I’ve wanted to try my hand at cross country skiing ever since I discovered Nordic walking over six years ago. This trip was the culmination of two years worth of researching and planning and every day I bubbled over with joy, gliding (sort of) along the purpose-made tracks through this beautiful part of the world. National parks, sacred forests, frozen lakes, Northern Lights, Kotas (Lapp huts) with central fires, generations of families skiing together (babies in sleds behind), friendly, helpful people, both locals and visitors at every turn. I posted daily updates of our trip on the Bristol Nordic Walking Facebook page and, if you’re interested, you can see some of our photos by clicking here.
I think we all benefitted greatly from having Nordic walked beforehand, although nothing quite prepares you for your first ever cross-country skiing (‘classic’ skiing in Finland) experience. The skis are very narrow and most of us spent the majority of the first day, if not the whole week just trying to stay upright. Balance and core strength were probably the two key components. The arm/leg co-ordination came easily for all of us and double arm poling was very useful. As I improved I began to benefit from rotating my upper body and extending my arm fully behind me to maximise the push, but I know there’s a very long way to go before I can say I’ve mastered this sport.
We are all so pleased to have come here to Akaslompolo where we stayed in the really excellent hotel YllasHumina. People come back to this hotel time and time again, many for over 10 years and some for 25. That tells you something about a place. Timo, our instructor and guide, had endless patience and took us on many beautiful routes and to some excellent cafes. ‘Chukk-chukk’, ‘Yoh’ and ‘Heyhey’ were his trademark phrases.
Although we were here to try cross-country skiing there were many other things to do, and a highlight for us all was the day Timo took us snow-shoeing through an ancient Sami sacred forest. It included a stop at one of the government maintained wilderness cabins where Timo lit a fire and we all ate cake and drank hot berry juice.
We’ll each go back with our own memories of this magical week, and to be honest, we’ll need some time for reflection before we really know what these are. However, everyone gave me their initial thoughts whilst waiting for our flight home at Kittila airport to share with you here:
Mina – Back to my motherland and I’ve finally visited Lapland. I loved being on skis and surrounded by nature and stillness.
Mel – Achieved a lifelong ambition to have a go at skiing and to see the Aurora Borealis. Have also fallen in love with Finland. The Finns are my kind of people. Grateful to Vicky for everything including the pre-trip exercise programme which I think really helped me prepare my stamina, balance and muscles for the skiing.
Karin – The skiing was much harder than I was expecting but I was really pleased to have had a go. There’s so much more than just skiing here and I’d love to come back again – husky sledding next!
Deirdre – Even after injuring my arm falling awkwardly on day one, there was plenty for me to do and achieve. I Nordic walked along some of the walking/snowshoeing/‘fat’ baking trails (there’s an extensive network) and was glad for my Nordic walking poles and ice grippers. The snow shoeing was exhilarating and very satisfying.
Jane – Really really enjoyed the skiing. It’s not a bad way to get to a cafe and the excuse of a reindeer pancake took us deep into the wild. Next year I’ll buy sausages for the open fires so that I can soak up the wonderful isolated feeling of this beautiful place. Also, I’d like to see some of the animals as they were so elusive that all we had were their tracks.
Deb – Working our bodies really hard every day to navigate the most beautiful landscape, and then basking in the sauna afterwards. Bliss!
Annie and Simon – Give it go! It’s many things – challenging, tough, exhilarating, even overwhelming at times. No need to be especially fit, although good balance helps. It’s all about the technique. Everyone we met was just adorable and so helpful, especially our instructor Timo.
All of us – You have to learn to love to fall!! (Legal) drugs do help – especially ibuprofen tablets and arnica gel. Groin stretches essential. Don’t come without your health insurance.
Kittos paljon YllasHumina. Kittos paljon Finland.