FINLAND ARCTIC CHALLENGE LIVE

Welcome to follow the live content from Arctic Lapland! You can enjoy the daily photographs by Thiago Diz and event updates below, as well as on Instagram and Facebook account. If you are interested in registering for the next edition 9-15 February 2025, please fill in this form.

Finland Arctic Challenge: Pre-Event Update 

Sunday, 11 Feb

Here we go, the first update from above the Arctic Circle in the Finnish Lapland: The host town of Levi was buzzing today! People from all around the world were enjoying the sunny Arctic weather of -25°C /-13°F degrees and most of the Finland Arctic Challenge participants arrived in Levi!  

Some of them have been here for few days enjoying different winter activities, snowboarding, skiing etc but by late afternoon the rest had settled into the hotel to enjoy the atmosphere of their Arctic host town where Riitta and Anniina from the Arctic Escapades team welcomed everyone. 

The first meeting, clothing and gear check, followed by the event briefing took place this evening. It was wonderful to finally meet everyone! The Arctic weather is new to most, but most people had the necessary items. The nearby sports shop provided the Arctic mittens, balaclavas etc that some still needed. The participants tested their winter suits and boots provided by the organiser and they received their souvenir jackets and of course a block of Fazer chocolate from Finland, much needed energy for the coming days – Arctic weather is energy consuming, not to mention the soft snow that everyone is up against!  

Trilby White from Hong Kong was particularly delighted: “Finally an adventure where chocolate does not melt!” That is spot on: Much of the advice given to the participants today included tips on how to keep their essentials warm, including food and drinks but of course also fingers and toes.  

Tomorrow we’ll start with a good filling breakfast at Sokos Hotel Break and will then depart to the course by a bus at 9:00. The first stage, snowshoeing through the frozen wetlands to the Aakenus Lumberjack cabin will start approximately 10am. 

You can follow the daily updates from the Finland Arctic Challenge which are posted around 19:00 Finland time from 12 to 17 February at the @arcticescapades Facebook and Instagram account, as well as here on the event website.  

“Breathtaking sunshine & icy weather!  

Our Arctic Challengers started the first stage of snowshoeing in somewhat “nippy” conditions as the temperature dropped down to -30°C in the morning.. 

So of course for people from all around the world who have not faced Finnish frostiness the theme for today was simply: “How to deal with extreme cold”. For example, one of the challengers from Thailand, Nalinthorn, arrived on Sunday and the temperature difference is around 60°C degrees! 😅

Most of today’s route weaved around the frozen wetlands of the Aakenus Fell – after the start through snow covered fairytale forest the view opened to this magical wintery scene! And as you can see on the photos, Finnish nature showed its best today by creating some frosty looks on participants’ faces and hair. ❄️

After the “introduction to arctic weather conditions” @aakenuspirtti, an old lumberjack cabin below the Aakenus Fell welcomed the snowshoers! After hot berry juice and local mushroom pie, it was time for a wood-burn lumberjack sauna. Everyone accepted the much awaited challenge…some enjoyed ice dipping in the frozen river so much that they dipped 3 times! These daredevils included Jo, Barty, Bob, Pete, Trilby, Roberto and Liz! 

A tasty ending to a great day: traditional dinner: locally hunted moose meat with roof vegetables and lingonberries. 😎

The Finland Challenge continues tomorrow at 10 am with a 25km run / hike along the snowy trails and the remote Aakenus road. 

Day 2: Tuesday 13 February

Departure: Aakenus cabin

Weather and temperature: -26C°/-13F °

Stage: Half marathon from Aakenus to Peurakaltio

Distance: 25km/ 15.5 miles  

Arrival: Peurakaltio cabin

Another beautiful day in Lapland! Today’s challenge was the 25km “half-marathon” where participants moved from the east side of the Aakenus Fell to the west. Many were still in bed at 7:30 in the Aakenus Cabin when breakfast was put on the table: a big pot of porridge, cloudberries picked up from the local wetlands, bread, cheese and fresh coffee. 

