- A challenging wilderness expedition
- Some ski experience required
- Good chances for Northern Lights
- Stay in simple cabins with optional camping
- Travel during the Polar Night or "spring winter"
- Ski equipment included
Finnish Lapland is a vast region with long and glorious winters. Backcountry Skiing and Northern Lights in Finnish Lapland is a ski touring adventure giving you the chance to explore some of the far north's most remote areas, with two tour options in either the Lemmenjoki National Park or Käsivarsi Wilderness Area.
In addition to the very special experience of travelling in a remote region in wintertime, the tours also provide the perfect setting to see the Northern Lights (provided the skies are clear, there is activity, and you haven't fallen asleep of course!).
As the nature of the skiing itself is not technical, previous experience of skiing is required but experience of ski touring is not essential.
The tours use a combination of pulks and backpacks for carrying equipment. Photo: WH.
Ski equipment as well as all camping equipment is included as standard. Winter boots are available to hire on request and rucksack can also be borrowed if required.
However, these are challenging outdoor tours requiring a good level of fitness and stamina. On the tour, the group will carry equipment using a combination of backpacks (typical weight around 10-15kg, mostly for personal items) and "pulks" (sleds, especially for the heavier items such as tents and provisions, typical weight around 35kg). You will normally take one backpack per two persons, and alternate between skiing with pack and skiing with pulk.
The number of pulks taken on a tour depends on group size (max. 8 persons + guide for scheduled tours) and the task of pulling these will be shared between the group.
Whether you choose the Lemmenjoki or Halti tour options, you'll be coming home with some memories to last a lifetime from a winter expedition in the wilderness of the far north.
Option 1: Lemmenjoki National Park
Lemmenjoki, at 2,850 square kilometres, is Finland's largest national park and one of the largest in Europe. Located at 69 degrees north at the top of Finland bordering Norway, Lemmenjoki offers a wonderful environment for remote trail-less ski touring adventures in old-growth boreal forest.
This is a real "backcountry" tour, skiing without prepared trails with typical daily distance around 10-17km. Beginning and ending with nights in comfortable cabins at a reindeer farm, along the tour itself accommodation is in simple wilderness cabins, with no electricity or running water (sauna is available at one location for a touch of luxury!), as well as one night in a "kota", a traditional Sami wooden tipi.
Ski between simple wilderness cabins with the option to camp on some nights. Photo: WH.
You will be carrying full camping equipment for safety and so also have the option to spend one or more nights in tents if you wish. During the tour, you will also be increasing your knowledge of wilderness skills from your guide, and build a "quinzee", or snow shelter, in which you can optionally choose to sleep for one night.
This tour uses OAC KAR skis, which have universal bindings compatible with any winter boot.
Option 2: Halti (Käsivarsi Wilderness Area)
Käsivarsi Wilderness Area, at the very top of Finland, is also a very large protected area at 2,206 square kilometres. All of Finland's fells over 1000m are located in this area. This option takes you to the "roof of Finland", to the Halti fell, which at 1324m is the highest point in Finland.
This is very much an arctic wilderness experience, taking place entirely above the tree-line in terrain that can be very exposed. For this tour, skiing is partly off-trail and partly using a snowmobile track. Daily distances covered are up to 23km and the route involves more ups and downs than the Lemmenjoki tour. The level of challenge of this tour will typically be higher than the Lemmenjoki option.
Accommodation is in simple hotel room at the start/end of the tour (sauna available) and in simple wilderness huts along the trail, which have no electricity or running water. The cabins are heated with wood-burning stoves and you will melt snow for water during the tours.
You will be carrying tents and camping equipment for safety, and can optionally choose to sleep in tent rather than inside the cabins if you wish for one or more nights.
This tour uses Fischer easy skin Xtralite skis, which are relatively easily manageable for the less experienced skier while providing better control for the descents.
Planning a private group tour?
In addition to the standard itineraries outlined below, for private groups seeking an additional level of challenge (for example if preparing for an extended arctic expedition), tours can also be based on winter camping, particularly for Option 1: Lemmenjoki. Please contact us to discuss your requirements.
Option 1: Lemmenjoki National Park
NB: The special "winter camping" tour 7th-14th March 2020 will not follow the itinerary below, but will instead begin/end with night in log cabin at Njurgulahti followed by 5 nights wild camping in expedition-quality tents. The tour will follow a remote route through the boreal fells and will have a higher level of physical challenge than standard cabin tours. This itinerary is also available on request as a private tour for groups.
