Winter sports in Lapland

For many of us Finland is renowned for its saunas and once popular mobile phones. Lapland, the northern region, also claims to be home for Santa. Keeping old traditions, these days Finland becomes a gem full of natural beauties and winter sports experience.

This trip was our first time experience with packaged holidays. Although we are always sceptical about such things and overall experience (not to mention furious customer reviews on different websites), we were really tempted by Crystal‘s deal in Lapland. After paying total of £730 (€850) for return direct flights and 1 week accommodation we have started packing our bags. This time the task was challenging as it was not just a normal trip and we needed some extra gear and clothing to ride on the snow and fight the near-polar cold.

Ski resort we went to, Levi, is located 170 km north of the Arctic Circle which makes it one of the northernmost ski resorts. It is served by conveniently located international airport of Kittilä and, disregarding the cold, has very well thought infrastructure and entertainment. This time we haven’t spent a single penny in cash and were able to pay for everything by card! This was amazing compared to some European countries where you still need cash to buy souvenirs or bus tickets.

Despite the “international” status of the airport, it is rather small and can’t really handle the number of flights arriving and departing every Sunday. After a big mess with baggage where some of our fellow passengers didn’t find their bags and some others found their suitcases severely damaged, we’ve met our Crystal rep and, after a short bus ride, arrived to the hotel. After reading some of the reviews on Crystal, we were prepared to the worst, but after a few hours we felt pretty safe as their service turned out to be very handy and responsive. Special thanks here goes to Nicky and Amber who were helping us out on this trip.

Next morning our ski passes were loaded and snowboards picked up from Zero Point (Levi’s major rental service and shop), we were ready for main activities. The slopes in Levi are well maintained, however they may be slightly icy and, given the weather conditions, are not always very pleasant to ride on. We experienced multiple weather changes during the week and were riding under calm and cloudy sky, covered with sunshine and under storm-like wind. With this variety we really improved our beginner riding skills and endurance, paying the price of several bruises and minor injuries. Levi is a perfect location for beginners despite having only two chairlifts and a gondola lift (it’s not really pleasant experience on a drag lift with a snowboard, is it?). South pistes are particularly gentle and you can enjoy the view of rainbows above the snow.

Of course, one does not travel beyond the Arctic Circle without hope of seeing Aurora Borealis (or simply Northern lights). Both weather and Aurora activity forecasts were not promising but we were lucky to see a bit of this natural phenomenon on a cloudless night. This is something everyone would admire and if you happen to have a tripod, don’t forget to take the pictures, just set exposure to maximum value and sit or, rather, stand back. Sky illuminated by colourful moving light is an unforgettable experience and we’re already looking forward to seeing it again.

Food and drinks is an essential part of each journey. After a day on the slope you may feel like you’re able to eat the whole reindeer. None of the restaurants can give you that, but some of them really deserve mentioning. Levi is very tourist-oriented and you can generally find any popular cuisine you may think of being it French, Italian, Asian or American. Right next to the front pistes there is a couple of nice restaurants which can help refueling after a long day: Colorado bar & grill is a place for all Crystal networking meetings as well as home to large rib platter, and Kotipizza provides rather good pizza (given the location) for a decent price. The best restaurant in Levi, in my opinion, is Nili-Poro where you can try virtually any meal you can think of having reindeer meat as a base (‘poro’ means ‘reindeer’ in Finnish) starting with burgers and steaks going to more authentic Lappish reindeer stew. The place itself is very cosy and if you want you can buy antlers from the wall. You can then continue to one of the pubs in Levi to watch sports and have a perfect pint. Most of the places have ice hockey on show, but you can also find yourself watching Six Nations at Oliver’s Corner Irish Pub. For the best local beer I would recommend visiting Public House Sohva, my personal recommendations are Pyynikin Papabeers Vanillastout and Plevnan Severin Extra IPA.

Levi ski resort was really welcoming but the time came to say goodbye. We found it very cosy and family-friendly so we’ll certainly come back to enjoy husky rides and reindeer sledding.

Summary

How to get there?

We booked a package holiday, however Lapland is open to any independent tourists. Kittila international has connections with many European cities directly and many more options are available with transfer in Helsinki.

Where to stay?

This area is full of hotels and other accommodations for any budget. You can stay in the room with private sauna or rent the whole cabin for you and your family. As part of our package we’ve chosen Lapland Hotels Sirkantähti which turned out to be a great value for money.

What to eat?

Many options are available including inexpensive pizza places, fancy fine dining venues and traditional Lappish restaurants. Our top choice is Nili-Poro serving traditional Lappish reindeer.

What to do?

Depending on the season, you can choose between winter sports, including cross-country skiing, and golf. If you would like to be on the fun side, husky rides and reindeer sledding are available during the winter season.

How to get around?

Levi has good bus connection during ski season with buses departing every 15 minutes. However, during summer months you may have to rent a car if you want some extra flexibility.

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