It’s the home of Santa – apparently full of magic reindeer, elves with pointy shoes and presents piled high in every direction. But can Finland be just as enchanting for adults as it is for kids? We sent two of our ski experts to the Finnish resort of Ruka to find out.
Firstly, is it too cold to ski in Finland?
Amy: I was expecting it to be extremely cold, but it wasn’t actually that bad. It can drop to around -20°C, but in December it sticks at around -10°C. With all those layers, you don’t really feel the cold, and you definitely warm up more when you’re skiing. The picturesque scenery also distracts you from the temperature – especially if you’re lucky enough to see the Northern Lights.
And aren’t the days shorter too?
Will: I’d heard from friends and family that it gets hardly any daylight. And, yes, the days are pretty short – in December and January the sun rises at around mid-morning and sets in the early afternoon – but the ski slopes are kitted out with floodlights, so it wasn’t an issue.
What’s skiing in Ruka actually like then?
Amy: As a beginner, the skiing was perfect. The family park had great nursery slopes and there was a gentle green run with a button lift for when you start to feel more confident.
Will: For an advanced skier or boarder, the slopes were great and varied. It gets dark early but it took no time to adjust to the floodlights. It’s also really quiet – not once did I wait in a lift queue. For refuelling, there are free lodges dotted around the mountain. They have open fires you could cook on, water refilling facilities and plenty of seating.
What are the top things to do in Ruka apart from skiing?
Amy: We did a whole heap of things, from ice karting to dog sledding and walking in Oulanka National Park. If I had to pick, my favourite activity would be the sauna tour at Pohjolan Pirtti. We learnt about the building’s history and its saunas before relaxing in the wood-fired sauna (where we had to hit ourselves with herbs) and in the outdoor hot tub. Absolute bliss.
Will: For me, the snowmobiling wins out. You just zoom through the trees in pitch-black darkness. It’s an exhilarating ride that has you smiling the moment your hand hits the throttle.
What’s the food like?
Amy: The food was so delicious, with lots of dishes made with local ingredients. We tried everything from smoked reindeer to a traditional Finnish Christmas dinner. This was my favourite as it was made up of lots of tasty things like gin-marinated salmon and horseradish mousse – yum. The price of food wasn’t bad either, as you can get a pizza for about £10.
Will: The food available is varied, with Italian dishes, a burger joint called RU OK Burger and a new sushi restaurant. I’d definitely recommend a traditional dish called poronkäristys, a stew made with sautéed reindeer on a bed of mashed potatoes, topped with a lingonberry sauce.
How was the après in Ruka?
Will: There aren’t many mountain bars, so we usually finished skiing and headed to a bar in the village for a well-earned glass in front of the fire. The Finns also love their karaoke. Even if you’re a wallflower, you can still go along to listen to the locals really giving it their all.
Amy: We visited a quirky place called Hanki Bar – Hanki means ‘snow’ in Finnish – which had regional beer on tap and other well-known ski drinks like bombardinos and glühwein. Just down the road is Zone Bar, where you’re encouraged to dance on the table.
Are the views as good as they look in the photos?
Amy: From the gondola, the views are incredible. Three quarters of Finland is actually forest, so there are trees everywhere, which really conveys that whole ‘winter wonderland’ feel.
Will: What you see from the top of the mountain aren’t your typical alpine views. Frozen lakes and vast forests extend out in all directions. It’s a completely different experience but equally beautiful.
Do you have any tips for anyone planning to go to Finland?
Amy: While the food isn’t too expensive, alcohol can get pricey – though you can always pick up a few drinks at duty free on the way through.
Will: Take extra base and mid layers to stay warm. You also don’t need to pack as much regular clothing as you would expect. You’ll be in your ski gear most of the time anyway – we only really needed to change for evening meals.
Ready for an adults-only winter wonderland adventure?Start planning your perfect snowy getaway to Finland.