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Wondering why you should visit Ruka? Paul Wojnicki reveals why the Finnish ski resort should be on our travel bucket list for 2016.

Every form of transport is fun
It’s hard to imagine getting from A to B being more fun than it is in Lapland and Ruka is no exception. Whether it be snowmobiling, husky sledding, reindeer sledding, snow shoeing or ice karting you are bound to enjoy zooming around in Ruka. Snowmobiles can be rented locally or you can head out on an organised tour with www.rukasafaris.fi/en; from a 30km night safari to find the northern lights to a full day safari to the Russian border, they have something to suit everyone; as well as snowshoeing trips and many more. 
Husky safaris are a little slower but even more adrenaline inducing in many ways, as you cannot simply let go of the accelerator to slow down. If you’d just like a taster session with the huskys then why not head over to www.lammintupa.fi/en which is a farm-cum-restaurant that started out as a simple coffee shop for cross country skiers and now caters to tourists wanting to drive teams of six dogs through stunning Narnia-esque scenery. You even get to interact with the dogs, including the new puppies when there are any. It’s an absolute bargain by north European standards at €25 per person. You can also enjoy reindeer rides for €10 per person and feed them buckets of moss afterwards.

Latitude over Altitude
Sitting at just over 450 metres above sea level Ruka is relatively low lying as far as ski resorts go. The advantage of this is that activities are not as strenuous as they would be at the higher altitudes of resorts in the Alps or Pyrenees. The other- HUGE- bonus is that there is a very real possibility of spotting the northern lights- see below.

Aurora Boralis, for lazy people.
The northern lights reached the peak of their 11 year cycle last year and are now on a downward trajectory that means the most spectacular natural show on earth will be more and more difficult to spot until they peak again in 2025-2026. So you’d better get yourself to the arctic circle fast. We stayed at Ruka for 7 nights and were lucky enough to spot them from our hotel room on two nights. We didn’t even get out of bed on the second night, we just opened the curtains and watched them dance for 5 minutes before they faded away again.

The slopes
With 24 kilometres of piste accessible directly from your hotel doorstep, guaranteed snow, competitively priced lift passes and equipment hire, this is a great place to learn to ski or snowboard. The slopes are ridiculously quiet and there are virtually no queues, even on a weekend. Intermediates are well catered for and while it’s true that experts might find the slopes more limited, there are challenging enough facilities for events such as the Freestyle World Cup to be held here.

Off piste activities
There’s a massive variety of activities to enjoy off piste. Some of the more prominent examples are cross country skiing and snowshoeing which are world class. Everywhere you walk out of the village centre you will find parallel lines etched into the snow from Nordic skiers accompanied by the unique sound of them climbing the inclines. Give it a try, and you’ll be knackered in no time, thanking God that the altitude isn’t an issue.
If that’s not tiring enough for you then why not try ice climbing with www.outdoorpassion.fi whose office is located right on the main square. The ice wall is located just a ten minute hike from the office and the owner/guide Jussi is no less than a former fighter pilot from the Finnish air force. He has an unusually calming aura that had me climbing to 30 metres on my first run- and I am absolutely terrified of heights. He will teach you not only how to climb on ice but how to belay as well. All equipment, warm clothing, boots and crampons are included.


You don’t have to be active to enjoy yourself
As mentioned previously, you don’t even have to leave your hotel room to see the northern lights- at least not if you’re staying at the Ski Inn’s Aurinkorinne Apartments anyway. You can simply enjoy the arctic scenery, take a leisurely reindeer ride, relax in your private sauna- they come as standard in all rooms- or upgrade and get a hot tub. There are plenty of bars and restaurants to enjoy and the prices are reasonable for this part of the world- Finland being cheaper than Scandinavia and competitive with most Alpine resorts.

It doesn’t ram Santa down your throat
Mention Lapland and one of the first things that springs to mind is Santa, which can be a little off-putting to travellers without children. Fortunately Ruka hasn’t sold its soul- yet- to Mr Claus and it is almost Santa free. That said, I did wander into one tour shop in the bowels of the tiny shopping mall and find a Santa tour at the bottom of the excursion list. 

Ridiculously short transfer times
Transfer times in most ski resorts are notoriously long- runways being difficult to build in the mountains. Not so at Ruka where the airport is a mere 25 minutes from nearby Kuusamo airport. Not only that but the airport is a far cry from the hustle and bustle of your average ski airport too- with only three parking places in the whole airport it’s never going to be the busiest of transits.

Getting there
By far the easiest way to get to Ruka is by travelling with www.crystalski.co.uk, indeed when we travelled the only flights on the arrivals and departures board were the TUI flights to and from London and Manchester. At the time of writing seven night holidays could be found for £326 per person, and deals to the twin resort of Pyhä for even less.

Where to stay
We stayed at the Ski Inn’s Aurinkorinne Apartments which included a kitchenette, a sauna and north facing rooms which meant we didn’t even have to get out of bed to watch the northern lights. The rooms also backed onto the ski lifts so we were able to ski in and out of our room.

 

Words and pictures: Paul Wojnicki


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Eight reasons you need to visit Ruka in 2016
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