Sunday, December 28, 2014


Desperation, n. Travel to the end of the world in search of snow, and then find none. Lose your favourite tools, the skis. So desperate that you consider taking up heli-biking, but end up gliding on your butt in an imaginary world instead.

On the first day, we thought that going underground would help us forget the fact that there was no snow above ground. On the second day, I got restless. I was trying to invent an adventure, and called the heli-biking service. Unfortunately, the weather was bad. By now I would have settled for roundtrip tickets for heli-hiking, had such a thing existed.

(Yes, heli-biking service. I had not realised there are helicopter services for other things besides skiing. But it seemed that anything is possible where we were. The friendly people at Helisika can set you up for not only biking but also for heli-fishing. I really hope no one offers the hiking version.)

Then it dawned on me. I need a new hobby. I should start going around with a snow glider, a coaster. My red plastic glider fits conveniently in my backpack and can be taken as cabin luggage. And is recommended for ages 0 to 3, matching my mental age and state quite nicely :-) And how convenient all this is compared to dragging heavy ski bags around! And it can be used on the tiniest hills.

And it so happened that we were close to Shire of Middle-earth. Once we were there, I climbed on top of the Bag End hill, and slid down on the wet grass. New hobby, new country!

For after-gliding at the Middle-earth, I recommend the Green Dragon. You will never find beer so brown elsewhere.

Upon exiting Middle-Earth, the sun started shining, and we saw a beautiful double rainbow:

On the way to the Tongariro national park, our base, we run into an interesting red lake near the Raukawa falls:

Photos and videos (c) 2014 by Jari Arkko, Olli Arkko, and Tero Kivinen. Tämä blogi löytyy myös suomeksi.

Saturday, December 27, 2014


My friend Patrick (see his "Mad Pat" blog) told me about this magical place in Ontario. Sandhill. He had conquered its steep sand slopes. And now I was on my way to Toronto and wanted to see if I can repeat the experience.

Sandhill is a massive, 150-meter high sand dune on the lakeshore of Erie. It hosts a camping ground, a beach, beautiful views, and - according to me and Patrick - a ski slope.

As the readers of this blog know, I have been to many sand dunes. But Sandhill is something different. The scale. The steepness. The ice age has created a wonder of nature on this spot, and it is amazing that erosion hasn't taken it down.

Sandhill is also easy to access; it is convenient to stay in the camping grounds, and it is fun to wash away the sweat from the hot climb by dropping into the lake.

For this trip, I had taken my Orthex miniskis, as I like skiing on sand with them. The climb up was tough, as I kept once again falling down a bit on every step through the soft sand. The ski run was more interesting as in most dunes that I've skied on, the steep hill was almost scary. When I collapsed on the beach at the end of the run, the sand that I had dislodged during the run kept running down for five minutes.

Photos and videos (c) 2014 by Jari Arkko. Tämä artikkeli löytyy myös suomeksi.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014


This time we have a guest skier in the blog: the horse head man. According to the Internet meme, he rides on the subway, attends games, and shakes hands with presidents. But can he ski? And perhaps more importantly, who left the barn door open?


It turned out that the horse head man took a bad fall on the Grani slopes:

But in the end, all was well and and it was time to drive home.

Photos and video (c) 2014 by Jari Arkko and Olli Arkko. Tämä blogi löytyy myös suomenkielisenä.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Holy - Pyhä

"This is your last chance, Neo. You take the white door—the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the orange door —you stay in the Holy land, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes. Remember: all I'm offering is the truth. Nothing more."

But what Morpheus left out is that there is a third door, the dark door. One that leads to the true reality, the hard darkness.

This is a story of those three choices in Pyhä. Holy, as it is called in English, is a special place far up beyond the arctic circle. So special that national ski teams from all over the world flock to it at this time of the year. So far up north that those who like night skiing can enjoy it all day long.

The three doors are at the race start hut, at the 540 meter top of Pyhätunturi. The white door leads to a strangely mixed world, the yin & yang domain. A icy run straight down the mountain with high-speed race tracks showing the way. But it is also lined with safety nets, it is access controlled, groomed and cared to perfection that does not exist on the other side of the safety net. The black Piste Palander. It is also the way home, to the bed in Hotel Pyhätunturi.

The orange door offers a warm contrast to the harsh, controlled white world. A domain of fun. It embraces everyone. It is always open. It leaves you in charge of selecting your destiny in the arctic scenery. The red Polar Runs. And yet it keeps you in its grip, funnelling you through that final steep that slings you back to the base at high speed.

But the black door opens up the ultimate reality. The door to everything else. Even the orange world exists in a bubble of human control. A bubble of light, for instance. If you back away from the two orange and white doors, you'll find yourself in the completely open domain. Darkness. Thin and uncertain snow cover. Rocks. I found this domain the most interesting, even if there was indeed very small amount of snow. My skis kept hitting the rocks and I had to watch where I'm going. I enjoyed a ski run in the fresh snow on the closed Blue Run, the area between the Blue run and the Polar Runs, and the Hotel Runs, a rocky area above the hotel.

The possibilities are infinite; it was too early in the winter to enjoy all those possibilities, but there are big mountain class off-piste runs and ice climbing, for instance. Recommended! Note that Pyhä is unlike most other places in Finland, in that there are big mountain dangers as well, including falls and avalanches. Be careful out there.

I really liked Hotel Pyhätunturi, by the way, for its location among the beautiful trees on the steep side of the mountain. I should also mention that Tsokka - the restaurant at the top of the mountain - serves the most excellent soups and crepes. Reindeer meat features prominently on their menu. Also, in 1990s I was on a work trip at Pyhä, and it turned out that I could take my kid to the local community daycare while I worked, and then pick him up in the evening and ski the rest of the day. Everything seems to work well in this small mountain community.

Photos and videos (c) 2014 by Jari Arkko and Janne Arkko. Tämä blogi löytyy myös suomeksi.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Grani Opened

Snow report for the Kauniainen ski hill: frozen dirt bumps, covered by a layer of rocks and pieces of two-by-fours. And a dusting of snow on top. Everything is ready for the season to start!

We finally got some snow in southern Finland. My old skis keep being used on sand and dirt, so Jarmo and I decided that it would be fun to open the season at Grani. There wasn't indeed much snow, but it is a start. Actually, the skis seemed to slide very well, although turning was at times difficult, if we happened to try that on top of those rocks or two-by-fours.

Seriously though, I'm hoping the real season begins soon. The snow cannons are already in place, just waiting for the cold weather to be turned on. And the ski cat is parked at the bottom and ready to go. Hopefully we'll get long-lasting cold weather.

The funny thing was that as we were skiing, a mountain biker speeded past us. Sport seasons are starting to overlap a bit. But more the merrier! In fact, we also saw joggers, Jarmo's son was sliding down the hill on a sledge, and we even saw a nordic walker (with sticks) at the top of the hill. For a moment we thought the walker was a skier who would make the season-opening ski run in front of us :-)

And, oh, some great news! The long-awaited 2nd lift is being built! The foundations are already in place, and the top of the hill has been heightened a bit to allow for the lift to bring people to the highest point also on the left side. Looking forward to the new lift. The large number of five year old (or younger) beginners on the slope means long waits on the current single lift.

Photos and videos (c) 2014 by Jari Arkko and Jarmo Ruuth. Tämä blogi löytyy myös suomeksi.