Not having towering mountains really hasn’t stopped Lapland skiing its way onto our piste radar. Fells and hills are just as carve-able as the steep, steep slopes we’re familiar with. Add in the snow days that rack up into the hundreds, the heart-warming glow of Santa and his elves at every turn and you’ve got yourself a Lapland ski holiday to remember. Oh, and did we mention the scenery and the reindeer? Spectacular wilderness that’s about as untouched as it gets adds a nice touch to the picture postcard ski villages. The fact the Finnish ski folks have added a healthy dose of après has to put Lapland at the top of your ski wish list…
When to go
Lapland ski holidays can kick off as early as October and run right through to May. Resorts further north benefit from colder temperatures, but they do come with very dark nights and very short days. Floodlights take care of the pistes, so you’ll be able to see your skis and the slopes. And, though the limited daytime may seem a bit bleak, the lack of sun keeps slush and melting to a minimum – which also means less ice! Of course, there’s a sweet spot to the ski season – which also coincides with the best time to see the Northern Lights. Which, if you’re in the market for things to do in Lapland, we can’t recommend highly enough. Pop December to March in your ski diary. December delivers on the quintessential Lapland Christmas, alongside super skiing, though the clear skies of March mean the best chances of spotting those alluring auroras.
Lapland’s best ski resorts
Anyone strapping on a pair of skis – or a snowboard – for the first time will do just fine at any of Lapland’s ski resorts. The region’s topography lends itself to gentle slopes that newbies of any age can feel at home on. But of all the resorts, Ruka has the largest designated beginners area. It is aimed at little ones first and foremost, with Rosa & Rudolf‘s Family Park letting children under 6 ski for free. Though, the additional ski in, ski out accommodation, easy to ride magic carpet lifts and an excellent ski school round out the package for skiers of all ages. The area’s middle slopes or ‘Välirinteet’ are wide open spaces where you won’t have to worry about getting in anyone’s way as you master the snow plough.
Add in Ruka’s off-piste activities and you’ll have plenty to do if your ski legs need a break. We’d recommend hitting the sauna to ease those aches and pains.
All eyes turn towards the blue slopes in Lapland, so intermediates might not instantly spot a resort for them. But just a two hour drive from Rovaniemi, you’ll find Iso-Syöte. At first glance, it’s a humble ski resort with just 17 slopes. Don’t let that put you off. The wide, wide trails might keep beginners in mind, but they are a playground for intermediates looking to master turns or just enjoy the thrill of whizzing down the 1.2km to the bottom. Thinking of getting into Freestyle skiing? Iso-Syöte’s got Finland’s longest snowpark for you to experiment in. There’s a mini snow park for adventurous little ones and a JibPark to explore. Best described as a skate park, covered in snow, it provides boxes and rails for adventurous types looking to put their ski – or snowboard skills to the test.
The resort’s new lighting system keeps you on the slopes late into the night, if you’ve got the stamina for it.
For advanced skiers
Skiers that know their stuff head to Pyhä to get their fresh powder fix. The ski terrain is unmatched across Finland and is the setting for many top-level mogul competitions. Recent investment has levelled up everything from the chairlifts to the floodlights and the new management team are the legends that run the Ruka resort. But, at this resort, the ski admin is the least of your worries. It’s all about getting out into the wilderness and coasting over fresh powder. 150 kms of cross-country trails flirt with the edges of the Pyhä-Luosto National Park and snow cannons keep the slopes snow sure throughout the season. But Pyhä’s best kept secret has to be the Polar slope. Now classed as an intermediate, back in the day it was rated as Finland’s most challenging pistes. That was until they built the Palander run. There’s a reason the Finnish ski team come to Pyhä to train.
Orbzii tip: If you exhaust all of Pyhä’s slopes and off piste action during your stay, there’s another small resort nearby. Slalom over to Luosto for a few extra kms of piste to enjoy.
This stellar ski resort sits just two hours north of Rovaniemi. But before we delve into the details, we’ll trot out a fair warning. Levi does weigh in as Finland’s biggest – and most popular – ski resort. But, there are quiet slopes and off piste spots where you can carve your own path – relatively crowd-free. Though, you’re not here for the peace and tranquility. This is a chance to throw yourself headlong into the Lapland skiing scene. Alongside world-class pistes, multiple snow parks and a healthy mix of blue and red runs, there’s a light smattering of black pistes for advanced skiers. Smack bang in the middle of a dense Finnish forest, Santa’s house is just 1km away. Which puts Levi firmly in the running for a Lapland Family Holiday. If nothing else, the Christmas experiences in this region of Lapland tend to be a bit more personalised than the commercial goings on in Rovaniemi.
Orbzii tip: Levi’s surroundings are magical – regardless of the festive season. Head to one of the many nearby lakes to watch the Northern Lights dance across the sky – and shimmer across the lake surface. Levi’s dark, dark nights and northern location make it a legendary location to catch the phenomenon.
For year-round skiing
Lapland promises 200 snow days a year on the slopes. Impressive stuff. But what about the other 165 days? Well, there is a resort where you can ski year–round, whatever the weather. The legends at Vuokatti have built themselves a snow tunnel. The local sports institute uses it as a training ground, and ski professionals pop in during the summer to hone their skills. You can drop in to give it a go, if you’re in Lapland in summer. You’ll find Vuokatti (and the tunnel) four hours south of Rovaniemi. No need to worry about the weather either, computer algorithms maintain the snow at a chilly average of -7.
Lapland’s après ski
Lapland’s ski resorts might not be able to go ski boot to ski boot with the apres of say, Verbier, but there’s still a scene to snuffle out if you like to party. Or not. As with all travel spots, there’s a niche for everyone in Lapland. For the wildest apres nights, you’re looking at Levi. The biggest ski resort has clubs, pubs and restaurants to keep partygoers happy. The Lapland Hotels Snowvillage makes some ice bars look amateur and live music, sports pubs and karaoke round out the apres offering nicely. Don’t be fooled by the romantic, panoramic views of the Tuikku restaurant, when darkness falls, DJs get the party started.
For a varied après, with some more quirky events, Ylläs is the oldest resort in Lapland and has managed to mingle modern day amenities into its village-style resort.