When it’s really save to travel again (so likely in 2022!), remember Ylläs and Äkäslompolo in Finnish Lapland as a superb Winter Destination for your next trip into the snow ❄️
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Behind me lay the solitude of the Hetta-Pallas Trail, in front of me was Ylläs and Äkäslompolo with it’s many different options of fun in the snow. My new friends dropped me off at the 7 Fells Hostel, where I moved my stuff into the cozy little cabin which was waiting for me. Outside the sun was setting, but that didn’t stop me from a short stroll to explore the surroundings a bit more. Äkäslompolo is a compact and cozy village, probably one of the best Finnish winter villages as it is home to both the largest ski resort in Finland as well as a very extensive XC skiing network with over 400 km of Tracks. Add in superb possibilities for skitouring, Fatbiking and winter hiking, and you understand why this little village is so popular with winter lovers.
Fatbiking in Ylläs
The next morning brought clear and sunny skies, and it was an easy decision to head back out into the cold again. Going outside makes my life better, it’s a way to disconnect for hours from Social Media and the internet, and to do something which I like a lot better than sitting in front of a screen: Being in nature, breathing fresh, cold air, feeling the sun and wind on my cheeks. I decided to go for a Fatbike ride, as I could loan a Fatbike from the friendly folks of the 7 Fells Hostel, and they have a really nice Fatbike Trail network in Ylläs! I rode through the village, past the supermarket, Cafés and sports shops, towards the start of the trails.
It was a warm and sunny day, the temperature was +2°C and it was perfect for riding the Fatbike. There were very few people around - this was just at the start of the first Lockdown of 2020 in Finland, and pretty much only locals were around, as well as a very few visitors. I decided to ride to the Kesänkijärvi Laavu - five years ago I went skitouring on Kesänki and I have really good memories of this fjell, and at least seeing it from the lake would make me happy.
But that wasn’t the only thing which made me happy. Riding in this warm weather, in the sun, on empty Fatbike trails, through young birch forests, over swamps and always with the beautiful hills in view, also made me happy. Really happy 😊
Soon I entered the Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park, where the trails became a bit more narrow, and I was hollering and smiling as I rode through the forest, past the lake shore and towards the wee Laavu at the end of the trail.
At the Kesänki Laavu a thin line of smoke was rising from the fire pit. A large yellow sign was hanging at the top of the Laavu, telling visitors in Finnish, Swedish and English that it was closed because of COVID-19. I had a small sip of water from my ∞ bottle, took a few bites from my ∞ Nut Butter Clif Bar and explored the surroundings. There’s a Café across the XC Tracks - which also was closed - where there were two persons, who were, like me, enjoying the sun and silence.
I was tempted to ride back over the lake, but thought better of it and came the same way - it was a good single track over all, and as it was warm and a yellow sign was warning me that the track over the lake was closed, I opted for the safe alternative. Longingly I watched back towards the hills, wishing I could go ski-touring on them in this grand weather…
Skitouring to Kuertunturi
The next morning was already my last full day in Äkäslompolo, and the weather was grey. Let me be honest: I slept in, had a long breakfast, was reading and at some point in the early afternoon decided I better make the best use of my time here in the snow of Lapland - back home there was no snow, after all. So I packed my gear, put on my ∞ ski boots and backpack and skinned up Kuertunturi, which rises up just behind my Cabin at the 7 Fells Hostel. Half-way up I also shot a short video about dressing for ski-touring:
At the top of this easy hill - there’s also a well-marked winter hiking trail going to the summit - I found good weather and amazing views. I had a clear view towards the closed Ylläs ski resort, Kesänki and Lainiotunturi and the over 50 km distant Pallastunturi hills, which I skied across just a few days prior! It was an absolutely stunning scenery which lay around me, and if the sun wouldn’t have been setting already I probably would have stayed longer to enjoy my last evening in Lapland from the summit of a fjell.
But as the sun was already setting, and my descent through the forest was in the shadow, I decided to head back down. I had some good turns, some ice, some fun moments and some pushing across a frozen swamp before I was back at my cabin, where a warm shower and a tasty ∞ LYO Food meal were waiting for me. As well as some packing, but at least that’s something which I have down pretty well!
Your first stop should be the Ylläs Corona Info Website and the Coronavirus situation in Lapland website, which inform you both about the hygiene concept in Ylläs and the ski resort as well as the current COVID-19 situation in all of Lapland. Personally I would avoid the “busy” weeks and go when very few people are in Lapland, to minimize the risk of getting exposed and/ or putting a strain on the health care system. You yourself obviously should either have a negative PCR Test that is not older than three days or already received the vaccine. If that is all in order: Plan your trip!
I stayed at the very stylish & cozy 7 Fells Hostel which I can highly recommend, and also the Lodge 67˚N gets good reviews. There are more accommodation options in Ylläs, too, from Hotels to cabins in the woods. Ylläs has a host of services, from eating out over rental gear to shopping for groceries, so you can find everything in the village in case you forgot something or want to try XC skiing or Fatbiking!
To the North and back South I travelled with OnniBus, local busses and the train, and while it is a long trip it is affordable, comfortable and takes less time than driving by car. If you have to get around in the village, there’s a ski bus and also taxis, so there really is no need for an own car.
In conclusion I think I spent again too few days in Ylläs. I still haven’t skied in its ski resort, and would love to go on more skitouring trips on the surrounding hills. Also the amazing XC Tracks are really inviting, so a longer trip to this hidden pearl is in order! What about you - have you been to Äkäslompolo and Ylläs? Let me know on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram!
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