Back in January LincsGeek and I spent a fabulous week in Ruka, Finland, where we enjoyed some amazing scenery and lovely ski runs. [Read about the trip here.] The thing about Ruka that we really liked, apart from the fact that we often had runs to ourselves, was that it was more than just a ski holiday. It was a winter holiday – the landscape and location meant that there was so much more to enjoy thank simply hurtling down the slopes over and over again. Here I talk about our huskies and skidoos excursions.
We booked two excursions through Crystal Ski when we booked our holiday – two things that we didn’t want to miss out on. Booking with your holiday makes sense really; first it means you’ve paid for the activities before you arrive on holiday so it’s easier to budget and you don’t use up those Euros on your first day, and it also means that should activities get booked up you have your place firmly secured. We chose two things from my big list to take part in – a snowmobile ride one evening, and a husky farm experience and sled ride.
Night Snowmobile Safari
Snowmobiles, or Skidoos, are very well catered for in Ruka. With over 500km of free-to-use snowmobile runs through forests and open landscapes you could spend a whole week exploring; but we decided to book a group safari style excursion as an introduction to riding the machines.
The snowmobiles we had were something like 700cc machines – they will easily carry two or maybe even three people and reach very high speeds. LincsGeek and I had one each, of course, and after some very quick instruction (this is the accelerator, this is the kill switch) we lined up in a row of about ten or 12 snow mobiles for our guided tour around Ruka. It was 7.30pm in the evening and pitch black, we were dressed in so many clothes (suits over our ski suits, gloves over gloves) due to the -29 degrees Celsius temperatures, and could not wait to get going. The line of bikes snaked along dedicated tracks, through trees, over hills and across lakes. To be honest I had no idea when I was going over a field or over a lake, it’s very difficult to tell the difference when there is that much snow!
Speed was controlled with a squeeze handle which was very responsive. The route we took wasn’t all flat and straight, there were some sharp bends (lean!) and some fun steep ascents and descents which added to the excitement. The snake line did mean the speed was generally kept down but there were opportunities to play about with the throttle and feel the cold wind on my face. I found myself leaving a nice big gap so I could see what the engine was made of, and I know LincsGeek did the same.
Sadly the Northern Lights weren’t out to play that evening – it would have been our best chance of the week to see them, but that would have been an added bonus of what was already a really fun way to spend a few hours. If you ever have the opportunity I would highly recommend taking a Skidoo out for a spin – seriously good fun, a proper buzz, and a great way to see the landscape away from the ski runs. Next time we go (there will be a next time) we will either book the day time safari or just hire a couple of snowmobiles for an afternoon.
Husky Farm Visit
On the Saturday we spent an afternoon out on a Husky farm close to Ruka Village. The main reason for choosing this one was to have a go on a Husky sled, naturally, but this was much more than that. We took a quick ten minute coach ride to a local Husky Farm (the Finnish know how to drive in the snow!) where they keep over 200 working dogs.
Husky sleds are very simple and traditional. Made from wood, they have two skis underneath, a tall handle at the back to hold on to, a large canvas sling for your gear (or partner!), and a metal brake mechanism. After some quick tuition (stand on the skis to move, stand on the brake to slow down, jump on the brake with all your weight to stop but be prepared to keep going anyway!), we went and met our dogs. Our sled had six Huskies that were absolutely raring to go – they knew what they were doing even if we didn’t! The two at the front were the leaders, trained to follow instructions (or the sled in front in this case) and give the sled some speed. The two at the back are trained for strength – they are the ones who get the sled going, the pullers. And the two in the middle were there to assist with both strength and speed. They did not need any encouragement to get going at all, but did need an awful lot of strength to get them to stop!
We did a 5km route around some sled runs on fairly flat terrain, getting up to speeds of around 30kph we were told. LincsGeek took the sled first and I sat inside, and then we swapped over half way around. It was absolutely amazing. So smooth. Quite fast. Really easy to steer. We were told that thanks to around 30cm of fresh snow the previous night the runs were nice and even and fairly slow, but they still felt quite fast to us.
Once we returned our dogs to the farm we were introduced to some of the new arrivals – it was great to be able to play with some of the puppies. We were given some information on how the dogs are trained and looked after, and had plenty of time to ask questions and learn as much as we wanted to about the farm and the dogs and the sport of Husky sledding. The experience finished with hot sausages, muffins and tea in their hut.
It was a really fantastic afternoon that I definitely want to repeat sometime. (Note the photos are all a bit rubbish as it was so very cold!) Those dogs are amazing. You can book full day safaris too which look like great fun, although we were warned against the week long Husky Sled Safaris as they are apparently lots of hard work and you get very very cold!!