The stage started at 10am with a quick warm up exercise, lead by Anniina from the local team, and then they were off! Through yet another vast frozen wetland, 2km along a single track, followed by a 7km snowmobile track and finally 16km on the remote Aakenus road. The first part with packed but powdery snow proved to be challenging for everyone. Some tackled this in silence, and others with banter (Pete, Liz, Trilby, Derek among them).  The hard packed road was easier and faster and the cold light with helo effects created by the sun was just stunning.  There were also some wildlife sightings on this route, including a teen moose galloping on the road ahead of the marathoners. 

Today was still a bit of a learning day: Which shoes to wear, winter boots or running shoes, was the decision that runners of the group battled with after Riitta’s morning briefing. Despite the -26C° reading, Bob, Roberto, Jo and Linda chose speed over comfort but their pace was enough today: no frozen toes.  

Others took it more steadily and mainly hiked or shuffled through the stage. The final ones to Peurakaltio today were Pete, Trilby and Liz. This evening at Peurakaltio has been charming: relaxing in a lumberjack sauna and the hut tub next to it, where some were even able to see the Northern Lights!   Johanna and Kalle, the hosts of Peurakaltio served us delicious chicken stew and sweet blueberry  pie. A bit of red wine with the dinner and everyone is happily in bed already. 

More updates tomorrow!

Day 3: Wed 14 Feb

Stage: Husky mushing and entering the frozen Narnia

Weather and temperature: -17C° / 1.4F°

Distance: 23 km/14 miles

Base: Peurakaltio lumberjack cabin

Day 3 started with beautiful range of colours starting from the deep blue moment at 6am, that slowly turned into the first morning light by 7am and finally beautiful shades of red sunrise at 8am -Experiencing the change of light in Lapland is one of the most interesting phenomena: every day the day gets 8 minutes longer in the morning and in the evening. We are already well into the spring after the Polar Night.

The third day started with a hearty breakfast. Everyone had their stomachs full when they put on their winter suits and jumped on the husky sleighs to start the 20km / 13 mile-section in the foothills of the Pallas fells in the northern part of the Pallas-Ylläs National Park. It was milder, “only” -17C° / 1.4F° but with the wind and gusts and snowfall across the wetlands, it was good that the mushers had their faces covered and lots of warm clothing on.

The caravan had six husky packs pulling the Finland Arctic Challenge team through frozen forests and wetlands with the Pallas Fells setting a gorgeous backdrop for the ride.  Once completed, there were hot drinks and goodies waiting for everyone at the Kota (fireplace in Finnish). For the mother and son team Linda Quirk and Jason this wasn’t their first time but experiencing husky mushing in the Finnish Lapland was their first time and a very unique experience. After all, who could ever get tired of the thrill of this! Their friend, Bob Seebohar from Colorado was on his first ride. Based on the excitement, this will unlikely be the last time for this group!

Powered by traditional salmon soup, one of the most traditional Finnish meals, the participants conquered the Äkäskero fell by snowshoes as the added challenge of the day. Climbing just another 200 meters from the Peurakaltio cabin gave them access to the frozen Narnia that you’ll only find on the fells of Lapland. Going inside the massive snow and ice covered tykky trees atop the fell, made even Thiago Diz, our Brazilian photographer speechless.  Linda, 71, found her Finnish Sisu (stamina) climbing and scrambling her way up to the top the waist deep soft snow.

It was 6pm when the group descended to Peurakaltio, and pretty much straight to the steamy lumberjack sauna. Dinner, delicious game meat casserole with lingonberries and the most traditional desert of Lapland, cheese bread with arctic cloudberries topped the day.

Tomorrow’s route past the holy place of the indigenous Sami, will be completed by backcountry skis.

Finland Arctic Challenge Stage Update

Day 4: Thursday 15 February

Departure: Peurakaltio lumberjack cabin

Weather and temperature: 14°C / 5°F

Stage: Back-country skiing from Äkäskero to Elämänluukku

Distance: 8.7 / 11 km = 5.4 / 6.8 miles

Elevation gain:  75 Meters/ Feet. Elevation loss: 101 Meters/Feet

Arrival: Elämänluukku lumberjack cabin

Day 4 began with light snowfall making the silent Lappish scenery very beautiful. We were blessed again with a hearty breakfast by Johanna from Peurakaltio who took great care of us during the two-night stay.

