Temperature – don’t worry about the cold...with layers on you’ll be fine. Bear in mind that you’re kept fairly active and as long as the wind isn’t blowing, you’ll be quite warm. We had temperatures from minus 28 to minus 2 and none of us suffered too badly although some of the group commented that they felt the cold when in the husky sled (not driving it).
Clothing – get some silk glove liners; they’re a godsend. I used my ski gloves plus silk liners and had no problems keeping my hands/fingers warm. Use plenty of layers, thermals, socks, tops; it works! Clothing is provided for ski-dooing and dog sledding; an oversuit, boots, helmet, gloves. Cross-country ski shoes are provided for the skiing day. You only need trainers or walking shoes for snow-shoeing.
Hotel – a nice place, rooms are spacious and clean, complete with a mini-bar! It’s worth taking a small travel kettle and some instant drinks (e.g. chocolate, coffee etc.) to avoid paying a fiver a go in the hotel lobby...Might also be worth taking some alcohol with you for a nightcap...Oh, and reception sells toothbrushes and toothpaste! Handy when your baggage is delayed...
Prices – this is an expensive holiday. It’s not helped by the exchange rate between the Euro and UK Pound. The hotel’s prices are steep; approx 5 euros for a caffe latte, same for beer. I believe that tea, coffee, hot chocolate should be free at any time during your stay; much the same way as it is in a chalet style ski holiday. Normally you’d expect airport prices to be steep but a really nice filter coffee was only 2 euros and chocolate bars approx 1 euro. Ice sculpting price mentioned elsewhere. Put this into further context with ski-dooing on the last day. Four of us opted for solo ski-doo at approx 140 euros. Bear in mind that you have a guide and you’ve got control of a ski-doo which needs fuel, maintenance etc. and it’s only approx twice that of the ice sculpting which only requires a couple of hammers, chisels and ice picks; it’s a rip-off.
I travelled to Finland from 23-30 Jan 2011 on a special departure organised through Spice UK. I’ve broken the trip down into stages and hope I haven’t missed anything.
Daylight was from around 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Activities started at 10 a.m. and most finished by 2 p.m. After the activity of the day you could take advantage of remaining daylight and continue with it or take a sauna, Jacuzzi, go sledging or just relax.
Flights – departure times were very civilised; lunchtime from Heathrow. A connecting flight at Helsinki to Kajaani with very little time allowed for the connection meant that our baggage didn’t make it to the final destination at the same time as we did. From previous reviews this seems to be a fairly frequent occurrence. I’m not sure that it’s the fault of Finnair; I think there needs to be more time between the flights and if necessary, perhaps Exodus can talk to Finnair about scheduling or Exodus could use an earlier flight from the UK. As it was, our baggage arrived first thing Monday morning, in time for our first activity which was a day of ski-dooing. Also, the international arrival gate is a long walk from the domestic gate for the Kajaani flight so you need to get a move on.
Return flight was again pretty civilised being early afternoon. However, due to weather conditions we were delayed in taking off which meant we arrived later than scheduled. After a mad dash from domestic to international side we arrived (just) in time to board. Luckily the baggage caught up with us this time!
Once we landed, baggage arrived pretty promptly and I was on my way home (in the car) an hour after landing.
Nature – there wasn’t much around apart from a couple of birds and a few tracks of hares/rabbits. Pretty much everything was covered with snow so probably not much around and we were surrounded by human presence. I did look into going for a nature trip to see Wolverines (near the Russian border) with a local operator (www.borealwildlifecentre.fi) but they didn’t start until later in February.
There was a planned programme of activities that included: snow-mobile safari (lunch and ice fishing), dog sledding, cross-country skiing, snow-shoeing. There were two days off where you were free to do nothing or choose a number of optional activities (at extra cost). For me, all but the snow-shoeing were great fun. The snow-shoeing was a bit dull as we walked from the hotel through the local woods to a lunch stop on the frozen lake and back again. Not much wildlife to be seen as the countryside is covered in snow and we’d pretty much covered the local area when cross-country skiing and ski-dooing. I’d rather another activity be scheduled in place of snow-shoeing.
Snow mobile safari – this was great fun. First off, you’re provided with an oversuit, boots, socks, gloves and helmet. You’re two-up, taking it in turns to drive across the frozen lake and through the forest. Probably best to swap over with your partner frequently so you both get a taste of both types of terrain; might be worth asking the lead guide to stop at half-way points on the lake and forest. We stopped for lunch in a tee-pee type tent with a log fire followed by a spot of ice fishing. The fishing was great! You’re given a tiny rod fully kitted up and the guides drill a hole in the ice for you. After about 15 minutes I got a bite and caught a Perch...how cool is that!! More ski-dooing after lunch and that’s when you can let rip; we got up to a good speed coming back across the frozen lake J
A bunch of us hired the ski-doos again on the last day (a free day) for a two hour safari; great fun and great value.
Cross-country skiing – I really enjoyed this; instruction was good if a little too quickly delivered. We spent the morning getting to grips with techniques for different situations. After lunch we were free to continue skiing and a bunch of us took a trip to the nearest town (approx 5km along the lakeside), cabbing back (local taxi firm based in the local petrol station and they will take the skis). There are kilometres and kilometres of groomed tracks so it’s easy to ski on...luckily there aren’t many slopes to deal with!!
Day off – I opted to do biathlon which is a combination of cross-country skiing and shooting. This is a fab activity and I really enjoyed it. A couple of practice shots first, followed by shots at the targets 50 metres away, standing and prone. After this, you ski for 1km before shooting again...this is where it’s hard ‘cos you’re out of breath!! A few more circuits of ski-shoot-ski and you’re done. Brilliant activity and I even managed to hit the targets standing and prone!!
Husky dog sledding – wow!! You’re gonna love this one J You’re provided with the same clothing as that used for ski-dooing; wear your thermals underneath. You get to help with harnessing the dogs and you’ll see how up for it they are. The dogs appear well cared for and all seemed in good condition. All the dogs have personalities, some more confident than others but once teamed up, they’re raring to go. It’s a fab feeling when they take off and they just love to run. Watch out when you’re turning or stopping; the dogs don’t like to stop! You’ll have to really stand on the brakes when you want them to stop even though you’ve used the command. We were sledding for about two hours and that’s about enough for the dogs as they do start to slow down half way around. When we got back, it was time for lunch around an open fire followed by time to play with some pups before heading back to the hotel. A brilliant day J
Snow-shoeing. This was my least favourite activity. It was just plodding across the frozen lake, through the forest to lunch stop and back again. This was quite a short activity; three hours including lunch. I felt that this was a bit of a waste of time and only 3 hours is a bit ‘frugal’ to say the least. I think this event should be replaced by something better.
Ice sculpting – this was an optional activity that I didn’t take part in because it was 65 euros! Supposed to be about two hours of instruction but the two people who took part were not happy as they felt that there wasn’t sufficient instruction or time given to them. I think that the pricing needs to be looked at here; biathlon was approx 50 euros with full instruction and much better value for money.