This sunday's random ski trip almost went to Denmark or Hungary. But we ended up going to Vuokatti instead. I knew where I wanted to go, as soon as ski area closures, flight availability, wife's non-negotiable requirements, and teenager's changing opinions became clear :-)
So no new countries this weekend. But it was a very nice trip nevertheless, I love doing father-son trips with Janne. I had never been to Vuokatti, and it was a very nice experience. And I also met my friend Zach, Vuokatti local who showed us the secret powder routes.
|Forest off-piste with tykkylumi (frozen snow in trees)
Vuokatti is in middle parts of Finland, but the local scenery is right out of Lappland. Tykkylumi, frozen snow covers the trees of the mountain. The mountain itself is small - the maximum vertical difference is only 174 meters. But the ski runs offer some variation, ranging from snowboard parks to easy cruising runs to steep racing runs and twisting paths through the woods.
One of the fun parts of the area are the Himskatti, Pirskatti, and Perskatti runs in the east. Did you notice that I just sweared? While everything in Vuokatti is called something-katti, these runs also happen to be four-letter words in the Finnish language. Rather mild ones, though. Perskatti could perhaps be translated directly as "ass cat" but I'd probably just use "shit" for all of them.
In any case, the four-letter word area opens typically later than the other areas. In fact, we entered it on the first day that it was open this year, so some nice fluffy stuff covered the well-prepared base.
Yläkatti and Olympiakatti are nice, racing-class runs in the main, northern area. They are steep, but still run for a pretty long distance. The western parts are all easy cruising runs.
But the real prize was a new ski run, Slopestyle. This ski run has just been constructed, so it was in use for the first time. Or, technically, it had not been opened yet. But we found some very nice skiing on it. The slope has been formed with bulldozers and rocks to have an interesting profile. As a result, it has a number of extremely steep sections, almost vertical walls. While these are not long, just 5-10 meters long they are a lot of fun. Skiing this slop in the 20-30 powder that was covering it was a lot of fun, recommended! Be careful, however. At least in its current, unopened form there are some dangers. Falls, huge blocks of ice, etc.
|Vuokatti summit in the evening light
But back to Himskatti. Zach led us on his secret (until now!) run. Given that the four-letter word area often stays closed, you can take the north-side lifts but ski the closed runs anyway. There will be no ski lift back, but at the end of Himskatti, if you turn to the woods on the "Sapporo trail" (where the sign is), with minimal hiking you can actually ski through the beautiful woods and return back to the north-side lifts. Aim first for the Caravankatti lift, take it up, and ski down to the base. Recommended!
|Sapporo trail entrance from the Himskatti run
There are also plenty of short forest runs near the slopes, for instance between the Yläkatti and Olympiakatti runs. Further out the forest is far too dense to be skied. But some of these shorts runs look spectacular, as long as you go slowly and navigate carefully.
|In the winter, there is always dark in Vuokatti
Food and Hotels
We stayed at the Hotel Vuokatti at 89€/night. This is a very nice hotel, with a reportedly excellent restaurant run by the famous chef Hans Välimäki. Unfortunately, the personnel were sick on the day that we arrived, so the restaurant was closed. We opted to eat at the Kippo, an old style Finnish food restaurant within the Sokos Hotel Vuokatti. The food was excellent, though portions were quite small. If I'd go again, I'd probably try staying at the Sokos Hotel, it is more centrally located and has all the services. Including some incredible afterski bar that I did not have time to test this time.
|Hotel Vuokatti in the night
The north-side slopes have a cafeteria and fully licensed bar, A'la Katti. Recommended. The west-side slopes have the Hesburger hamburger restaurant. Not recommended.
|Slope-side cafeteria "A'la Katti"
During the high season, Ripa's Kuppila is a nice small cafeteria in an old hut. Ripa's is located near the top of the north-side lifts.
|Can you spot Ripa's?
|Evening lights. Actually, they are also daytime lights.
Other Practical Details
Vuokatti is a small village next to Sotkamo. They are 40 kilometers away from the nearest commercial airport in Kajaani. There are plenty of activities in Vuokatti, including cross-country skiing, spas, the world's largest Angry Birds activity park, etc.
|Flybe flies to Kajaani from Helsinki
|Angry Birds park advertisement on the slopes
Photo and video credits (c) 2013 by Jari Arkko