Cross-Country Plodding

“Look, it’s not that much snow,” Urpo said as he dipped his ski pole into the drift beside us and pulled it back out, showing that it had only been buried up to about three quarters it’s length, “it is about half of what we normally have.”

Finland Cross Country Skiing -003


It was undoubtedly a lot more snow than either Pete or I had seen in awhile, and as I worked to pull my ski out of that same drift from where I had sunk through, it felt like an awful lot.

Finland Cross Country Skiing -001This was not quite the cross-country ski experience I had expected. A few days prior, we had been taken out on a track near our hotel for a lesson, as I had never don such skis before. And I was a rockstar. I sustained one epic fall but quickly grasped the concept and was happily careening along the manicured path. I had a good rhythm, and was confident in my abilities to conquer our next outing in a similar fashion.

Instead, we had to work our way over mounds of snow and make our own path through tiny openings in clumps of trees, using little of the skills we had been taught. I commented once that I was sure this would be easier on snow-shoes and was met with an incredulous laugh. Snow-shoeing is a relatively new concept in Finland, apparently. Not only is cross-country skiing a very popular athletic activity, it is a way of life, a legitimate mode of transport in the dead of winter. Military troops on skis have even been used in several wars.


We, on the other hand, are not so graceful.

We, on the other hand, are not so graceful.


It felt less like we were skiing and more like we were cross-country trudging, plodding, and limping. This was just us, however, as Urpo moved smoothly on ahead on what turned out to be his land. We passed his rental cabin, with the lake just a few feet away, and continued on until we had come to another shelter in which to rest. We hadn’t gone very far, really, but I was exhausted from exercising muscles I surely forgot I had.

“This is what it’s all about,” Urpo began to speak my language, “it’s not about the skiing. It’s about getting to the part where we rest, sit by the fire, and enjoy the quiet outdoors.”

Now we’re talking.


Finland Cross Country Skiing -005


Finland Cross Country Skiing -002


Finland Cross Country Skiing -006


I believed that this is exactly what it should be all about. So much so, in fact, that when Pete and Urpo put on their skis again to explore more of the property, I stayed back to enjoy the break more on my own.

I laid down on the wooden bench and absorbed the quiet of the dense forest – the only sounds coming from the tiny clusters of snow falling from trees thanks to the warm sun, and the birch fire crackling in turn. And from my own utterances of pain, when I moved too quickly to retrieve my coffee and again stretched muscles that I didn’t know I previously had. No matter, these were not only my favourite stolen moments of the day, but perhaps of our whole trip.

We’ve spent so much of our traveling time running from winter, that I sometimes forget that it can not only be pleasant, but utterly enjoyable. This IS what it should be all about.

Next time, however, a snowmobile may be in order to get us there.



Our trip to Finland was courtesy of Visit Finland and Wild Taiga. As always, all opinions are our own.

25 Comments... Read them below or add one of your own
  • March 20 2013

    Love it! I’m moving to the Baltics next year so this will be my life!
    cosmoHallitan recently posted..Touring the DMZ and Dorasan Station

    • March 22 2013

      Hope you’re good at cross-country skiing! 😉

  • March 20 2013

    I love the workout you can get in cross country skis, but turning in them? Can’t do it to save my life, as I end up in heap like Pete above! 😛

    • March 22 2013

      It uses so many different muscle groups, it is an amazing workout. But it’s so hard for first-timers, and yes, turning is treacherous!

  • Carmel
    March 20 2013

    My first time crosscountry skiing was in a foot of fresh snow. It was hard, but I loved it. This sounds like more snow than that. I had some pretty awesome falls, too–even when I was standing still. Were you super sore after that?

    • March 22 2013

      Neither of us were super sore, although I do think I pulled something in my inner thigh that hurt for a few days! 🙂

  • Sam
    March 20 2013

    Snow! Seems like such a novelty from the (currently) temperate southern hemisphere! But yes, snowy can be fun, and not usually that crazy cold, since places where it snows this much are often dry and not so humid. I’ve spent three consecutive winters in Austria over the last few years, and it can be so beautiful when the landscape is covered in snow. No doubt we’ll return somewhere snowy at some point, but now I’m ready for some warm places!

    • March 22 2013

      I’m with you Sam! I do like a dose of snowy fun, but I am ready for some warm temps as well!

  • Nina Jyrkäs
    March 20 2013

    You have definitely caught the essence of it all. I usually skip the whole painful part and fast forward to the actual enjoyment, but I have also learned you need to do the pain part every now and then to be able to thoroughly enjoy the enjoyment part -not too often though.

    • March 22 2013

      Haha, agreed Nina. I don’t mind the pain too much for those stolen, magical moments like I had! Worth it! 🙂

  • March 20 2013

    I have skied, snow-shoed, mushed a team of huskies and driven a snowmobile through the Finnish Wilderness and although I prefer three of the above to cross country skiing the rest, fire eating and the quietness is the best part. Nowhere I have been can compete with Finland for that.

    • March 22 2013

      I have to agree with you Gordon. I haven’t been to one other place that embraces the winter like Finland does.

  • March 21 2013

    Love this! I’m moving to the Baltics next year so this will be my life.

  • March 21 2013

    That is so much snow!! Never seen so much as an Indian! Glad you enjoyed so much, loving your Finland series 🙂
    Arti recently posted..Sayonara, Japan: A final postcard

    • March 22 2013

      It was a lot of snow, even if it was only half of what they are used to! Glad you are enjoying our posts Arti!

  • March 21 2013

    Oh man if you guys had a hard time I would have been a disaster but I like the end part so I would try it once.
    Ayngelina recently posted..Baring it all in Finland

    • March 22 2013

      It was worth the pain and suffering. I might even try it twice. 🙂

  • March 21 2013

    Yeahhhh… think I might just stick to snowshoeing! Haha.

    It does look very pretty with all the snow coating the trees, though.
    Amanda recently posted..A Dance of Lights: Awed by the Aurora Borealis

    • March 22 2013

      It was GORGEOUS. People are often so ready to dismiss winter because of the cold, but the scenery can be so remarkable.

  • March 21 2013

    We took up cross country skiing when we moved to Italy. Don’t take that as either of us being particularly good at it. I get passed up by old Italian men skating along like they’re on ice skates all the time!
    Jennifer recently posted..Snowmobile Safari Across Svalbard

    • March 22 2013

      Oh boy, people wouldn’t have just passed us, they probably would have stopped to point and laugh. 🙂

  • March 21 2013

    Interesting how cross-country skiing is so common up here, something everyone does – and not so much in Canada. Considering we have such similar climates…
    Sophie recently posted..World at a Glance: Frank Zappa in Vilnius

    • March 22 2013

      I know, right? That was quite shocking to me as well – they really do embrace it, yet in Canada, not so much. I mean, many people do, but most are like me and just bury themselves under blankets indoors. 🙂

  • Laura @Travelocafe
    March 25 2013

    You really know how to have fun in the snow.

    • March 26 2013

      I *thought* I knew how to have fun in the snow, and then I went to Finland. They showed me how to really do it well! 🙂

Leave a Comment

CommentLuv badge