The Finnish ski resort of Pyhä has cheap ski passes, dramatic scenery, and is where the national team trains. Heads north, rather than south, for a surprisingly affordable break
While the French Alps remain the most popular destination for UK skiers, Scandinavian resorts are slowly gaining recognition for their long seasons, uncrowded, family-friendly pistes and surprisingly affordable accommodation. In Finland – which has 57 ski resorts – one in particular stands out. Pyhä (pronounced Poo-ha, the name means Holy Hill) is on the edge of a national park with a dramatic background of frozen lakes, waterfalls and snow-covered forest – and the lift passes are cheap.
So far, so nice. But it’s also the first Nordic ski resort to have a go at becoming totally carbon-neutral (all the talk here is of hydroelectric power and renewable heating resources) and, despite only having 14 slopes, it has the fourth-biggest vertical in Finland, making it a favourite (and official) training centre for the national ski team. This is a place of sub-zero temperatures, with long hours of darkness in winter, but there are other attractions apart from the skiing.
This area was once home to the Sami, nomads who travelled with their reindeer herds, keeping warm at night in their kota tepees. Now they have moved further north, away from civilisation, and across the borders into Sweden, Norway and Russia.
But Sami traditions and reindeer farming remain a way of life. Thundering through the wilderness by reindeer sleigh, steering huskies through the fells or snowmobiling to a traditional Sami tipi are an essential part of a Lapland experience.
It comes as no surprise to find reindeer on every menu and in every guise. Wood grouse, hare and willow ptarmigan come from the forest, the Arctic Sea provides monster-sized crabs and, from the rivers and lakes, there are salmon, perch and pike.
Pyhä has a population of less than 1,000 and the nearest ATM is 50km away, so there’s not that much in the way of restaurants or après ski. There’s only one hotel – the Hotel Pyhätunturi – which is unremarkable but cosy and, of course, offers the ubiquitous sauna experience. The beautiful, lonely landscape inspires exploration – particularly cross-country skiing.
• The trip was provided by Inghams (01483 345790, inghams.co.uk) which offers one-week package trips to Pyhä from £664pp, including half-board at the Hotel Pyhätunturi and flights from Gatwick, Manchester or Birmingham to Kittilä
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