Day 1: Arrival
- Standard tour dates: Transfer will meet Finnair flight AY 605 from Helsinki arriving Ivalo 18.20 (you are of course welcome to arrive with an earlier connection if you wish).
- New Year tour: There is no flight to Ivalo arriving 18.20 on 28th December 2019 - it will therefore be necessary to arrive with earlier flight 13.20. Please contact us for details.
You will have a final chance to buy snacks for your tour stopping at Ivalo en route to your accommodation for the evening (transfer time approx. 1.5 hours). Tonight you will stay at cabins owned by a local Sami family, who have lived there for generations with their reindeer, which roam around the yard at the Sami camp. The camp has a restaurant where you will be having dinner and there's an opportunity to have your first sauna!
After breakfast, you will spend your day skiing along Lemmenjoki River from which the National Park takes its name. A long day of skiing is usually made easier by following a snowmobile trail running on flat river ice but can still be hard work when pulling a "pulk". Hirvikoski wilderness cabin is located on the river shore and heated with wood burning stove.
Skiing distance: approx. 17km
Today, you will start your day with a 5km ski to a traditional Finnish "kota" at the foot of Morgan-Viibus fell, the highest in the area. Here you will swap your skis for snowshoes and leave the rest of your equipment behind to climb to the summit! With, it is possible to see hundreds of kilometres of untouched wilderness when you reach the top. After your hike, you return to the "kota", which is similar to a tipi made with wood with a fireplace in the centre.
Skiing/snowshoeing distance: approx. 12km +500m ascent
A short ski of 5km is challenging through soft snow and an ascent of 200m leaves you an afternoon free to begin to build your accommodation for tomorrow night. A "quinzee" is a snow shelter built by hollowing out a pile of snow and looks similar to an igloo. To prepare your quinzee, you make a large pile of snow that will settle overnight, ready to be dug out the next day, but tonight you will stay in Morgamojan Kultala cabin, where there is an opportunity to have a sauna to relax your tired muscles!
Skiing distance: approx. 5km
A day tour in the local fells to explore the surrounding area and it's time to dig out your quinzee, where the brave can sleep the night if they wish. But don't worry, you can also stay in the cabin if you prefer your accommodation a little more cosy!
Skiing distance: flexible depending on weather/snow conditions and ability of the group
A challenging day, as you will cut through fresh snow to make the trail yourself, taking it in turns to be in the front of the group to break the trail. You will head back to the Hirvikoski cabin from the second night but through the snow-covered fells. Your guide will teach you about the unique nature in the area and some wilderness skills along the way to some beautiful frozen waterfalls.
Skiing distance: approx. 13km
Today, you slowly head back to the Sami camp, following the trail along the Lemmemjoki River. At the camp you will have the opportunity to interact with the reindeer and help to feed them and the local family will give you an insight into their Sami way of life. A final tasty dinner will be served and sauna is available to unwind after being out in the wilderness.
Skiing distance: approx. 17km
Day 8: Departure
Breakfast at the Sami camp before departure.
Transfer will meet Finnair flight AY 604 to Helsinki departing Ivalo at 13.55 (you are of course welcome to take a later connection if you wish).
Option 2: Halti (Käsivarsi Wilderness Area)
NB: This tour takes place in terrain that can be very exposed, and outdoor experiences in the arctic fells can be very demanding depending on conditions. The route taken avoids steep cliffs or areas with high avalanche risk, but it is possible that blizzards and very low temperatures may be encountered. You will be carrying high-quality 4-season tents for safety and, on rare occasions, it can be necessary to take shelter in the tents or cabins for an extended period if conditions are judged to be unsuitable for moving. If storm warnings have been issued before the tour begins, the itinerary below will be substituted for an alternative route a more sheltered area. Every effort will be made to offer the highest quality alternative itinerary, but no refund can be offered in this case should the planned Halti itinerary not be possible. Safety is a high priority and itinerary variable at the discretion of the guide.
Day 1: Arrival
Transfer will meet flights arriving Tromsø latest 18.50* (you are of course welcome to arrive with an earlier connection if you wish). Transfer (approx. 2.5 hours) to Kilpisjärvi. Overnight accommodation at the hiking centre hotel in 2-person hotel rooms or 4-person cabins depending on availability.
Dinner and introduction to the tour ahead. Sauna is available.
