The 8 Seasons of Lapland
Riitta Hanninen, RacingThePlanet's resident Finn and the Event Director for RacingThePlanet: Lapland 2022, talks us through the varied seasons of her home country and how to make the most of it all year round!
Lapland (Lappi in Finnish) is located above the Arctic Circle, meaning that the seasons are very distinct - Lapland has actually eight seasons! The seasons in Finland are not just about the weather – the difference in daylight hours also plays a huge part. From polar nights to midnight sun, the variation of light is greatest in Lapland. The timing of RacingThePlanet: Lapland, 14-20 August, falls between harvest and ruska (autumn foliage).
The year starts with a cold white winter. Temperatures range between -15°C and -30C°C (5°F and -22°F). We get tons and tons of snow every year. The freezing temperatures make snow clusters that stick to tree branches, and this is a phenomenon we call Tykky time. The scenery is like a fairy tale and besides the cold (which you get used to) this is my favourite season in Lapland! During this time, it’s also fairly easy to see the Northern Lights, also known as Aurora Borealis. They come in colours of green and pink and often dance in the sky like pipe organs! The Sámi, indigenous people of Lapland who live in the northernmost areas of Finland, Sweden and Norway, typically get to watch them almost any night when the sky is clear.
2. Snow Crust
Spring can be divided into two parts. The spring winter season, also known as Snow Crust season, is already sunnier and warmer. Days in March are long, and you can go skiing without a headlamp from 5am to 10pm. It is also when your access to nature is unlimited: during the sunny warm days snow melts a little but the freezing nights ensure that the next morning you can walk on the crusty snow surface anywhere without sinking. You can summit fells with a fat bike, skis, or foot without the assistance of tracks and snow shoes! This is so much fun!
3. Melting Season
The latter part of spring is the melting season: lake ice and snow melt creating little floods, ponds, and streams everywhere. Plants start growing towards the blue skies and the wild animals of Lapland, reindeer, elk, lynx, and arctic birds, are as active as ever. By mid-May, the sun goes down at midnight only to rise again in a couple of hours.
4. The Midnight Sun
The beginning of the summer is known for the Midnight Sun – this is the time when the sun does not set at all. It shines through the night and is at its brightest in the northern parts. The Midnight Sun can be admired for about 6 weeks in the northern most parts of Lapland whereas at the Arctic Circle this time only lasts for a few days. Vegetation is bright, green and fresh, reindeer are on the move roaming free and changing their fur. This is also the time when the ‘Finnish Airforce’, our mosquitoes and their various relatives, are breeding and growing. If you slam a book together you can easily catch about 20 mosquitoes in one go!
This is the latter part of summer from mid-July to August. This is when the forest is full of berries and mushrooms. Some of the typical berries include wild blueberries, raspberries, arctic cloudberries and, later in the season, lingonberries and cranberries.
Mushroom species are in their hundreds and most of those are safe to eat. In Finland, we love our forests and anyone can pick mushrooms and berries anywhere. All land is free to access based on the “everyman’s rights” system we have in place here. This part of the summer is still warm and with our 200,000+ lakes it’s easy to dip in to cool down.
6. Ruska (Autumn Foliage)
The early part of the autumn, from the end of August to early October, we call Ruska which means the “colours of autumn”. Ruska is particularly colourful in Lapland where you can admire an array of colours from all degrees of yellow, orange, red and purple. Ruska not only shows in trees but also on the ground. The branches of berries and low vegetation also catch these colours. The first freezing temperatures at night appear during Ruska.
7. First Snow and the Ski Season
In Lapland, winter starts at the end of the year. The first snow usually falls in early to mid-October, depending on where in Lapland you are. Temperatures are usually between -1°C and 3°C (30°F and 37°F) and lakes and small rivers start freezing. Finns love their skiing and this time starts the ski season that in Lapland lasts for approximately 5-6 months.
8. The Christmas Season is Marked by Kaamos
Kaamos means the sun does not rise above the horizon but there’s only a pink dim that colours the snow making the scenery look magical. The northern most part of Lapland stays under Kaamos time for about 8 weeks, whereas at the Arctic Circle it lasts only a couple of days. This is the time when the people of Lapland preserve energy and relax. It is still a great season for outdoor treks surrounded by all that purple scenery. Christmas is also a popular time for many international visitors to visit Lapland. The home of Santa Claus is Rovaniemi, although he hails from the east of Lapland, in a place called Korvatunturi, which literally translates as “the Ear Fell”.
The eight seasons ensure life is fun! During winter, you can do Alpine, off-piste skiing and snowboarding on the many fells as well as cross-country (XC) ski, both classic and skating style in the many areas of Lapland. The course area has a cross country ski network of well-maintained trails combining over 500km! For cross country ski this is some of the largest maintained areas in the world! Winter also brings us many other snow activities, including snow shoeing, one of the most beautiful ways to experience wintery Lapland. Winter biking with fat bikes has also gained huge popularity and it’s a great way to see the northern national parks.
Mountain biking, hiking and river kayaking are the most popular activities in the summer. Our well-maintained trail network with regular access to refuge shelters and huts guarantee you can go on for days! Mountain biking is best to do with a full suspension bike and those can be rented in many locations in Lapland.
The outdoor trail network also provides regular rest stops in traditional Lappish-style log-cabin cafes where you can treat yourself to hot drinks, bagels or hot soup, but you can also pack your own thermos and sausages and make a fire in many of the refuge cabins and fire places provided and maintained by our National Board of Forestry.