But back to Oulu. I have gotten some local help. My friend Ilkka has given me a list of places where I might still find some snow. The ones that I have time to try are all in Oulu or within a few kilometers of driving distance. I decide to try Heinäpää
in Oulu and Köykkyri
Unfortunately, Ilkka was unable to join me for these adventures, as he had already left for his own skiing expedition
. Ilkka: when you finally get to the top of Denali
, let us know how the skiing was compared to Heinäpää! Denali or Mt. McKinley is North-America's highest mountain at 6,194 meters. But due to its northern location and cold weather, it often appears on lists of world's most difficult mountains to climb. On the day that I was in Oulu, the weather
in Denali was -40 and 60 km/h wind. But hey, it was sunny! Good luck with your climb, Ilkka! The expedition's progress can be followed from their blog
|An inviting ski area sign if I've ever seen one|
"Köykkyrin hiihtomaa", the ski land of Köykkyri
|There is some snow left!|
Köykkyri is Finland's smallest ski center at a whopping 25 meters of altitude difference. The length of the ski run is 135 meters. Fortunately, I do not have to ski the entire length this time - that would be a full-day expedition. Almost all snow has melted, there's only small patches left. I try to ski them anyway, taking off my skis for the parts between the patches.
It would be interesting to visit this place in the winter, though. The place seems like a nice community and club-run operation. I prefer these places over commercial ski operations.
|Kempele Pyrintö sports club house at Köykkyri|
Off-Piste in Köykkyri
The best part of Köykkyri is not really the official slope. Going from the top to the skier's right there's a short but steep face. Steep enough to be fun, and steep enough to hold a little bit of snow even now. Recommended!
|The steeps at Köykkyri off-piste|
|Preparing for the climb of the summit snow ridge in Heinäpää|
I thought it would not be possible to have a smaller ski area than Köykkyri. But Heinäpää, a closed ski area is just laughable. The altitude difference is maybe ten meters, if that. Back in its glory days, it sported Europe's shortest ski lift. The area closed in 2000 due to lack of customers. Go figure.
|Surprise visitor at Heinäpää. Groke or "Mörkö" from the Moomins|
But Heinäpää is not without merits. For one, the view towards the paper mill in sunset is awesome. For two, this is an entire sports center with football fields, sports halls, and so on.
But the biggest kick that I got was meeting Groke
at the top. This scary character from the Moomins
gave the mountain an icy feeling, even in this spring weather.
Speaking of the spring weather, the entire hill was free from snow. Luckily at the top there was a two meter pile of snow, probably collected as the paths were being cleaned from snow during the winter. OK, OK, lets say 120 centimeters. The south face of the pile is all covered by sand and garbage, but the north face has just a little bit of rotting grass on top of the snow. Good enough for me! Put the boots on, climb to the top, ski down, making an almost entire turn.
|Reaching the top of the Heinäpää ski center|
At this time of the year, lift tickets in Köykkyri are pretty cheap. In this millennium, lift tickets in Heinäpää are also very cheap. In both cases you'll have to walk up yourself. The good news is that it is not a very tiring climb.
Skiing down Köykkyri under the current conditions took 140 seconds, including all the running and carrying skis between patches of snow.
Be sure to watch the video from above as well. The video includes also episodes 1 and 2 of the Planetskier Ski Maintenance School, on washing your skis and boots after skiing in dirt.
|Crossing grassy patches. No, crossing snowy patches on grass.|
Photo and video credits (c) 2012 by Jari Arkko