Working in the ski industry, we have a lot of chats with people who describe some of the lesser-known resorts as hidden gems or national treasures. Hidden gems is pretty obvious, but what is a national treasure? Stephen Fry? The Beatles? The Crown Jewels? Obviously, we looked to Google to translate for us:
North of the Arctic Circle, Salla has great beginner and intermediate skiing and is a top destination if you’re hoping to see the Northern Lights. While all of our resorts are very Finnish in nature, Salla definitely has an edge over the others in terms of its traditional roots, history and culture.
A brief history of Salla
The official opening of the resort as a ski holiday destination was in 1965. But there has been skiing in the area for far longer – the Finnish speed skiing championship has been held regularly there since 1937, and the longest ski lift in Finland was in Salla far before the 1965 opening.
Salla can also technically be called the birthplace of skiing. The world’s oldest ski was found in Salla and test results showed that it’s from 3245BC. While it’s certainly not a carbon twin tip, you can pop to the Finnish National Museum in Helsinki to see the 5000-year-old ski. It’s pretty clear that, for the locals, skiing has always been a way of life for them – whether for leisure or simply to get about.
What makes Salla so authentic?
Firstly, the air and water in Salla are as pure as it gets. You can drink water from almost anywhere in the village and it’ll be purer than your average bottled stuff.
If you want to get back to nature, look no further. People and wildlife live in perfect harmony in the town. Reindeer herding has been the main industry and way of life for the locals for centuries, and still is, despite the resort taking off as a tourist destination. This also means you can feast on reindeer in the local restaurants – definitely a must-try when you’re in Finland.
Unlike a lot of ski resorts, workers in the town are 99% locals and, if you go back every year, you’ll see the same faces doing the same jobs and drinking in the same bars. They’re always more than happy to include visitors in their local events and you’ll feel like you’re best pals with everyone when you’re there.
The weather also sets Salla apart from many other ski resorts. The cold is often mentioned when talking about Finland, and the record temperate is -50.4C. Just a bit nippy. The winter season is a staggeringly long 5-6 months. This starts with Kaamos, the annual day where there are only about two hours of daylight, but loads of white snow for Christmas. After New Year, the days get longer and the best season for skiing starts. The cold temperatures mean there’s plenty of the white stuff, and the strong sun keeps you warm and tops up that goggle tan. This golden period usually lasts from February until April.
It’s probably surprising in this day and age, but much of Salla has no phone or internet connection. While all you gadget guru’s may get a little stressed about that, it’s a great way to switch off and relax. Instead of checking your phone, you can cosy up next to a log fire with a good book. There’s no better way of embracing tradition and community than by switching yourself off from the modern world.
We asked Katarina, 45, from Salla about how important tradition is to the town, and they said:
‘Maintaining our traditional feel and originality is our number-one aim. Without those, we would get lost to the mass and be just like any other tiny village in the world.’
What would be a perfect day in Salla?
6 am – Get up early to have a snowshoe walk in the forest.
8am – Hit the mountain for skiing.
1pm – Go on a snowmobile safari.
3pm – Have a reindeer sleigh ride as the Northern Lights dance across the sky.
5pm – Get in the sauna to rest those legs.
7pm – Have a delicious dinner made with truly local ingredients.
9pm – Head to one of the local bars to enjoy one of Salla’s best bands.