A-Z of Skiing: Y Is for Yllas

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The Independent Travel

Compiling an A-Z is like doing a crossword puzzle: easy to start, hard to finish. Some uncharitable readers may have enjoyed the thought, while avalanche, bindings and carving skis were falling into place as easily as ABC at the beginning of the season, that the last three letters of the alphabet would put up more of a fight. True, of course: neither the classic manual We Learned to Ski, nor Karen and Michael Liebreich's The Complete Skier contain any word beginning with a "Y" - or at least none worth including in their indexes.

But the global reach of Patrick Thorne's Snow Hunter database (now partly accessible at snowhunter.co.uk via its "on-line clients") encompasses both Ys and wherefores: it lists more than a dozen ski resorts whose names begin with the letter, obscure destinations including Yabuli in China, Yangji in South Korea, Yokoteyama in Japan - and Yllas in Finland.

Yllas doesn't sound any better qualified to represent Y than Wyoming: its name is pronounced "oo-lass". One of the few ski areas in the Arctic (along with Riksgransen, on the Norway/Sweden border) to offer what can properly be called "downhill" skiing, Yllas has 18 pistes running down the 718m fell, including the Mettanperkelheenrinne (skiing or saying it take about the same time), and 11 lifts running up.

But the weather can be wickedly cold up there; and when there's a wind whipping across the fell, Yllas is much better for cross-country skiing - and, as I discovered a few years ago, for moose-spotting. Ski tracks run all around the nearby town of Akaslompolo, and one Sunday evening, a group of wild moose came out of the forest and wandered across a track in front of me on their way to the frozen lake. Not the sort of thing that happens at resorts whose names begin with a "V".

What can I tell you about the other "Y" ski areas? Nothing - I've never been to any of them. Not even the Yeti artificial-snow slope in Brussels.

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