In the Land of Untouched Snow
Although summer is getting closer in Rovaniemi day by day, we still have piles of snow everywhere in Apukka Resort. As you might know, us Finns, we like the snow. The way it sparkles on the coldest of days when the thermometer might drop down to -40 C, making the world outside look like it is covered in diamonds. Or the very first snow of the year in October or November and the anticipation of the approaching winter it carries. Yet, perhaps the best snow of the year is waiting for the outdoor enthusiasts outside right now in mid-April.
Late March and early April are some of the best times of the winter. The amount of snow in the forests is unbelievable. The sunshine on the daytime melts the surface of the snow and the minus degrees brought by the night make it freeze again – resulting to the most beautiful “hankikanto”, a surface of snow that can hold the body weight of a man. This “hankikanto” is one of the most amazing things in the entire wide world.
As the winter season normally finishes in Lapland around mid-April, for many of us that’s the time to take some days off and relax after a great, hectic winter. After all, we’ve worked in cold temperatures in the great outdoors all winter, we have definitely deserved a good holiday. Want to guess what we do on our holidays? We head out to the cold temperatures to the great outdoors.
For many years I used to have a certain routine when the winter season ended. I would pack my sled with all the outdoor camping gear, prep my ice fishing gear and head out on skis to some of the most remote wilderness areas of Lapland. For the next 7 to 14 days, depending on how much time I had, I was not expecting to see anyone. I would ski roughly 20 kilometres in a day through the open landscapes and across the frozen lakes, often stopping on the way to try my luck in ice fishing before setting up camp for the night.
I’d stay in a tent or in one of the amazing open wilderness huts that we’ve got shattered all around the country. Perhaps I’d make a fire, perhaps I’d cook with gas but no matter what the method of preparing food was, it was always the best moment of the day. Food is always better in the wilderness, no exceptions. In the deep silence with nothing but the echo of the wind in between the hills, I’d then open a book (always very carefully selected in advance because bringing a bad book to the outback is a great mistake) and crack a piece of a chocolate bar. Life was marvellous.
There is something magical in experiencing the vast wilderness. After a couple of days, you start to notice all the small details around you. The footprints of the red fox in the fresh snow. The giggling noises of the willow grouse flying over you. The shades of sunrise and sunset in the arctic surroundings. The peace and solitude. There is no other way to put it – you feel alive.
I’ll let you in on a secret: I write travel journals everywhere I go. I tracked down one from these skiing trips, here’s a brief chapter translated into English from one of the days I spent in the wilderness in late April some years ago:
“Day 12. Camp all set up. Expecting a snow storm on the night by the looks of the sky, tent set up like a bunker in the snow. Stunning day it has been, the “hankikanto” was perfect! Distance covered today in total 27 kilometres; I was almost flying on the perfect snow! Just finished dinner (a delicious arctic char with mashed potatoes and bread baked on a pan!), ready for the chocolate now. It is amazing what this place does to you. Life is good. In no hurry to get back to the modern world – though the amount of chocolate in my sled is running dangerously low.”
They often say the best memories are created by people around you. True, but together with the amazing people I’ve encountered on my journeys, the nature is the author of some of the greatest stories of my memories. Next year I will pack my sled and camping gear and point the tips of my skis towards the great unknown again.
What is your next adventure?