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Ski Tour in Lapland Wilderness

We spent a week on our ski tour in Lapland in the wilderness of Urho Kekkonen National Park. I flew to Ivalo, Finland with three friends from Switzerland during Easter 2015.

All we had with us was backpacks with warm clothes and food. No electricity, no modern conveniences. Only snow, sunshine and wild nature.

– Guest post by Maria Nygård –

Ski tour in Lapland wilderness, Finland

Lapland

The North of Finland, i.e. Lapland, is known for it’s beautiful landscape and the Lapland wilderness. Most of the land above the arctic circle is uninhabited and you can walk around for days without seeing another human. The combination of fells ( round mountains), forests, swamps, lakes and rivers is just breathtaking.

 

 

Lapland is good for traveling all year around, but if you want to see something extraordinary I would recommend the Ruska-season in the autumn when all the leafs change their colors and changes the landscape to a mighty ocean of different shades of red, yellow, brown and purple.

Another popular season is during the winter when thick layers of clear white snow covers the nature like a blanket. Around Christmas time the sun won’t rise and it is dark all day. At this time of the year, light will be provided by the moon and millions of stars reflecting to the snow. During cold nights even the Northern lights (Aurora Borealis) might be dancing in the sky.

 

Our ski tour in Lapland (~100 km) on the map

Kiilopää-Suomunruoktu-Tuiskukuru-Luirojärvi-Sudenpesä-Lankojärvi-Kiilopää

1.Kiilopää
2.Suomunruoktu
3.Tuiskukuru
4.Luirojärvi
5.Sudenpesä
6.Lankojärvi

1. Kiilopää – Suomunruoktu (~15 km)

We started our ski tour in Lapland from Fell Center Kiilopää, where we rented skis and two Pulkkas (sleds). Our backpacks, food and sleeping bags could all fit in the Pulkkas even though they ended up being slightly heavy (35-40kg each).

The Pulkka is actually very comfortable around the waist and a very convenient way to carry loads of stuff with you. The only challenge is steep slopes where usually the Pulkka decides to take its own route and you end up rolling in the snow or crushing into a tree. But that is all just a part of the adventure!

 

Skiing with a pulkka in Lapland

 

The huts are very nice, clean and well equipped. Rerservations can be made in forehand from Metsähallitus (www.outdoors.fi). Gas is provided to make cooking a little bit easier. For 11e/night a mattress and pillow is also provided.

To warm up the hut there is a wood-burning stove which was very effective. Only a couple of nights we woke up freezing and had to make fire in the middle of the night. To get water it is either possible to make a hole in the icy river/lake or to melt some snow. Dishes were easy to wash with some fresh snow!

 

2. Suomunruoktu – Tuiskukuru (~13 km)

To get to Tuiskukuru we had to climb up a fell and since the day was a little bit windy and snowy the visibility wasn’t the best. On the top of the fell we could merely see old skiing tracks or tracks from a snowmobile. The skis started to get a bit slippery so we decided to take them off and attach them to the pulkka and hike up the Fell. Luckily we left early in the morning so that the snow wasn’t too slushy and soft. Once the snow gets soft you start sinking through and this time of the year there was snow until our hips (>1m).

 

 

In Tuiskukuru we built an Igloo! It took us some hours but it ended up being a new landmark. In Tuiskukuru  a fox came to visit us in the evening, probably hoping for a delicious dinner to steal.

3. Tuiskukuru – Luirojärvi (~9 km)

From Kiilopää until Luirojärvi the tracks are fairly good as long as it doesn’t snow. After Luirojärvi we started to use our compasses and maps more often. In Luirojärvi there might be a possibility to use a mobile phone even though we were not able to find any service.

 

Luirojärvi

The hut in Luirojärvi is located next to a big lake. There is a separate building with a wooden Sauna which can be used by any visitor. We carried water to the Sauna from the frozen lake. It for sure felt good to bath in the Sauna and roll in the snow after 3 days of sweating!

 

 

In Luirojärvi we met some Finnish men who had made a hole in the ice and they were fishing, in Finland we call this type of winter fishing Pilkkiminen. In the end there was enough fish for a soup!

4. Luirojärvi – Sudenpesä (~19 km)

To get to the valley that would take us to Sudenpesä we had two options: either to cross the lake or to follow its shore. In April the sun is already pretty warm and the snow is melting and getting soft in the afternoon. With two heavy pulkkas attached to us we didn’t want to end up swimming so we followed the shore. The view was breathtaking with the blue sky and white fells in the horizon.

 

Luirojärvi

Rivers are usually a good and easy way to navigate and stay in the right direction. This late in the spring the rivers had already opened and we had to be careful about where it is safe to cross the river. In some points the only option was to take a long detour or just to count to three and ski quickly over!

 

 

The design of the Sudenpesä hut is a little bit different than the other huts and it has a cozy fireplace inside. Wet and sweaty clothes and boots could be dried in every hut next to the stove!