*Time given is the latest possible arrival time. On some dates, available flight times may vary.
After breakfast, you will pack your equipment, leaving any items not needed behind, and your expedition begins! You follow a snowmobile track up onto the fells. It's time to go "off-grid" - soon after starting the tour, you will lose mobile reception until the end of the tour.
The trail is normally hard-packed, making it good for skiing, but the distance covered and the height gain will make this a challenging day. Accommodation in Kuonjarjoki wilderness hut (unless you wish to pitch your tent and camp outside!).
Skiing distance: approx. 20km, +400m ascent.
This day you head for Pihtsusjärvi wilderness hut, with a number of ups and downs during the today. This is the only day during the tour that you drop below the treeline to enjoy lunch by a waterfall surrounded by dwarf and mountain birches. Beginning with relatively flat or downhill sections for the first 10km, the second half of the day takes you along an undulating valley floor, followed by a steep ascent for a couple of km to reach a lake, across which lies the cabin.
Skiing distance: approx. 20km, +400m ascent -300m descent.
The first 7km of skiing takes you uphill to the Halti hut, where you will return later in the day for overnight. Here you can leave the majority of your equipment to climb 3km with daypacks only to the summit of Halti fell, the highest point in Finland. You may even get mobile reception at the top to be able to brag about your achievement to your friends back home!
You ski back down through powder snow (fast but not too step and not requiring previous experience of skiing in such conditions) - it will probably take just 30 mins or so to reach the Halti hut again.
Skiing distance: approx. 13km, +600m ascent -400m descent.
You begin the journey back towards Kilipisjärvi, going downhill for much of the time. Today should be a more relaxed and less challenging day, a chance to take it a little easier after the ascents of the previous days.
Accommodation for the night at Meekonjärvi wilderness hut.
Skiing distance: approx. 20km
Today you are skiing off-trail between the fells towards Termisjärvi wilderness hut, with no snowmobile track to follow. The extra distance combined with the need to break your own trails is likely to make this one of the most challenging days of the tour.
You travel though a wide canyon surrounded by hills, with lunch along the way as always.
Skiing distance: approx. 23km
Your last day of skiing, returning along a snowmobile track to Kilpisjärvi. Here a celebratory dinner awaits and the chance for a sauna and your first wash for a week! There's also the option to visit a local pub for some well-deserved refreshment after your wilderness adventure.
Skiing distance: approx. 15km
Day 8: Departure
Breakfast before departure. Transfer will meet flights departing Tromsø earliest 11.00* (you are of course welcome to take a later connection if you wish).
*Time given is the earliest possible departure time. On some dates, available flight times may vary.
Tours are normally Saturday-Saturday.
- Option 1 (Lemmenjoki): 28.12.19-04.01.20*, 04.01-11.01.20*, 29.02-07.03.20, 07.03-14.03.20**, 14.03-21.03.20
- Option 2 (Halti): 28.12.19-04.01.20*^, 25.01-01.02.20, 01.02-08.02.20, 22.02-29.02.20, 29.02-07.03.20, 07.02-14.03.20, 14.03-21.03.20, 21.03-28.03.20, 28.03-04.04.20
*These tours take place during the polar night, when the sun does not come above the horizon.
**This tour has a special itinerary based on winter camping and will therefore have a higher level of physical challenge. See under "Itinerary" for details.
^This Halti New Year tour is not a guaranteed departure but can be offered on request for groups of min. 4 persons.
Private tours for groups of up to 8 persons may also be possible on other dates subject to availability. For private tours, as well as standard cabin itineraries, tours based on winter camping can also be offered for additional level of challenge, particularly for Option 1: Lemmenjoki. Please contact us to discuss your requirements.
The Northern Lights can be seen anytime from around September to early/mid April.
Prices winter season 2019/20
|Option 1: Lemmenjoki (per person)||GBP 1,200||EUR 1,290|
|Option 2: Halti (per person)||GBP 1,228||EUR 1,320|
For private tours, please contact us to discuss your requirements.
|Winter boots/person (paid locally, please give sizes in advance)|
|Boots for Lemmenjoki tours||EUR 40|
|Boots for Halti tours||EUR 50|
- Winter boots:
NB: Boots must normally be arranged no later than 4 weeks prior to departure if required to ensure suitable sizes are available. Please give sizes on booking.
- Lemmenjoki: Winter boots (normally Sorel Caribou or similar) for use with the skis provided are available to hire for participants who do not have suitable footwear.
