Lapland -Perfect family Ski destination

Mention Lapland and one of the first things that springs to mind is Santa – and perhaps reindeer. But Lapland also makes a great ski destination, with several resorts within easy reach of Rovaniemi – the capital of Lapland. Pyhä is around ninety minutes away from Rovaniemi and is a winter wonderland in its truest sense, where snow is pretty much guaranteed from late November until early May. Here are my five reasons to consider Pyhä for a winter break this year, whether you’re a skier or not.

The perfect ski resort for families and beginners

As well as being a Narnia-esque wonderland, Pyhä is the perfect place to learn the ropes, especially for younger skiers. Fourteen kilometres of piste might not sound like much compared to large alpine resorts; but these are wide, quiet runs, ideal for beginners, and they’re right on the doorstep of the village. There’s a top-notch ski school – with English-speaking instructors – nursery slopes next to the hotels and a dedicated family area just beyond the nursery slopes. Once you’ve gained confidence on these there are some great blue runs running from the top of the mountain to the foot, which are perfect for fine tuning those newly acquired skills. Pyhä is particularly good for learning to snowboard too thanks to its deep, powdery snow.

More experienced skiers and boarders will appreciate the fact that Pyhä has the best off-piste territory in Finland, some challenging red runs and a legendary black run – Huttu-Ukko – used by the Finnish national ski team for training, and not for the faint of heart.

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Off piste snow fun

There are some ski resorts in the world where you can have a great time even without skiing, and Pyhä is certainly one of those. Not only is there plenty of sledging around the resort but there are other great snow related activities like snowshoeing, fat-biking, ice karting and snowmobile safaris. Husky mushing safaris at local farms are particularly thrilling experiences, as you get to drive the team of huskies yourself – unlike many husky experiences elsewhere.

Ice climbing and via ferratas

If all the other snow related activities aren’t enough for you then why not try ice climbing with Bliss Adventure, whose office is located right in the middle of the resort. All equipment and instruction are provided and it’s the perfect, safe, introduction to ice climbing on a twenty-metre-high frozen waterfall, just ten minutes from town. All the climbers get two climbs of the ice wall and can scale as high or low as they’re comfortable doing so. The scenery is spectacular – even more so the higher you climb – and the guide builds a bonfire to keep you all warm between climbs. Hot berry drinks are also provided, as well as the equipment, warm clothing, boots and crampons.

Pyhäkuru Rock Adventure Park is another option for those with a head for heights. It’s a via ferrata experience that could also be described as Go Ape on steroids – and ice. There are ziplines, rope bridges and a forty-five-metre-high rock face to traverse, all while safely tethered to the obstacles. The experience can be done by lamp at night too if it’s not frightening enough for you in the daytime. There are also easier routes for those – like me – who like their adrenaline rushes on the milder end of the spectrum.

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Aurora borealis, right on your doorstep

The northern lights reach the peak of their eleven-year cycle next year, and any visit in the winter months of 2024 will provide an excellent opportunity to enjoy one of the most spectacular natural phenomena on earth. A week-long trip to Pyhä will give you an excellent opportunity to catch the northern lights with or without going on a tour. Those that want the full aurora hunting experience can go on one of any number of snowshoeing, cross country skiing or snowmobile safaris. If you’d rather sit in the comfort of your hotel room until they make an appearance, then the Aurora Alert Realtime service is free of charge to all visitors in Pyhä, enabling a real time alert on your phone using local information rather than generic global alerts.

The big guy

Well, this is Lapland after all, so you’d have to be a grinch not to at least consider taking the kids to see the big guy at the Santa Clause Village in Rovaniemi, especially if you’re flying there anyway. Yes, it’s a tourist trap and yes you might end up spending a fortune on all the various activities, but you’ll also make memories that you and the kids will treasure forever. Meeting Santa is actually free – though there will be a long queue and photos cost around £35. You can also splash out on husky rides, reindeer rides, reindeer walks and various other experiences.

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Practicalities
Crystal Ski offer package holidays to Pyhä, but it’s possible to save thousands of pounds by flying independently to Rovaniemi with Ryanair and taking the ski bus to Pyhä. This will also give you the opportunity to spend a day or two in Rovaniemi and visit the Santa Clause Village, for those with younger children. Family rooms, big enough for four people can be booked directly with the resort on www.Pyhä.fi and cost as little as 683 € for six nights in February half-term – based on a family of four sharing. You get a kitchenette if you prefer to cook for yourself and if you pay an extra hundred Euros you can upgrade to a room with its own sauna. All the rooms are within a hundred metres of the slopes, ski school and equipment hire stores, so you’re right in the heart of the action. For those wanting to spend a night or two in Rovaniemi also there is every conceivable option, including motels, hotels, ice hotels and igloos, with somewhere to suit every budget.

 

Words by: Paul Wojnicki