Åre you ready for these slopes?
Much like in Canada, southern Europe’s attempts at Northern recreation just can’t live up to the albeit-lesser-known real deal. Case in point: You’ve heard of the Swiss Alps. It is the place in Europe to ski, right? Well, let us suggest—as we’re wont to do—that you look north.
Åre, Sweden is a city built on skiing. Mountains, full of trails for every ski level, surround the village-style mini-metropolis. Its biggest drop is a 1,250-metre run, and its extensive lift system provides you with enough variety to explore new runs all day long. Its ski school is renowned and offers classes for people with disabilities. And if you’re not up for downhill all day, there are plenty of cross-country ski trails high up among the peaks. And do we need to mention that the scenery is world-class?
Oh, those Russians
Skis, helicopters and active volcanoes—does this sound like a good time to you? If you can make your way to the Kamchatka Peninsula, at the far, far northeastern edge of Russia, such adventure awaits.
Tourism operator Vertikalny Mir is based at Paratunka, a hot springs resort an hour’s drive from the region’s capital city, Petropavlovsk. They offer an eight-day package in which you are ferried by helicopter among active and dormant volcanoes and beautiful fiords on a one-of-a-kind skiing trip. Ride in style in one of the company’s powerful Mi8 helicopters and enjoy getting pampered due to the 1:4 skier to guide ratio.
Sauna culture in the land of lakes
Finland has close to 188,000 lakes within its borders. You can kayak, paddle or even just drive through Finnish Lakeland to take in its beauty. And as a bonus—or perhaps as the main feature of your visit—there are saunas on the shores of many of these waters.
As Canadians with very little experience in this part of the world, it would be presumptuous for us to try to describe Finns’ relation to saunas. But perhaps we can help form an image: think Canada’s relationship with hockey combined with Rome’s relationship to Catholicism. Saunas are firmly entrenched in Finnish culture, and the benefits are both physical and spiritual.
If you are in Finland, take the time to experience this.
Iceland? More like Hikeland
Iceland is one of the most unique places in the world: a small island, full of hot springs, waterfalls, glaciers and vistas without parallel. And it’s small enough that you can hike most of it, if you have the time. The Laugavegur Trek is one of the country’s most popular, checking in at 55 kilometres, which translates to about five days of hiking. There are cabins along the way, or you can pitch a tent on a mountainside or in a valley—or by a mighty river, or an ancient glacier.
Find the local flavour in Norway
Northern tourist offerings can get repetitive. A lot of what you can do in the Yukon or Nunavut—mush a dogteam, ski on mountains, view polar bears from a safe distance—are the same activities you’ll find in a country like Norway. But if you look a little closer you’ll find some local flavour. And sometimes that flavour is extremely delicious.
Norway has a unique spin on ice-fishing. Crawling beneath its frozen seas are two-metre-long, succulent king crab. Some outfits, such as Hurtigruten, will take you out on a frozen fiord, help you saw a hole in the ice and pull some crab out of the depths. They’ll show you how to prepare it the Norwegian way before popping you on a sledge and towing you by snowmobile to a farmhouse where you’ll dine.
Pure luxury—Northern style.