- Halti: Boots compatible with the skis used for the tour (which have NNN BC bindings) are available to hire for participants who do not have their own. The ski boots serve as the main boots for the tour - no additional winter boots are required. Overboots are also included for additional warmth/snow protection.
What's Included »
Option 1 (Lemmenjoki):
Sleeping accommodation is shared on all nights. At the wilderness cabins, beds can be reserved in most cases, but the cabins are open for use by other travellers. Everyone assists with tasks around the cabin such as preparing food, washing up, etc.
- Days 1 and 7: Sami camp with restaurant, bar and sauna, electricity, inside toilets and shower. Sauna is available and there are always reindeer at the camp. Accommodation in simple 4-person cabins.
- Days 2, Days 4-6: Wilderness huts along the route. No electricity/running water, wood-burning stove, gas cooker, dry outside toilet, bunk beds. Sauna available on Day 4 and Day 5. Day 5 has option to sleep in the quinzee you have constructed.
- Day 3: Traditional "kota" (wooden tipi) with central fireplace.
Example accommodation for the tour. Photos: WH
Option 2 (Halti):
Sleeping accommodation is shared on all nights. At the wilderness cabins, beds can be reserved in most cases, but the cabins are open for use by other travellers. April/May are the most popular periods, so at this time you may meet other travellers in the cabins. At other times, you are likely to encounter very few other persons during the tour. Everyone assists with tasks around the cabin such as preparing food, washing up, etc.
- Days 1 and 7: Simple 2-person hotel rooms or 4-person cabins in Kilpisjärvi with own WC/shower in room/cabin. Restaurant (licensed) and sauna. Free wi-fi available.
- Days 2-6: Wilderness huts along the route. No electricity/running water, wood-burning stove, gas cooker, dry outside toilet, bunk beds.
Example accommodation for the tour. Photos: WH
All meals are included from dinner on arrival day to breakfast on departure day. The group will cook and eat together. As dehydrated camping foods are often used during the tour and cooking facilities are simple/shared, common dietary requirements such as vegetarian, etc, can normally be accommodated, but opportunities to accommodate more restrictive diets (such as gluten-free, vegan, particular allergies) may be limited. Please advise any dietary needs in advance and contact us to discuss your requirements.
- Skis, bindings and poles: Note that boots are not provided but are available to hire as optional extra. For the Halti tour, boots will need to be compatible with NNN BC bindings. The ski boots serve as your main boots for the tour - no additional winter boots are required. Guests wishing to bring own boots and/or ski touring equipment are welcome to do so - please provide details of your equipment in advance to ensure it meets the requirements for the tour)
- Lemmenjoki: Skis used are OAC KAR skin-based skis with universal bindings (see image below). The skis fit any standard winter boot.
- Halti: Skis used are Fischer easy skin Xtralite skis (models with the widest cut and shorter sizes, e.g. 180-190cm), which are relatively easily manageable for the less experienced skier while providing better control for the descents. These skis use Rottefella NNN BC system bindings.
- Camping equipment: Winter sleeping bag with liner and closed cell sleeping mat; tent (tents are carried as safety equipment and as optional overnight accommodation).
- Pulk(s): number required depends on the size of the group, typically one per two participants.
- Cooking equipment.
- Backpacks are provided to use free of charge if required. Backpacks provided will be 45-75 litres. You are of course welcome to bring your own if you prefer.
- Camping plate/bowl, mug and cutlery.
- Toilet paper.
OAC KAR skis used for the Lemmenjoki tour. Photo: WH
Experienced and knowledgeable local guide.
Arrival/departure transfers between Ivalo (Lemmenjoki tour) or Kittilä (Halti tour) airports and start/end point of the tour at fixed times (see "Itinerary").
- Travel: We do not arrange flights or domestic travel, but are happy to advise on suitable connections and assist you with any aspect of planning your journey. See under "Getting There" for general travel information.
- Alcoholic drinks.
- Winter boots (available to hire if you do not have your own, please see Optional Extras).
Good To Know »
You must have a general high level of fitness, be used to the outdoors and be prepared for travelling in a remote area. Previous experience of skiing is required. Experience of backcountry skiing/touring is an advantage but is not essential for the tour.
