After dinner we were treated to traditional Salmi songs and poetry about northern life and Salmi culture, wonderful stuff.
As the days passed, Satu and I fired up the ski legs and made numerous day trips from Levi on the tracks around, through the week we clocked up over 100Km, plus had a day or two on the snow boards. Around most of these ski towns there are numerous tracks with cafe’s or shelters with fire where you can grill food for a warm lunch. What is really revealing on these ski tours, is not only the amount of people out there, but also the diversity of people, all ages, race heads, families, groups of teenagers and old couples can be seen enjoying the workout and the Winter Wonderland. On one trip we came across dog sledging tours, and very noisy affair.
During the evening, Satu’s parent had got Guitar Hero World Tour, and as you can expect we rocked out on every occasion. Another high light was the traditional Finnish Christmas dessert, “Joulutortut”.
As ever no sooner are you into an excellent holiday routine, it was time to leave, Satu and I took the night train back south on New Year’s Eve and had a great fireworks show as the train passed through Oulu at midnight. Soon after it was time for myself to head back to the UK for work, and colder days than I had in the Arctic, still Christmas in the snow with loved ones is a slice of wonderland.