Having been to Ruka twice (read my travel posts here, here and here), and knowing that we will be going back sometime, I thought I’d share a handful of tips for having a great winter holiday in the resort.
Be prepared with lots of layers. This year we doubled up on thermal base layers and I wore my Thermoball coat under my ski coat. You will need very good socks and glove liners as well as decent gloves. At -20 your hair freezes and as it gets colder icicles form inside your nostrils (one of the weirdest feelings ever). Don’t even think about skiing without goggles – your eyeballs will not thank you. If you dress appropriately and take regular breaks indoors you will not have any problems. If you want to be really prepared; have your gloves and hat in your hand luggage so you can put them on when you land at Kuusamo. No point getting cold right at the start of your holiday. Oh and from the little lad on our flight who tried it – don’t lick a lamppost, your tongue really will stick like in the cartoons!
Check the Ruka Ski website each morning before you leave your room. The slopes open at 9.30am and by then resort staff will have put online which lifts and runs are open and closed. This obviously can change through the day, but it is very useful to know where on the hill to head first thing. It is also useful to know if the Ruka Express chairlift is open or not so you can decide whether you need to avoid the Vuosseli slopes (and that incredibly long t-bar).
If you’ve not skied since last year then start on run 25 – a beautiful, long (well, by Ruka standards), wide and gentle blue run through the trees that’ll soon have your ski legs sorted. Reds 24, 12 and 13 are on the purple side, with 1, 2, 3 and 33/34 being a bit tougher on the legs. Run 7, marked as green, is not really a “run” but rather a “route” down into Ruka village if you’re not happy with red runs – watch your speed on it, there are some hairpin bends. Make sure you ski the Rosa and Rudolf run at some point – it’s a gentle but narrow tree lined run that takes you to the reindeer pen.
Don’t just ski (or board). You are in Finnish Lapland, it would be a crime not to make the most of the other winter activities on offer. There are huskies and snowmobiles, reindeer and of course Santa. You can also try ice fishing, cross country skiing and survival skills. You can even go and sleep in an igloo, which really appeals.
Finland is a fairly expensive place to eat and drink. You’ll need over 5 Euros for a couple of teeny glasses of hot chocolate in Piste Bar, and 4 Euros for a large glass of Coke or Lemonade. For lunch I recommend the soup buffet in Piste Restaurant or there is a Subway which is nice and easy. For dinner there are a number of restaurants to choose from, at all of which you will get seated at straight away. I really enjoyed the American food in Colorado Bar and Grill, but Kaltokivi and Piste were also very good. If you want pizza then head half a mile out of the Village and go to Pizzeria Ruka (just at the bottom of the Kelo slopes) where they’ll make your pizza fresh in their open kitchen – seriously good pizza and good value for money.
Don’t expect to see the Northern Lights. Despite a huge increase in activity just before and while we were away, we didn’t witness the Northern Lights in Ruka. You might only be a few miles south of the Arctic Circle but the Village is well lit and they don’t see the lights there very often. We spoke to a couple who’d hired a taxi to take them out into the dark countryside (risky?!) one evening and they weren’t lucky despite the sky being clear and bright.
If you’ve been to Ruka please feel free to add your tips and tricks in the comments below – anything we can do to make other people’s trips there nice and straightforward.