5. Sudenpesä – Lankojärvi (~21 km)

From Sudenpesä we had to leave early in the morning so that we could hike over the Fell before the snow gets too soft. Luckily it was an extremely beautiful and cold morning, these pictures are taken at 7:30 am.

 

 

This hike follows some rivers and crosses some lakes. We took a great risk going this way since the streams in the rivers had already moved the ice and snow. A few days later this path would have been too dangerous to take.

A great advice is to read the other hikers experiences from the guest books in the huts or then just to talk to them if you happen to see someone. Take your time and be prepared for detours. To observe and read the nature is essential, especially next to open water.

 

Sudenpesä-Lankojärvi

Starting from the right: Sudenpesä to Lankojärvi.

 

We didn’t see any wild animals, but the tracks of them were everywhere. Foxes, wolfs, lynx, rabbits, reindeers… Birds could be seen and heard non-stop! Especially the Siberian Jay (in Finnish Kuukkeli).

6. Lankojärvi – Kiilopää (~18 km)

The last day we were counting on to be easy, but after skiing/hiking for almost a week we just simply didn’t have too much energy and strength left. The weather also decided to change rapidly and the last fell was therefore very tough to climb. When going down the steep slope with bad visibility, we changed the pulkka to be on the front side so that we could have more control over it.

 

Skiing with a pulkka in Kiilopää

 

The altitudes for the last day: lowest point 80m – highest point 482m.

Altitudes in Kiilopää

When we finally arrived in the Fell Center Kiilopää again, we were weary! We gave our all till the last meter.

In Kiilopää we enjoyed traditional Finnish Smoke sauna and swimming in the frozen lake! And of course we had some reindeer, lingonberries and blueberry pie for dinner! So refreshing after a sporty week!

 

 

In Kiilopää they had a Moomin and Angry Birds ice sculpture exhibition. Before leaving to the airport we visited Saariselkä which has a little bit more tourist attractions to look at, e.g. Santa’s Office, Spa, Husky tours, Souvenir shops and downhill skiing slopes.

 

Ski tour in Lapland wilderness, Kiilopää

 

Amazing, active, extreme and relaxing week out in the wilderness! Sore muscles and legs full of bruises, it was all more than worth it!

If you got inspired to make a ski tour in Lapland,  I’ll be happy to answer your questions.

 -Maria Nygård

 

5 comments

  1. Hello!
    I am living in Helsinki this year and I do not want to leave finland without visiting lapland, so I booked a flight to ivalo for late february! I was planning to do the same route as you did but hiking, so I would appreciate any important advice you could tell me such as where didi you take the maps and information about the huts and also any specific issue you had to deal with worth to say.. Thanks!! Adrián

    • Hi Adrian, it will be a great thing to do the route but I’m not sure if you can do it hiking since there should lots of snow by that time. Maria who wrote this post is in Ethiopia right now but she’ll be back next week and she’ll be in contact with you.

      • Hi Adrián,
        Thank you for your questions and interest. So exciting that you are going to Lapland!

        Maps can be bought online: https://kauppa.luontoon.fi/PublishedService?pageID=3&file=page&# or at some shops at Saariselkä. Since there is no network in the national park, I would definitely recommend to get maps in printed form. The information about the huts can be found here: http://www.nationalparks.fi/

        You said that you wanted to do the same route as we did but by hiking. There is a lot of snow (easily over 1m) and if the weather stays as warm as it has been I would not recommend hiking without skies. The snow will be very soft and you will drown in the snow. It happened to us a few times even with skies and I can promise you that it is very slow and heavy to move in that kind of snow.
        But don’t worry, there are a lot of routes in e.g. Saariselkä which are good for hiking even in the winter. Snowmobiles are also a fast and fun way to explore the nature. Saariselkä offers a lot of different types of activities, so I warmly recommend to visit the village during your stay in Lapland.

        Please let me know if you have more questions! Good luck with planning your trip! 🙂

  2. Hi!
    I am interested in doing a similar self guided ski tour in Lapland. I am however hesitant whether my experience is sufficient. Would you say that one needs to have extensive cross country skiing and outdoor surviving skills to do this? I am experienced with downhill skiing and have lots of camping experience but map reading for instance is not exactly my forte… I would appreciate any tips on this!
    Thanks,
    Sarah

    • Hi Sarah, this tour in fact is for experienced skiers. You have to ski long distances in a cold weather and in deep snow (maybe 1 meter of snow) and find your way without any visibility in case there is a snowstorm. In the cottages you will need camping skills. You have to know how to get your drinking water from the frozen lake and you have to heat the ice cold cottage. Without the skills needed for this kind of extreme trip it could be dangerous.

      So this is what I can say. If this is too extreme for you Lapland is full of shorter skiing tracks many of which have cottages for overnight stay. Hope my answer helps you plan your trip to Lapland 🙂

      Liisa

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