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As many of you may know, I have spent the last week in Akaslompolo, a small Lapp village deep within the Arctic Circle – the perfect place for cross-country skiing. 

This was our second Bristol Nordic Walking trip to Finland and I came with Polly, Ginny, Martin and Bina, none of whom had cross-country skied before. Nordic walking has its origins in cross-country skiing and given how much we love that, why not take it to the next level and try Nordic skiing?

Learning a new skill is always a challenge, but if you’re in the right place with the right teacher and the right people it’s also great fun.  So it was for us.  Our hotel had its own ski shop and the ski tracks started right beside our log cabins.  Timo, our ski coach and guide was excellent, and his knowledge of the area was amazing.  We shared a lot of laughs as well as a lot of falls throughout the week whilst Timo and Maria, his assistant, nurtured both our confidence and skill levels.  It helped that we had some glorious weather, saw a dazzling display of the northern lights and spent a snowy day snow-shoeing through the ancient sacred Sami forest of Akassaivo with the delightful Hannah.  Click here to watch a brief film giving you a flavour of our trip, and scroll down to read everyone’s reflections.

In the meantime, should you ever wish to try cross-country skiing yourself here a list of the similarities and differences between Nordic walking and Nordic skiing:

Nordic walking

Cross-country skiing

We often talk about ‘leading with your chest’, which helps with posture, breathing and power. Also the lean from your ankles, important for both posture and speed.

Leading with your chest and leaning from your ankles helps shift your centre of gravity to infront of your toes.  This enables your skis to grip properly on the snow so that you can push yourself forwards.  It’s absolutely essential.

The heel/toe roll ends with a strong push off with your toes to propel you forwards.

Likewise a strong push off with your toes helps push the skis down to grip into the snow and propel you forwards.

Squeezing your glutes and pushing into your hip helps you walk faster.

Pushing into your hips as you push off with your toes keeps your weight forwards and gives you a very powerful kick (it was also very difficult!).

We keep our weight evenly distributed between both feet when Nordic walking.

Shifting your weight from foot to foot is essential for the skis to glide and for power too.

The core muscles are strengthened with Nordic walking, through pushing the pole into the ground.

Whilst skiing strengthens your core it’s also critical for balance – you’ll be falling over without it!

Torso rotation helps with back health, whittles your waist and gives you more power.  It’s something we really encourage.

Timo told us to keep our chests facing forwards and not rotate – but maybe that’s just because we were beginners.

The poles are short and your knuckles should always be pointing down towards the ground.

The poles are long (just below shoulder level) and you bring your hands up to chest height.  The arm swing itself is similar – reaching forwards and pushing backwards.

Bina:  A lovely restorative week in stunning scenery where the silence of the snow was serene. Very lucky to have seen the most magnificent display of the dancing northern lights.  Loved the skiing on tracks with the lovely Timo and his helpers Hannah for the snowshoeing and Maria on the skiing days. It was nice to be in an authentic Lapland village with the national park forest and skiing on the lake right outside the cabin. Thank you Vicky for organising such a special holiday.

Polly:  Such a beautiful place. The snowy forests with the twisted forms of fallen trees were unforgettable, particularly in the sunshine with clear and bright blue sky, or in the morning light. The sense of achievement from gradually, gradually becoming more proficient at skiing – doing things today that, only yesterday, were clearly never going to be attainable. I feel really quite proud! All of this was only possible due to the wonderful, utterly charming and finely judged instruction from Timo and Maria. If I can get as far as I did in one week, in spite of my advance age, anyone can! The wonderful display of Northern Lights that was laid on for us was incredible; something I’ve waited to see all my life.  I think snowshoeing may become my next obsession. The hotel was perfect and the amounts of porridge particularly memorable. All of this was topped off by excellent company and very enjoyable parties with very good gin. Vicky, thank you so much for making this possible.

Ginny:  Weather fantastic, hotel lovely, and the company was great. Timo our instructor made learning to cross-country ski a great experience, not forgetting Maria and Hannah! A truly magical trip – I loved it all! Thank you BNW for giving me the opportunity.

Martin:  I echo everything Ginny has said. In addition, the chance to try reindeer meat and other Nordic delights was wonderful.  The skiing was challenging at times as we were learning the technique, but all the Nordic walking training helped tremendously…. without it it would have been a real struggle! Thanks Vicky for creating this fantastic memory.

Vicky:  There were so many highlights it’s difficult to know where to start.  First, I was thrilled that I could remember my cross-country skiing from last year – my muscles had the memory and I enjoyed improving my technique and getting better at things like herring-boning uphill and coming downhill under control!  A stand-out moment (besides the extra-ordinary dancing Northern Lights display) was skiing off by myself into the mountains and roasting sausages over an open fire in a Kota (shelter) there.  There were a few other skiers but it felt remote; the snow started to fall; it was utterly magical. I also loved my sauna each afternoon after the skiing was over, sitting outside in the sub-zero temperatures and rubbing snow on my arms and legs to cool myself down between each session.  They recommend at least three rounds of sauna/snow in Finland which takes about an hour and a half – but I couldn’t think of a nicer way to spend the time.  Finally the people – the hotel staff, Timo our instructor, Maria his helper, Hannah our snow-shoe guide, the other hotel guests, and most of all our Bristol Nordic Walking group who were brilliant (of course!).

More trips to Finland

All of us who Nordic walk have a connection to Finland.  It is the birthplace of our sport and where the technique that we all learn was developed. Whether cross-country skiing or Nordic walking, a trip to Finland is spectacular.  I shall look into the possibility of doing both for next year depending on demand.  We certainly know a good hotel to stay in!