Mad huskies and Englishmen go out in the Arctic sun
Sunday 19 December 2010
It seemed odd to take off my thermal layers as I unpacked in Lapland earlier this month.
But that weird twist of nature (or is it climate change?) meant that while temperatures were hittingminus 23C at "Britain's coldest point", 30 miles from my home in the Scottish Highlands, it was only minus 2 up in the Arctic Circle.
What I forgot to pack was a torch, which in retrospect would have been handy on arrival in Levi, Finland, because I soon realised I wasn't going to see daylight for a week, just a slightly lighter grey sky for three or four hours around lunchtime.
This isn't a problem in Finnish Lapland (though it should be studied by Nasa before it establishes a lunar base), because the pistes are brightly floodlit and the excellent indoor facilities are far better than in most big-name resorts in the Alps.
In the case of the vast Levitunturi hotel complex (00 358 16 646301; hotellilevitunturi.fi), where I was staying, those facilities included a bowling alley, a large, well-equipped children's play hall, a nightclub, and its new pièce de résistance – a 17-pool spa complex complete with lighting effects and sound system. And it is free for guests to use, most of whom are British.
Indeed, despite the lack of daylight, double-digit sub-zero temperatures, and rather limited downhill winter-sports opportunities, Lapland remains a big seller for British tour operator Inghams (020-8780 6680; inghams.co.uk). And we're particularly welcome guests, for it seems only mad huskies and the British head out in the mid-day gloom in search of Santa.
For those of us here for the snow-sports, though, December offers great, if a little surreal, skiing all week in the gloom. The slopes were empty during my visit because nearly all the bemused yet excited British families were off trying taster dog sledding, snowmobiling and reindeer safari trips. Other good news included the fact that the ski "day" is longer than elsewhere, with lifts running from 9am to 7pm. And the snow, which fell constantly, if lightly, preventing any hope of seeing the aurora, stayed soft and powdery thanks to the low temperatures.
Also, those much-feared high Scandinavian prices failed to materialise. Lift tickets and dining out are currently cheaper here than in the Alps. Even the once seemingly expensive €5 (£4.25) beer has long been out-priced by resorts further south in Europe.
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