Fall in love with the winter wilderness and it could completely change your life.
Pasi Ikonen is a prime example of what the pull of Lapland can do. A nine-to-five working week in central London was left far behind when he moved with his English wife Anna to Enontekiö, on the edge of Finland’s wilderness. Once they had settled, they bought dozens of dogs and started a husky farm. This is without either of them having local connections or any experience of sledge dogs. There was nothing else for it: the call of the Arctic was too much to resist.
Both Pasi and Anna have a background in extreme sports, competing over the years in challenging wilderness contests around the world. When their sporting careers came to an end, adventure was put on the back burner and ordinary life took over. However, it didn’t take long before they realised that they were missing the wilderness and the north, especially during the winter when it really comes to life.
In Lapland, swapping the hustle and bustle of ski resorts and cities to the peace and quiet of the wilderness takes mere minutes.
Pasi left the business world of London far behind when he moved to Lapland to start a husky farm. The sheer impressiveness of winter is hard to explain, since not everyone gets it. Even many Finns loathe the cold, dark time of year and long for the heat of the south during the depths of the long winter. For those who love the winter though, the coming of snow is like a drug. The thick, velvet-soft drifts cover the dark soil and life changes as if touched by a magic wand. The snow brings with it a flurry of outdoor activity that includes snowmobiles, dog sledding and skiing.
CALM & COOL
Once harnessed the dogs are perfectly calm as they know that it will soon be time to be off. However, when the guide fetches the dogs for a safari it’s a different story; the barking is ear-splitting as all the dogs want to come.
NOT YOUR AVERAGE ONE HORSE OPEN SLEIGH
For many people, a dog sled is the only real way to travel in the wilderness. At least the journey is much quieter than it would be by snowmobile. All you can hear is the panting of the dogs and the swish of the runners.
The purity of the natural environment is a major part of Lapland’s beauty and this can be seen in its many coniferous trees. They are covered in beard moss, a greenish lichen that disappeared from the most polluted areas of the south many years ago. The moss also makes the trees look like a fairy tale forest from an old picture book.
HUSKY SAFARIS ARE FOR EVERYONE
Pasi’s guides come from all around the world, some from as far as Australia. The work of the safari guide is varied and occasionally includes a spot of childcare.
Pasi, Anna and everyone else living in Lapland all share the love of “kaamos”, which is the darkest time of the year. Even though the sun doesn’t rise at all for a couple of months, the locals don’t find this time of year depressing. It is quite the opposite. Gaze at the Northern Lights dancing in the sky or the stars gleaming brightly, shining in a way you just don’t see in the south, and time stands still. Inessentials and material worries are quickly forgotten.
NOT AFRAID OF SNOW
The dogs used on the safaris are mainly Siberian and Alaskan huskies. Both breeds are strong, they like the cold and also love long journeys.
Besides the varied natural environment, Pasi was also attracted by the way of life in Enontekiö. In Lapland, people aren’t all rushing to get somewhere for no reason. The laid-back life is lived on nature’s terms, in harmony with the seasons as the situation demands. Compared with the short-term world of business driven by quarterly results, there’s a huge contrast. It is no wonder that many visitors to Lapland find themselves suddenly thinking, ‘Hmm, isn’t this the way it always ought to be…?’
Old Porvoo is one of Finland’s most idyllic districts. The cobbled streets are lined with old, doll-house-like houses and on top of the hill a white stone church looks over the river valley. Wonderful in the summer, magical during wintertime. Only one hour East of Helsinki.
We all have problem pigs in our lives, nasty little things that make us angry, tired or stressed out. But no problem, here’s a perfect retreat. The Finnish winter calms down even the world’s angriest birds, so it will surely work for you too.
Take a look at the geographical shape of Finland and you’ll see why people call her “The Finnish Maiden”. At the tip of her thumb is the only part of the country where peaks rise 1,000 metres above sea level. Nestled in those peaks you will find a tiny village called Kilpisjärvi, home to roughly a hundred year-round residents.
One of them is 25-year-old snowmobile guide Jussi Rauhala.