24th September 2019 | Emma Lewis
Emma Lewis and family head north to Ruka, in Finland’s Lapland for skiing and other snowsports fun. Read more about her adventure in the Arctic circle.
I love a ski holiday where it’s not just about skiing down pistes all day.
Especially when you have young kids in tow.
It turns a ski trip into an all-round winter holiday if there’s a different culture and landscape, plus new traditions and new activities to take in too.
That’s how we found ourselves on a Crystal holiday to Ruka, near the Arctic Circle, in February – and we weren’t disappointed.
The whole set-up is great for families, especially those with non-skiers.
After an airport transfer of just 25 minutes, we found our apartment within a large block (Ruka Suites) in the centre of the village.
The apartment complex also contained a small, reasonably priced supermarket and some good ski and souvenir shops plus some cafes, so you didn’t have to venture into the cold pre- or post skiing.
The apartment was perfect, with an open-plan kitchen/living area and separate bedrooms for adults and kids.
It even had its own sauna!
It was cosy and well-equipped and very close to the lifts.
The new Village2Valley gondola, was only 200m from the apartment, and whisked us speedily over to the ski-lesson meeting point on the other side of the mountain.
Ski lessons lasted 1hour 45 minutes, but that isn’t a bad thing when the temperatures are well below zero, as they were for the first half of the week we were there.
There’s a handily placed and inexpensive cafe right by the meeting point, perfect for a hot chocolate and essential thaw out!
While we’re on the subject, prices in general aren’t too prohibitive.
Food prices are just a bit more than back home; alcohol is expensive when bought in a restaurant but not too bad in the supermarket.
The kids also loved the Rudolf Adventure Route through the trees, where they could stop and see reindeer and huskies in enclosures along the way, as well as warming up by a welcome fire pit half way down.
We had fun going down the sledge run on big inner tubes in the Family Park.
Amazingly, the lifts stay open late, so you don’t even have to miss out on skiing if you want fun time with other activities.
You can book all sorts of adventures, such as dog sledding, ice fishing, snowmobiling, reindeer sleigh rides, northern lights viewing trips and visits to Santa’s cottage through Crystal.
We tried the Starlit Sleigh Experience one evening, and found ourselves donning cosy, all-in-one suits plus enormous boots to keep us warm, before we waddled out to the sleighs and were pulled behind snowmobiles up and over the mountain to a quiet spot away from the pistes for an atmospheric experience in the woods as small snowflakes fell.
We enjoyed hot drinks and snacks warmed on open fires, with stories of life this far north, while listening out for animals and birds and playing in the deep snow.
We were hoping to see the Northern Lights, but the weather didn’t play ball.
We also loved our early-morning visit to the Kujalan Porotila Reindeer farm.
It felt bitterly cold, at -18ºC, but it was great to see the reindeer being fed, that we also helped to feed ourselves, before hearing about life on the farm from one of the workers as he gave us a snack in a little hut heated by a central log fire.
And the sleigh ride was exceptional.
Two of us were wedged snugly into a sleigh, huddled under reindeer skins and were pulled along a scenic track through the trees by reindeer.
It was lovely experience.
Okay, so the skiing part is important too.
Ruka boasts one of the largest beginner ski areas in the country.
It was also voted the best Finnish Ski Resort of the Year in 2019.
Don’t be put off by stats such as its modest 24km of pistes, or that the summit is just below 500m in altitude.
When you’re this far north, you don’t have to worry about the altitude, and when there’s so much more to do besides skiing, the lack of ski mileage isn’t a biggie either.
Queues for lifts were short, even at half term, so we could still get the mileage in.
Moreover, cross-country ski fans will be excited to hear there’s a scenic 205km of terrain to enjoy.
The new VillageExpress chairlift, that serves some short, sharp red and black runs was a mere 200m or so from where we were staying.
Two snow parks, a superpipe and a freestyle centre, were close by to keep more adventurous skiers or snowboarders busy for the week.
Do remember, however, that Ruka is very close to the Arctic Circle, so be prepared!
On some days, the temperature fell below -10ºC with windchill on top.
The cold seemed to affect me more than the rest of the family.
Thank goodness for hand warmers, foot warmers and Buffs.
It was worth it though.
I’ll never forget the fir trees, completely covered in a thick layer of what looks like hard white icing.
Neither will I forget the strange, almost eerie winter half-light of the early afternoon.
Ski hire starts from £87 for six days, ski boot hire starts from £59 per person for six days, and a six-day area lift pass is £146.
Crystal Ski Holidays (crystalski.co.uk; 020 8610 3123) offers a week’s self-catering at the four-star Ruka Suites from £332 per person, based on two adults and two children sharing, when booked online (departure on January 19, 2020), including flights from Gatwick to Kuusamo and transfers.
Update – latest deal 25th September 2019 – 4* Ruka Suites for Christmas from £540pp
Travelling on Sun 22nd Dec for 7 nights
Flying from Birmingham
4 adults sharing an apartment
Self catering – check out Buy 1, Get 1 Half Price lift pass. Be quick as the offer ends on Monday – Crystal Ski Holidays website
More Finland and Lapland ski deals through Crystal Ski.
Direct flights are available from other major UK airports.
Kujalan Porotila Reindeer farm (kujalanporotila.com).
Visit ruka.fi/en for more information on the resort and visitfinland.com for more information on Finland.