Thursday, November 29, 2012

Seasons at Kauniainen

Kauniainen today

My local hill may soon be opening, as they predicted over a foot of snow today. It has not yet arrived, but lets hope it will. Anyone want to join for a pre-season ski run this evening? Bring your old skis... could be grassy or even rocky.

But I thought this might also be a good opportunity to review skiing in different seasons in Kauniainen. Or Grani, as it is affectionately called.


The official ski season opens usually pretty late, like early January. But the actual ski season can start much earlier. In fact, frost is enough to ski in Kauniainen.

Early season skiing. Very early season.


There's the world-famous off-piste skiing, of course. The forest to the skier's right offers interesting routes between trees. Here I'm dropping by to do a steep but short descent before rejoining a Christmas dinner:

Christmas skiing, in a suit

And then there's the dark season. You know, up here in north there is a time when we do not see the sun at all. It is called the night: skiing at 3am.

3am skiing

Check out the video:

First of May

First of May, or Vappu. That is a special occasion for everyone in Finland. Many people do crazy things in Vappu. I chose to do the sensible thing, to ski the hill in my swimsuit. I had to, it was a very warm day: Grani summer ski.

First of May skiing


Grani just keeps on giving, even as late as May 20th: Grani still going strong.

Late season skiing

Even later, the glacier is shrinking, but you can still see it: Glacier du Kauniainen.

Glacier du Kauniainen

Equipment for very late season skiing

And it is not just me, I have raised a kid who wants to do equally crazy things: Planetskier, the Next Generation. And if the kids get bored with skiing, they can always collect golf balls. Here's our catch from a few minutes of searching:

Golf balls in the ski slope. WTF?


There's a restaurant, of course! A great one, they serve Eko-makaronilaatikko! Read the full review from Seasons Pass.

Menu. I recommend the Eko-makaronilaatikko.

Photos and videos (c) Jari Arkko, Janne Arkko, and Jarmo Ruuth

Sunday, November 18, 2012

USA vs. Finland

Stone Summit

I am on my way to Stone Summit, America's largest indoor climbing wall. My mission is to see how it compares to my local climbing hall, Toyota Kiipeilyareena back in Finland.

Stone Summit

Stone Summit is located 22 kilometers outside Atlanta, Georgia. It opened in 2010 and houses 2800 m2 of climbing areas, ranging in height from 8 to 20 meters. The main climbing hall is a huge, open space with plenty of roofs and negative walls.

A nigh view of Atlanta

The most striking feature in the main climbing hall are the roofs. You can start a climb from the wall and proceed to the roof, then continue to another vertical section, and finally land back to the middle of the floor on your rope.

There is a large bouldering room on the side of main hall. As an European climber, I was surprised by how spotters were used and promoted; almost everyone had someone spotting them. Back home, most people boulder alone, at least indoors. But at the Stone Mountain, the bouldering routes were quite high, too high for my taste. I like to boulder much lower, personally. 

On the second level of the building there is an area for children and beginners. Complete with a dinosaur-shaped climbing feature and a slide. The beginner area has a couple of self-belay routes, all very easy. On the main climbing wall there were two additional self-belay routes, one easy and one going up to 5.10.


A one-time ticket to Stone Summit costs 15 $. Regular visitors have also other options.


Kiipeilyareena was also opened in 2010. It is part of the 20 000 m2 sports complex, Salmisaaren liikuntakeskus. The climbing hall is more compact than the one in Stone Mountain, but has climbing walls on three different floors.

World's highest indoor climbing wall

The highest wall, Rocktopia, goes through all the floors and is 29 meters. As far as I know, this is the highest indoor climbing wall in the world. High enough that there are some special rules for climbing on this wall. All routes to the top require leading. But at 29 meters, a 50 meter rope is not sufficient for going up and coming back. If you use a too short rope and do not notice it, your rope may run out from the belay device as you are descending. This would result in a fall from 10 meters. To prevent this, climbers are required to attach the other end of their rope to the wall before they start the climb.

In addition to the high wall, the bottom part of the hall houses a 16-meter competition wall and a number of other walls for varied use. There are 7 self-belay routers ranging from 10 to 14 meters, designed both for beginners and more advanced climbers, with grades ranging from 5.4 to 5.12.

Third level balcony climbing, with the high wall in the background

At the middle level there are several climbing wall sections, the easiest beginner routes, and a bouldering area. At the highest level there are a few additional climbs on a 14-meter wall. Climbing on the highest level is interesting, because in addition to the relatively high 14 meter wall itself, the climbing happens on a terrace which itself is at the height of 16 meters.

Bouldering area in the second level of Kiipeilyareena

A one-time ticket to Kiipeilyareena costs 12 €. Regular visitors have also other options. For instance, I am a member of the Finnish Alpine Club, and our members can climb at Kiipeilyareena on Fridays for 4 €. The hall is located in Salmisaari, next to a metro stop and only 2.7 kilometers from the city center.

Climbing the high wall


Other facilities in Salmisaaren liikuntakeskus include, for instance, two ice hockey arenas, an indoor beach volley arena (!), and a dance studio.

One of the hockey arenas in Salmisaari

USA 0 - Finland 1

Obviously. Bigger is better. And in this case, higher is better.

Kiipeilyareena wins on highest routes, plentiful self-belay routes, on an airy multi-storey architecture, location, and on packing many activities in one building. Stone Summit wins on size, beginner area, and roofs.

Self-standing wall in Kiipeilyareena

Industrial setting in Salmisaari

Entrance to Stone Summit gym

Stone Summit

Photo and video credits (c) 2012 by Jari Arkko