.: Ski XCOttawa.ca :: Skiing in Ottawa and Gatineau Park

Part 1: Finland
By:  Megan McTavish   (2009/08/10)


As Karl mentioned in his article about Estonia, we were fortunate enough to join
Karl's family this summer on a trip to Scandinavia.  While the rest of the family went straight to Estonia, Karl and I decided to spend our first week of the 2.5 we had in Finland.  Since we both had a number of Finnish coaches while training at the NTDC in Thunder Bay, we had some interest in spending some time in the country.  Unfortunately we didn't see any of these coaches, but we did stay with a skier that Karl met in 2000 at a training camp organized by Toni Roponen.  They kept in touch all these years and Jani and his girlfriend Soile graciously hosted us for our stay.  Jani's sister Marika was also a great tour guide for us on our fist day in the country (although we were fairly jet-lagged so didn't provide much entertainment for her!)

While we were in Helsinki (and area), we did quite a bit of ski training - we were staying with a skier after all - but also a lot of soaking up the never-ending sun, and seeing the sights.  Highlights were sailing just north of Lahti with Jani's family and having a great picnic with Finnish sausage, eating at outdoor cafes in Helsinki and Turku and visiting the old island of Suomenlinna  which houses a really old fort and castle for controlling the shipping lanes into Helsinki harbour. 

Coffee in Turku

Downtown Helsinki

Me in Suomenlinna

We had beautiful weather for our whole time in Finland - we went for a great sail after our ski walk in Lahti.

Karl taking a plunge into Vesijarvi (Water Lake) off the Koiranen family sail boat.

In Finland they love cross country skiing so much they even have ice cream (and candies) that taste like Tar ski wax!!!!

Jani enjoying his Tar ice cream.

As for skiing/training related highlights (which will be further detailed below), they were rollerskiing, ski walking and strength training in Helsinki's central park which is home of the Paloheina ski trails in the winter, skiing in the ski tunnel in Paimio, training at the Lahti World Cup trails, the amazing bike path system in Helsinki, and doing a rollerski tour of the Olympic Stadium area (1952).


Central Park (as Jani called it) is a long park in the middle of Helsinki.  It has a long loop of gravel/dirt paths that people use for running, biking and classic rollerskiing, as well as a 7.5km sawdust trail which are the ski racing trails in the winter.  There are many strength training stations in different spots around the park too.  It is a very popular training location and we went there several times (including during our 8 hour layover on our way back to Canada from Estonia).  There are also a number of public gardens and a funny little pet cemetery in the park!  Here are some pictures:

Ski trails in Finland seem to be pristine saw dust trails in the summer.  These were great for my ankles - I didn't have to tape them once the whole trip!

We loved this log lifting apparatus - used for squats, calf raises, Olympic lift, etc.  They were all over the place in Helsinki and seemed to be a popular exercise choice for all types of people.  There were also chin up bars, monkey bars, sit up inclines, vertical dips bars and many benches.  A perfect outdoor, free, weight room.  Of course there were also usually bike and ski walking/running trails next to the stations.

Gardens in the park

Karl and Jani rollerskiing on the dirt paths in Helsinki - no pole slippage here!

Rollerskiing in Helsinki's central park - note that so many people rollerski here that there is a smooth track section which works really well for classic skiing.


The most famous ski area in the country...they host numerous World Cups in cross country, biathlon, nordic combined and jumping as well as World Championships in 2001.  We went for a ski walk and checked out the jumps before going on the sailing trip. Lahti is a great city with everything walking distance from the stadium, including the university and the downtown.

I would not jump off this!

Making good use of space as always - the local pool is located in the outrun of the World Cup ski jumps in Lahti.  Looks like a nice place to relax!

Jani and I with a ski statue at the Lahti ski stadium.


This was a highlight for me, as I have heard a lot about these ski tunnels but had not skied in one yet.  When we asked Jani if there was a tunnel we could go to near Helsinki, he said "which one would you like to go to?" and gave us about three or four choices with all the pros and cons.  He was disapointed that the new Ski Hall in Helsinki wasn't open yet, but that sounds like it will be a great option very soon.  Right now there are about 5 tunnels in Finland and 3 or 4 opening soon.  In the end we chose "the crappiest ski tunnel in Finland" because it was the shortest drive.  We didn't feel like driving 3-4 hours each way so went for the 1.5 hour drive.  We didn't find the tunnel at all "crappy" either.  It was a fairly short one (750m) but went in a loop which made it pretty fun.  We skied in the morning and afternoon with a visit to the town of Turku in between.

The ski tunnel in Paimio Finland (near Turku) - it is in the middle of nowhere...a very strange place.

Karl skiing in the ski tunnel.

After finishing my first ski in a ski tunnel.


One thing that is immediately apparent is the extensive bike path system throughout the country.  It makes for really safe, and appealing riding and rollerskiing both in the city and between towns.  We explored these by rollerski right from Jani's apartment and saw them on almost every road we drove on - even highways!  They are quite wide and really smooth. 

Note the bike path separate from the road - these are all over the place in Finland on the highways connecting the towns as well as in the cities.

Bike Ferry in Turku.

An example of the great bike and walking path systems, even on the main roads, in Helsinki.


From the trails of the central park, it is a very short jaunt to the Olympic Stadium area.  Karl and I (a bit strapped for time) decided to tour this area by rollerski near the end of a long ski in the park.  It is a really neat area and you can just imagine the action at the stadium and pool there in the early 50s.

Paavo Nurmi - one of the "Flyin Finns", 9xGold Medallist for Olympic middle distance running in the 1920s.

Karl at the Olympic Stadium (1952) - we went on a bit of a tour of the area on rollerskis;)


Karl and Jani out for a ski walk on our first day in Finland.

There are so many tracks in Finland - here Karl is working on his speed on a gradual downhill straight.

That's all!  Thanks for reading:)  We had a great time in Finland.  We would definitely go back again.

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