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TR Finland Yllas Cross Country

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Location: Akaslompolo (Yllas) in the Finnish arctic (see map below)

Date: Feb half-term 2018

Background

We’re a couple of skiers in our fifties and probably have over 150 weeks of alpine skiing between us who have been doing xc for about 15 years or so. I first dabbled in xc about 25 years ago in Lake Louise when a calf issue meant I couldn’t wear alpine boots so rather than not ski I decided to give xc a try for a few days. However we’ve only been doing this as a distinct holiday maybe for the last 15 years. We’ve been coming here for 8 years in a row now. I’ve looked for alternatives, as much for a change to be honest rather than we don’t like it, but it’s a beautiful wilderness with a huge trail network (over 300km) and I’ve not really found anywhere that ticks all the same boxes (for us anyway). The first 3 years we came with a TO (Inntravel, who I would heartily recommend) but have moved to a DIY format as we can get a house and flights for less money and we can have the (grown-up) kids come if they wish.

Getting here

As we sort it out DIY, we normally book flights with Finnair and come via Helsinki to Kittila airport which is about 50km away. There’s no direct scheduled flights although the TO arranged trips do have direct flights from Bristol, Gatwick and Manchester. We arrange transfers through the accommodation booking company www.destinationlapland.com

[img]https://www.flickr.com/photos/9627211@N03/39677737345/in/dateposted-public/[/img]


The area

The area is called Yllas and as well as extensive xc facilities, there’s also a small alpine resort. We’ve never used it as we are here for the xc but our daughter and boyfriend came last year and even though they are very capable skiers they enjoyed a good few days on the slopes. The village of Akaslompolo has a few hotels and quite a range of self-catering facilities dotted around. There’s a few bars, a handful of restaurants, a couple of sports shops, some gift shops and a supermarket.


The accommodation

We rent a house on the shores of the lake (frozen) which has two double bedrooms, a mezzanine space with two double futon style beds and a decent open plan kitchen / living area. There is a generous bathroom and as it’s Finland there’s a sauna. It is certainly good enough for two couples and maybe would suit if they had a couple older (but maybe not teenage) kids. The mezzanine area is accessed by a bunk-bed style ladder



The view



The skiing

We have semi-waxless skis as the whole waxing thing for xc is something I’ve never bothered to really investigate. To be frank, there are now new waxless skis with mohair inserts that look to be a better setup than the one we have but I’ll stick with what we have for the moment. We get our skis serviced in one of the local sports shops.


First day:

Having been burnt before by going too mad (remember we do this once a year) we went out for a relatively gentle leg stretcher. We skied across the lake which is flat (obviously !) so gives yyu a chance to get back into the swing of things then we skied round a long lake to the hut at Latvamaja and then back over the long lake (this doesn’t have a cut track on it but loads of people use it so it’s usually easy to ski on). The proper huts have big fires and sell all sorts of hot and cold food and drinks as well as some gifts. There are toilet facilities at these but they are almost always in a separate shed (hole in ground approach).

Route


Oh don’t worry about that !


Only a km or so of ice


Despite the temperatures this stream rarely freezes and you see dippers in the water



Second day

We decided to do some trails that were a little hillier today so ventured to the warming hut at Hangaskuru then returned via the proper hut at Kotomaja. Some of the warming huts are really just lean-to structures but Hangaskuru has had a bit of an upgrade recently. These normally have a fire pit and firewood and if there isn’t one started then you can start it yourself. When the weather isn’t brutal then people will sit by the fires with their sausages on forks. The first part of this route has some reasonable upwards gradients and descents and the way back is a gradual incline followed by a long gradual descent.

The route


Hangaskuru hut


Kotomaja hut


Nice and toasty !



Third day

We went south today to the Velhon Kota hut (http://www.velhonkota.fi). The guy who runs this hut has been there for years and carves all these trolls from wood (one of which we have managed to lug back to the UK). It’s a lovely hut but it’s so dark inside. Perhaps he’s a troll himself. After our drink break there was a bit of a debate about what to do next. The trail system is laid out so it’s easy in many cases to extend or shorten your planned route. We opted for the shorter route as the skis weren’t running on the snow so well (the temperature was only about -5) and a consequence it requires more effort. We came back via Tunturi Yllas where there is both a lean-to and a very small proper hut; given we were a bit wet from seating we opted for the proper hut where we saw some people from Fort William had signed the visitor book earlier that day. There’s a lot of Siberian jays outside these huts – I guess they’ve realised it’s a good place for tit bits and in fact a few of them they will eat off your hand. The route back has some of the most exciting skiing (I’m not sure my wife would quite describe it like this) as it has a very steep descent with a few hairpin bends on it; one of which doesn’t have tracks cut into it. Anyway we managed to stay upright.

