Kaamos is Finnish for “polar night,” an otherworldly phenomenon where the sun doesn’t rise above the horizon in northern Finland for much of December and January. Days aren’t spent in complete darkness though. Rather, daylight has a dreamy blue tint, and winter activities like skiing, snowboarding and snowshoeing are enjoyed in moody half darkness. There’s even a chance to glimpse the explosion of northern lights twisting across the sky.
Finns know this as an exciting time to get outdoors, when the snowy world takes on an ethereal glow. You’ll need to venture north from Helsinki to experience kaamos at ski resorts in Lapland, with Finnair offering convenient daily direct flights. When you hit the slopes, there are plenty of lights so you can ski with good visibility, plus you’ll be donning a high-power headlamp to guide you. The snow also reflects backlight, so you’re never in complete blackness, even off-piste.
Outdoor enthusiast Maija Palosaari has skied nearly all the Lapland resorts. “Skiing down a fell (mountain) using a headlamp creates the feeling of going very fast, like moving in space at the speed of light,” she shares. “It can be a bit spooky at first, but once you get used to it, it’s a magical Nordic experience.”
The forest is eerily quiet because the snow absorbs all sound, and the surrounding silence is a mystically meditative environment with only your thoughts and your heartbeat to keep you company. By the end of January, the light begins to increase and the days become longer, leaving the sky brushed with beautiful pastel hues.
Guide Raimo Hekkanen, who leads northern lights cross-country tours, recommends skiing at night for the best chance to see wildlife like fox, reindeer and rabbits. He is also the owner of Nuorgam Holiday Village, a cozy riverside property on the northernmost border between Finland and Norway. “Skiing during the polar night is always memorable,” he explains. “The moonlight, the shadows and all the animals make you feel like you’re in a fairy tale. You’re out in the wilderness without light pollution, so you’re able to see the northern lights almost every evening when the sky is clear.”
Finland Ski Resorts to Try
One of Finland’s largest, most luxurious ski resorts, Levi boasts 43 slopes and 143 miles of cross-country skiing tracks. There are plenty of runs for all levels as well as three terrain parks with jumps and rails, a popular choice among a younger generation of freeskiers and snowboarders. The resort is a favorite for families, featuring dedicated kids’ areas, covered carpet lifts, a sledding hill and daycare.
The northernmost ski resort in Europe offers two fells, Iisakkipää and Kaunispää, with exciting runs for athletes of all abilities. Fridays from December through April, there are designated night skiing sessions, too. Saariselkä is adjacent to Urho Kekkonen National Park, one of Finland’s largest national parks, with fabulous hiking and snowshoeing. And this winter, Aurora Queen resort opens, boasting glass-ceiling aurora view igloos and suites surrounded by the Finnish forest.
At Ruka, snowmaking begins in October and lasts until May, making for one of the longest ski seasons in Finland. This lively Alpine town is especially charming and hosts World Cup competitions in ski jumping, cross-country and Nordic combined. Reindeer sled rides, husky safaris and ice-fishing are popular activities when you aren’t hitting the slopes. Finland’s longest zipline recently opened here, too, soaring from Ruka’s peak to the gondola lift station (you can even zip down with your skis).
Recognized by the World Ski Awards as Finland’s top resort in 2018 and 2019, Iso-Syöte offers lots of longer, more challenging runs for experienced skiers as well as ungroomed slopes for powder riding. This ski area is located on the southern border of Lapland, a short drive from Oulu, Kuusamo and Rovaniemi airports.