The predominant winter colours of the far North are white and shades of grey. In winter it is a hard, silent land, but has its own unique and austere beauty.
We spent the last week of January cross country skiing in the North of Finland, just on the edge of the Arctic Circle.
The flight from Gatwick landed us at Kusamo airport, and then a short bus journey took us to Ruka where we rented a cabin for a week.
Every day was spent out skiing. We had learned the basics, but it took time to find our ski legs. The first day we found a frozen lake to practice our drills on. Then came snow ploughs and turns, which are difficult on the narrow racing skis and lead to plenty of falls.
I have a very good technique for getting up after a fall:
Once you are down you need to let go of the ski poles.
Then you lie on your back and grab your skis and roll.
Now it is easy to stand up from a kneeling position.
This is the most important ski information I can give you.
We did daily ski circuits of about 20km. At the beginning of the week the day time temperatures hovered around -17c . It is interesting how the snow makes a different sound depending on the ambient temperature. At -17c the snow squeaked. Towards the end of the week the temperature warmed to -5c and the sound of the skis on the snow was a wetter sliding sound.
The trails took us across frozen lakes.
And through woods. There were occasional rest stops and even warm cafes.
Or cold shelters with stacks of ready cut birch wood, which could have been very cosy with a fire. Next time I am going to take my big knife and some matches.
In the evenings we enjoyed a sauna, and a beer.
And of course coffee made in the Finnish way.
Cross country skiing is very hard work, the best description is to compare the days to 20km runs on ice. But how else can you experience this:
Just don’t stray past these signs at night…