The route


Tunturi Yllas hut


Tunturi Yllas lean-to



Fourth day

I was let off the leash today as my wife wanted a rest. I fancied going to somewhere I’d never been before although I did have concerns about the state of the tracks as they aren’t all maintained with the same frequency so you can end up doing tracks that have had little or no recent maintenance which if there’s been a reasonable snowfall will result it being quite an ordeal. I had an eye on a route but it would depend on whether the tracks were skiable or not. Fortunately when I arrived at the section of the trails I’d had my doubts about they had been freshly cut. I bumped into a group of some Finns coming towards me along the trail who’d spent the night at a wilderness hut. I asked them about the trails and they said they were open; however to return required crossing a large lake which was difficult to access due to the depth of the snow (they had huge baskets and backcountry xc skis on) and they weren’t sure I’d manage. Anyway when I got there I started to have second thoughts about traversing a frozen 3 km lake I’d never crossed before on my own in the middle of nowhere (apart from the Finns I hadn’t seen a soul for an hour). I thought I’d have a tentative look anyway but the Finns were right and I spent 30 mins floundering around in very deep snow indeed. Consequently I beat a retreat and returned via a track I was more familiar with

The route


Pyhajarvi hut


The lake I wasn’t brave enough to cross


Karkhukota hut




Fifth day

Lakes can be quite spooky, especially if there’s few or no tracks on them or if you’re not a local. However there’s a popular run to another hut that cross a long thin lake that has tracks cut into it so with my wife fully rested we went to the Elamanlukku hut (https://www.elamanluukku.fi/31). The problem with lakes is unlike the forest where most of the tracks are they are generally very exposed and thus when windy can be rather colder. It’s a nice trip out but inevitably you can spend one way skiing into the wind and today was no different. We broke our journey on the way back via the Navetta Galeria (http://navettagalleria.fi/about-us-languages/english) which although isn’t a hut in the true sense still has warming fires and sells a wide range of very tasty home-made food. It also hosts a lot of very distinctive art, much of which takes the natural surroundings as its inspiration.

The route


ElamanLuukku hut


Navetta Galeria


The art inside



Final day

A day of two halves. The first half was with my wife and we went to the hut at Kesangin Keidas. Afterwards she returned home by more or less the same route whereas I went a bit further out to the highest point on the xc trail system where it meets the alpine ski resort. It’s quite a hard ski with a lot of herringboning required but the superb views from the top over the surrounding area make it worth it. When you ski past the chairlifts and pomas it does seem rather incongruous being on xc skis. Then it’s another exciting schuss back down the hill on the other side.

The route


Kesangin Keidas hut


View from the top of the mountain


The alpine skiing



Restaurants / bars

We don’t venture out much to be honest as eating out in Finland, especially if you drink alcohol, can be quite expensive. However despite the fact I don’t mind cooking we do eat out a couple of times. Our favourite restaurants are
http://www.ravintolarouhe.fi/
http://toweri.fi/
https://www.yllashumina.com/restaurant.html

Rouhe and the Yllashumina are more up market I guess and the Tower also has a play area for youngsters so good for young families but it doesn't get used so much that it distracts from those who don't want to eat with a load of kids running amok. They do great pizzas.

Also Poro up the hill from the main shops is good for traditional Finnish food
https://www.ravintolaporo.com/

The service everywhere is excellent

In terms of bars, there’s a sports bar in the village centre and a few others (normally in or attached to restaurants). For those who aren’t aware, Karaoke is very popular and generally not singing along to modern songs but frequently Finnish folk songs. It’s an interesting experience to watch. The bar at the Yllashumina is a good spot for this.


Activities

As well as cross-country skiing, there’s as mentioned, a small alpine resort. There’s also a few well marked snowshoe routes and there are outfitters that provide other tours such as a visit to a traditional Sami camp, reindeer herding, husky sledding, ice fishing and others. Of course, if you’re lucky there’s the northern lights. We’ve seen them a few times now, some very spectacular indeed and others where the display has been a bit more muted. Of course one needs both the right conditions in the upper atmosphere and a clear sky to see them.