Then it was time to pack the bags and head out to get familiar with back-country skis. First things first: step one was learning how to fall in deep snow – and most importantly how to get up. Back-country skis were new to everyone so this was both fun and challenging. Once everyone was comfortable with their balance, it was time to head out.

The trail swept through frozen wetlands and old Taiga forests with old “Kelo” trees and up and down ridgelines. The narrow track wasn’t always easy to ski and there were times when the participants though this was like “being a giraffe on skis”. However people were able to make their own tracks in the powder if they wanted more resistance. Trilby described it as walking in deep water. 

By halfway, you could smell the smoke coming from Kota (fireplace), which was a sign for lunch. Everyone could enjoy their hot meal by the ancient holy place of the Sámi: a ravine lake surrounded by steep walls, and a massive Seida rock on its shore, which used to be a place of worship and sacrifice for the spirits. The Sámi are the indigenous people of Lapland and the only indigenous people in Europe.

After lunch, participants realised they could use some help from the spirits: The route between the ridges had more ups and downs. As Derek mentioned, “some of the falls were a nightmare to get up”. Everyone did make it through though in good time. Pete got a special mention of his determination today. He was the last one across the finish line at the Elämänluukku lumberjack cabin at 17:20.  

 Back-country skiing was a completely new sport to all participants. In addition to accessing the white winter wonderland, they learned a whole new skill. As a reward for the hard day, the group enjoyed the warmth of a wood-burn sauna and rolling in the snow in between “löyly”. And finally an amazing three-course meal: delicious starters with local fish, creamy reindeer carbonara and chocolate cake with raspberries. The owner of the Elämänluukku, Keijo, shared about the history of lumberjack life and this cabin, which used to be a base for the logging managers.  

The final stage, fat biking through the Pallas-Ylläs National Park starts tomorrow. Stay tuned! 

Finland Arctic Challenge Stage Update

Day 5: Friday 16 February

Departure: Elämänluukku 

Weather and temperature: -8°C / 19°F

Stage: Winter fat-tyre biking to Äkäslompolo 

Distance: 16 km = 10 miles

Arrival: Äkäslompolo 

After a well-slept night at the peaceful and remote Elämänluukku cabin in the winter wonderland, the FAC participants took on the final challenge of the week: fat-tyre biking through the southern side of the Pallas-Ylläs National Park. The fells along the route, Kukas, Pyhä, Lainio and Kesänki were in the mist when participants started cycling towards Kotamaja. This is a 7km / 4.3 mi uphill section and despite the packed trail, the soft snow was tough for every single person from the fastest to the slowest. Bob was the first one to Kotamaja and Linda and Jason were climbing up steadily at the back reaching Kotamaja in 2.5 hours. 

Kotamaja is one of the most traditional wilderness cafes nestled in between the Pyhä, Kukas, and Lainio fells. The tired folks enjoyed steaming reindeer soup, and sweet and savory goodies fresh from Sarita’s kitchen. With that energy they then tackled the rest of the route which turned out to be exhilarating: all downhill to the finish in Äkäslompolo! Pete who had the longest day on back-country skis the day before, loved the help of tyres. Nalin enjoyed the warming temperatures of only -7 degrees, in fact, most of the participants were so used to the extreme cold above -25°C / -13°F that Stage 5 felt balmy! 

Once all the 15 participants had reached the finish line, it was time for celebrations! The return trip to Levi was hilarious and some local strengthening (salted liquorice tar schnaps)! A traditional Sami-style dinner at Saamenkammi made the final evening perfect. Flamed salmon from the Arctic Ocean, cooked on large wood planks in front of the fire, local reindeer meat prepared in various styles, and delicacies from the backyard forests including berries and mushrooms. Lots of laughter and stories. A perfect evening. 

The local team: Riitta, Timo, Markus, Laura, Anniina and Jokke would like to thank everyone who joined the event this year, as well as all of you who were following the live coverage from home. We can’t wait to share more of Lapland with you next year! 

We will be posting more photos of the Finland Arctic Challenge, as well as the upcoming events and tours at the @arcticescapades Facebook and Instagram account. 

If you would like to secure your place for the next Finland Arctic Challenge that takes place from 9-15 February 2025, please submit a pre-registration form here: https://arcticescapades.com/finland-arctic-challenge/registration