Hiking in Finland

Climbing, bikepacking, skiing & packrafting in the north

#OutdoorAdvent: The Disappearing Finnish Winter

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December used to be the time that Finland and Scandinavia were covered from South to North under a blanket of snow, with temperatures under 0°C. Nowadays we’re lucky if it snows at all.

Snow & Ice

This article is part of the #OutdoorAdvent17 series, in which 24+ European Bloggers open up a new Advent Calendar door with a story every day until Xmas. Check aufundab.eu for all participating blogs this year, and follow the #OutdoorAdvent17 Hashtag on Twitter.

I very well remember my first winter in Finland. That was 2002, and I arrived with my dad and brother in Jyväskylä, and it was cold. The streets and sidewalks were hidden under a solid cover of snow and ice, and everywhere around town huge mountains of snow were piling up. The lakes were frozen solid, often up to a meter thick, and it was save and fun to go walk or skate on them. My first New Year in Finland I celebrated with a whopping -35°C - it was terribly cold and I was happy to return inside and have a hot Glögi!

Sunrise on Paha-Koli

But with every year that I lived in Finland I grew more fond of cold temperatures, snow and ice. I experienced some ridiculously beautiful winters here in the North, learned that taking a poop at -36°C outside is possible (but something I like to do very quickly indeed!) and when it is save to move across the frozen Baltic and when it’s better to stay on land.

Then almost five years ago we moved with our little family to the sunniest city of Finland, and in 2013 I camped out the last time on the ice here in Vaasa. And while winter still exists in Finland, it’s seldom seen south of Oulu nowadays. Climate change is to blame, and Finland is one of the prime countries in the world to experience the warming globe. While we don’t drown over here, our winters become warmer and our summers most certainly can not be called that with the cold temperatures and rain they include. This all started in 2014, when the winter in Vaasa was a mere four weeks long. In 2015 and 2016 they were of equal quality, which is to say they were crap. Fondly I remember the times that I put on my XC skis in front of my door in Tampere or Vaasa and went skiing on the lake or in the forest - but in the last three years I haven’t even bothered to take them out of their storage bag.

Views from the top Powder turns on Kesänki Pyhä Sled Hill

If you want to experience winter in Finland you nowadays need to travel to the far North: Hetta, Ruka, Pyhä or Vuokatti is where we went in the last years and where we really enjoyed the snow and cold weather.

But the paradox of this is that most people who travel North to experience the glorious snow are part of the problem: Arriving by plane or in an SUV which you drove up from Helsinki means more emissions are blown into the atmosphere, which continues to heat up and slowly fucks up the planet. Sure we want to show our kids and friends what a real winter used to look like, but nowadays you need to travel hundreds of kilometers to get where the snow is.

In the middle, a river Pyhäkero in blue & white 2 Snow & Birch

The Bottomline is that we can not depend on our governments to keep Climate Change in check. You yourself need to do your part so that we and future generations can continue to experience the joy of making a snow-angel, sledding down a hill and ski-touring in the mountains. The easiest things you can do is to cut out meat of your diet and ditch the car for the bike or public transportation. For (winter) holidays try to stay local or travel by train or bus to your destination, and if you fly across the globe to ski at least be so smart to offset your emissions. And generally you should embrace a more minimalistic lifestyle and stop giving shitty presents. Finally, you can support organizations like Protect our Winters and 1% For The Planet which try their best so that we have winters in the future.

As for me, I hope we will have the first good winter here in Vaasa since 2013. There were already some nice snowy days here this November, but they were followed by +5°C days and rain which, in case you didn’t know, are not very good for snow. But winter is still young, so there is hope =)

Rowan under Snow