Last edited by Poster: A snowHead on Wed 7-03-18 7:36; edited 2 times in total
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
for anyone reading the TR here is the link to the photostream

https://www.flickr.com/photos/9627211@N03/with/40529793652/


Last edited by Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person on Tue 6-03-18 14:20; edited 3 times in total
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Oops - what am I doing wrong about the images ?
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 You need to Login to know who's really who.
You need to Login to know who's really who.
... // deleted photos now inserted


Last edited by You need to Login to know who's really who. on Tue 6-03-18 14:19; edited 1 time in total
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
// deleted


Last edited by Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do. on Tue 6-03-18 14:19; edited 1 time in total
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 You'll need to Register first of course.
You'll need to Register first of course.
@dsoutar, very nice read. Have you considered Funäsfjällen in Sweden? It comprises the resorts of Tänndalen, Ramundberget, Funäsdalsberget, Tännäskröket and Tänndalsvallen, with 300 km of cross-country trails and decent alpine skiing also. www.funasfjallen.se
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 Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
@Themasterpiece,

No I hadn't. Thanks I'll check it out. Trying to do LGW INV currently so will attempt to remedy pictures issue over the weekend
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
@dsoutar, Good TR. We've been a few times too. We have always travelled with Inghams direct from Manchester, but they don't half clobber you for "under occupancy" so it's a dear option for us. We are planning a DIY trip there next year, so your report will doubtless inspir us to get on with sorting it out.
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 You'll get to see more forums and be part of the best ski club on the net.
You'll get to see more forums and be part of the best ski club on the net.
@thecramps,

Just be aware that it's difficult to get to Kittila in one day (coming back is OK). I think if you get the first Helsinki flight out it's possible. We are lazy; I've done my time getting up to go to airports in the middle of the night so we spend Sat night at an hotel on the airport site.

The house + transfers costs us about £900; flights can vary obviously depending on when you book and for what period


Last edited by You'll get to see more forums and be part of the best ski club on the net. on Tue 6-03-18 13:29; edited 1 time in total
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Ski the Net with snowHeads
Updated post with photos
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 snowHeads are a friendly bunch.
snowHeads are a friendly bunch.
Thanks for putting the pictures up.

You didn't tell us your favourite restaurants at the end! Confused
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 And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
@davidof,

Remedied ! That's the problem of composing these TRs piecemeal (when I have a few spare moments at work)
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 So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
dsoutar wrote:
@davidof,

Remedied ! That's the problem of composing these TRs piecemeal (when I have a few spare moments at work)


Thanks for taking the trouble to put up your TR, I was on the edge of my seat wondering if you were going to attempt the lake crossing or not. I think you made the right call to err on the side of caution.

We need more of this sort of thing. I know Bobinch put up an interesting report on his little Shredders and of course, Weathercam, is prodigious but we lack some interesting TRs.
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
V interesting report - and great pictures! I'd like to do an "organised" XC holiday with just the most beginnerish and least demanding trips - maybe next winter, now that I no longer have an alpine apartment. On some of the steeper descents in Les Saisies I confess to having taken skis off and carried them down. Embarassed
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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
pam w wrote:
I confess to having taken skis off and carried them down


There's no shame in that. The first time one attempts skiing down a reasonably steep gradient in xc skis usually comes as a nasty shock. My early attempts at going down things I'd happily ski down backwards in alpine gear usually ended up in disaster. My wife, having witnessed my efforts (and stopped laughing), would usually adopt the same approach as you, discretion being the better part of valour in her book. However I do feel that you can't keep deferring these things. One foot in the track and the other in a deep snowplough will get you down most things. Once you get the hang of that then start trying both skis in snowplough. It can be daunting taking one's skis in and out of the tracks but practice, like most things, makes perfect (or at last improves)

I would like to have more goes at skating to be honest. We have also done xc in the Cascade mountains in Washington state a handful of times (another fantastic area for xc http://www.methowtrails.org/ for further info) and we had some lessons and hired skate skis for a few days. However with only one xc trip a year at the moment we're in a bit of a dichotomy. What we need to do is bite the bullet really and just buy some skate gear and have more lessons. We can keep the classic stuff for when we are older and less fit.
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Quote:

One foot in the track and the other in a deep snowplough will get you down most things.

I've become quite competent at that and can usually manage till the gradient flattens out. Trouble is, on the Les Saisies circuits, when the descent becomes steep they stop the tracks - to reduce the risk of people picking up too much speed, I suppose. The instructor on our first week warned us about that - and that when the tracks disappeared we should be wary and take it VERY easy - my snowplough on XC skis is not very reliable, especially if the snow is hard and icy - and that's when I take them off and walk. I get the impression that Les Saisies is quite challenging for XC skiing - though definitely not for downhill!
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
@dsoutar, Thanks. We generally don't mind the travelling though, it's all part of the holiday for us.
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