Skiing, whether cross-country or downhill, is always popular, and there are opportunities from the Baltic coast in the south right up the northernmost hills of Lapland to enjoy this sport. Snowboarding, tobogganing, and snowshoe trekking are also great ways of getting out and about in the snow, but for those who prefer to conserve their energies there are plenty of snowmobiles available to rent, or even the chance to take a reindeer or husky-pulled sleigh ride.
The popularity of skiing in Finland can be somewhat measured by the country's success in the Winter Olympics. Finland has participated in every Winter Olympics, and is the sixth most successful country in the games, having won 151 medals prior to the 2010 games in Vancouver. Although Finland does not boast the kind of high altitude resorts which have made Switzerland, Austria, and Italy so popular, it can guarantee snow for up to 200 days of the year, and there are over 100 resorts in the country. These range from the very small, with just a couple of slopes and one lift, to the very large - Levi, for example, has 45 slopes and 26 lifts.
There are a number of reasons why the number of skiing tourists visiting Finland has been growing over the years. One of the reasons for Finland's growing popularity as a skiing holiday destination is the pristine natural scenery: if you enjoy skiing in breathtaking scenery, among peaceful forests that seem like a fairytale land of ice-sculptures, with frozen lakes dotting the landscapes, then Finland is for you.
The largest of the ski resorts tend to be located in Finnish Lapland, although there are 31 in Central Finland and another 26 in the south. In comparison with some of their European counterparts, the resorts are at low altitudes, located on the Arctic Fells which are usually between 500 and 800 metres high. These ski resorts are ideal for beginners and intermediate skiers, although there is always some challenging off-piste skiing to attract the more experienced.
A skiing holiday in Finland is the perfect family holiday. The resorts provide excellent facilities, and there is always a range of other winter activities to engage in, such as reindeer or dog-sled safaris, and the Polar Night and the Northern Lights create a truly unique and charming setting that adults and children alike will enjoy. And of course there is always an opportunity to visit Santa in his village and meet the man himself. Other unique attractions include the incredibly beautiful Snow Castle in Kemi, or the chance to take a dip into the frozen waters of the Gulf of Bothnia from the reconverted ice-breaker Sampo (insulating suits provided, of course!). Visitors to the famous Levi and Ylläs ski resorts would be remiss if they were to not visit the nearby village of Lainio which features a Snow Village that includes a SnowHotel with around 30 individually decorated suites, an IceBar, an Igloo Disco, and an abundance of ice sculptures, all built entirely of snow and ice covering approximately an area of 20 000 square metres.
One of Finland's most significant winter attractions is the number, and range, of cross country ski trails; there are literally thousands of kilometres of cross country trails, of all levels and degrees of difficulty, across Finland. The vast majority of Finland's countryside is pristine and untouched, and cross country skiing allows visitors to enjoy this unique landscape in a truly ecologically and environementally friendly way. What better way to rejuvenate the mind, while strenghtening the body! Should you sleep in and miss the limited daylight hours, Finland has plenty of cross country trails that are floodlit at night.
The best time of the year to enjoy this sport is between the end of January and March in the southern and central regions of Finland, and January through April in the northern region. All the main Finnish ski resorts provide lessons and equipment rentals, and many of the Finnish hotels also provide equipment for rent.
Snowboarders across the world are keenly aware of Finnish prowess in this ever-growing sport, the country is home to some of the world's best, although many of these champions are young enough to be called kids: snowboarders like Juha Tenkku, Teemu Tirro and Joni Mäkinen have all garnered international acclaim. One of the main international competitions is the Swatch TTR World Snowboard Tour, which began in 2002. Since its inception Finnish snowboarders have consistently won top contests, and are always up top of the rankings by the end of each season - at the moment Finland are second only to the U.S., no mean feat when you consider the population of the U.S. is some 60 times greater than that of Finland.
How has such a small country, with relatively small slopes managed to achieve such success in such a short time? There are probably a number of factors involved, high among them would be the ingrained and inherent fearlessness of the average Finn. In sports where fearlessness is essential (ski-jumping, rally driving, and Formula 1 are good examples), Finns usually punch well above their weight, as shown by the number of world champions they have produced over the years for such a small population. However, the quality of facilities in ski-resorts must also be a factor. What the Finnish resorts lack in natural terrain, they more than make up for in the number of excellent snowboard parks and halfpipes. Many resorts also have snowboard streets, complete with jumps, rails, and kickers, and employ specially trained instructors for those who have yet to discover the thrills of this sport, and for those looking to learn new tricks, including Free Style lessons. Snowboards, boots, helmets and ski-suits are usually available for hire at the resorts. The season in Lapland and the north lasts from early November until May, in Central Finland from the end of November until April, and in Southern Finland, the season is from December until early April.