You should be comfortable skiing daily distances of up to 17km (Lemmenjoki) or 23km (Halti), often without trails. The intention is that when you are not skiing with a backpack, you will be pulling a pulk, and vice versa. The most appropriate arrangements for total number of packs/pulks taken will be made when the group packs for the tour at the start. Any items not needed can be left behind at the start point, and if necessary backpacks can be loaded on the pulks or the items from some packs transferred to pulks.
Backpacks will be used to carry personal items to which access is required during the day, such as spare clothing, thermoses, snacks, etc. Typical pack weight should be max. around 15kg. Pulk weight is typically around 35kg.
Tour dates taking place during the deep midwinter (especially during the polar night) and up to around mid-February may have the most challenging weather conditions and lowest temperatures. In this region, very low temperatures (-30 degrees C or less) may be encountered. For the Halti tour there may be no snowmobile tracks or trail markings to follow on tours in the early part of the season (up to around mid-February) as would normally be the case, increasing the level of physical challenge.
Minimum age 18 years.
What makes this "Hard"?
Halti tours taking place in the early part of the season (December-February) may have Hard+ level of difficulty.
These tours take place in very remote wilderness areas with simple accommodation along the route and no mobile phone coverage. Your guide will carry a satellite communicator in case of emergency.
You will be skiing with a pack and/or pulling a pulk (shared with other participants). For the Lemmenjoki tour, skiing is not on prepared tracks, and for Halti will normally be on a mix of snowmobile tracks (when available) and off-trail.
It is important to bear in mind that skiing on unprepared terrain is much more physically demanding than skiing on tracks.
Daily skiing time is typically between 4-8 hours for the Lemmenjoki tour and 6-8 hours for the Halti tour, including lunch break and several shorter stops.
When trail breaking is required, participants will take it in turns to go at the front.
The Halti tour in particular takes place in very exposed terrain, where weather conditions encountered can make the tour very challenging, and also requires more climbing. This will typically be the most challenging of the two tour options. The Lemmenjoki option is also a challenging tour, but being located in boreal forest is less exposed to blizzards and storms and with the option to light a fire if necessary.
NB: Perception of difficulty is very subjective. What is hard to one person may be easy for another and vice versa, depending on factors including level of fitness, age and previous experience. Weather conditions/temperatures can also dramatically affect the actual level of challenge encountered.
For information on any equipment and/or clothing included as standard for this experience, please see under "What's Included".
A detailed recommended packing list for personal items to bring will be sent with your booking documentation.
NB: We advise you not to buy equipment or clothes for your trip or to incur other non-refundable expenses such as flights until you have received confirmation of your booking from us in writing. Note of course that the most appropriate clothing to use as well as the level of challenge experienced during any outdoor activity may vary significantly depending on factors such as the time of year and the particular weather/temperature conditions during your trip.
Preparing for your trip:
For further reading, we also have a number of general information articles to get you ready for your trip, covering a wide variety of topics from what to do on a city break before/after your tour, advice on packing, eyewear for winter and considerations for female travellers.
Scheduled tour dates have no minimum and are guaranteed to run from the first booking (except where specified, such as for Halti New Year tour, which is offered on request for groups only).
Max. group size 8 participants for scheduled tours. For private tours, groups of more than 8 persons can be accommodated (in this case, tents must be used as sleeping accommodation for some persons on some nights during the tour).
This provider has a written environmental policy.
Getting There »
Detailed information on travel options to this experience will be provided in response to your enquiry. We are happy to advise on suitable connections and assist you with any aspect of planning your journey.
Please ensure that you make a booking with us first and wait for confirmation that your spaces are reserved before making any travel arrangements.
- Option 1 (Lemmenjoki): Fly to Helsinki for domestic flight (1.5 hours) to Ivalo, from where transfers (approx. 1.5 hours) are included in connection with fixed flight times.
- Option 2 (Halti): Fly to Oslo for domestic flight (2 hours) to Tromsø (in Norway), from where transfers (approx. 2.5 hours) are included in connection with fixed flight times.
Gallery & Reviews »
"[The best part was] simply getting away from the unreal world for a week in a beautiful landscape." Alan, Halti tour, March 2019
"The guide was excellent. He made the trip special." Mark, Lemmenjoki tour, March 2019
"I thought it was a fabulous experience, whether in sun, snow, high winds, whiteouts or cabin life. The -40C in Lemmenjoki was a challenge, but the guide managed the situation perfectly." Roland, who combined the Lemmenjoki and Halti tours back-to-back, February 2019