A-Z of Resorts: Yllas

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The Independent Travel

Recommending ski resorts to strangers is a hazardous business: one man's Heavenly is another man's Purgatory (or "Durango Mountain Resort", as the latter – probably wisely – now styles itself). The key, of course, is to enquire about their special needs. If they want big skiing, suggest Val d'Isère; if they are romantic, impervious to cold and suffer from vertigo, put in a word for Yllas.

Recommending ski resorts to strangers is a hazardous business: one man's Heavenly is another man's Purgatory (or "Durango Mountain Resort", as the latter – probably wisely – now styles itself). The key, of course, is to enquire about their special needs. If they want big skiing, suggest Val d'Isère; if they are romantic, impervious to cold and suffer from vertigo, put in a word for Yllas.

Ski resorts in Arctic Scandinavia are quiet, isolated and have plenty of snow; on the other hand, they are also cold, dark in winter and short of mountains. Yllas (pronounced "oo-lass") is about 120km inside the Arctic Circle in Finnish Lapland, and has one of the highest peaks in the region – but it reaches no more than 718 metres. Its ski area is probably the biggest in the Arctic, too – but it has only 20 lifts (most of them T-bars) and 36 pistes (many of them floodlit, since in the depths of winter daylight hardly lasts past lunchtime). One 3km piste is the longest in Finland; others are hardly longer than their names. The Mettanperkelheenrinne ("local devil's slope") has now disappeared from the piste map, but Kuuntervaajaukonrinne is a perfectly adequate replacement.

So why recommend Yllas? For its setting rather than its skiing. Endless forest surrounds Yllas and the nearby small town of Akaslompolo, penetrated in winter only by cross-country skiers and wild reindeer – which if you are very lucky (I was) will wander past you through the trees. In such a thinly populated area (Lapland has 2.1 people per square kilometre), winter's powerful grip is as awe-inspiring and romantic as the music of Sibelius and – in a monochrome landscape of white lakes and black forests – as darkly beautiful. Now you can't say that about Val d'Isère.

More information: www.yllas.fi

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