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Ounasvaara offers exquisite biking experience

20 May 2019, 18:06 ( 6 Months ago)

DF Report by Ben Espinola
Photo Source SantaSport.

Ounasvaara has long been a hub of outdoor activities for both local people and tourists. While perhaps being most famous for its skiing and hiking trails, Ounasvaara is also home to a wide variety of biking opportunities in all seasons. To learn more of these various opportunities, advantages and challenges of each season, Daily Finland spoke to Johanna Alppi, a bike instructor and guide at SantaSport.

An avid cyclist herself, Alppi says that that biking is a wonderful way to experience nature and to get away from the stress of the world. “Through nature, specially in the woods you can release all the stress and bad feelings from the body. Nature will release the mind and there is endless amount of energy to store to your mind and it’s for free.”

Alppi says that biking is immersive and because it requires intense focus, “you need to focus, to be present. In Ounasvaara, you can escape.”

Biking is possible in any season, but Alppi says that the most popular and most approachable for newcomers is in winter. This is because the obstacles are covered by snow and it is easier to get around.

Fat bikes are a style of bikes with very wide tires that allow riders to easily traverse difficult terrain such as snow and sand. SantaSport has 26 fat bikes that are regularly rented out.

Photo Source: SantaSport.“Fat biking is easier because the wide tire is much more forgiving compared with a regular bike.” Alppi says, “Winter riding is easier. There’s no stone and they are covered by the snow. It is the safest time of the year in a riding wise.” But of course, everyone needs to be aware of the cold and dresses up properly.

It is also popular time for tourists. The high season for tourism in Rovaniemi is December–March and this is reflected in the number and demographics of bikers coming to Ounasvaara.

This presents some challenges because while Finns learn extensive outdoor skills in schools, many tourists are absolute beginners, often coming to Ounasvaara without winter essentials such as hats or gloves.

The snow cover makes winter the easiest season to bike in the forest mostly because the ground itself presents a number of challenges. The terrain in Finland in very rocky in many places and there are vast areas of marshy wetlands as well. These are very difficult conditions for biking, especially for beginners. In wetlands actually, you can’t ride not even with fatbike. There need to be duckboards or wetland need to be very dry.

Spring, the melting season, is the most difficult for biking because the ground is very wet and there are large patches of unmelted snow and deep puddles.

In summer, many local people come to Ounasvaara to bike, but it is not a very popular time for tourists. Alppi says that the summer is the slowest time of the year and that most of the clients are groups of friends and most are from around Rovaniemi.

“In the summer, you need to know where to go because the ground is challenging. You need to think and to plan. Ounasvaara is not the best place for beginners in the summer,” Alppi says.

She and her colleagues at SantaSport  are working on strategies for attracting tourists including “nightless nights” rides to give riders a taste of nature and the midnight sun.

Autumn is the second most popular season. Once the temperature drops, navigating the terrain becomes easier because of the hardening of the ground. This is the time of the year when many people from surrounding areas come at long weekends or during holidays for recreation. In autumn when the leaves of the trees changes the colour, called “ruska”, also makes very special time to ride in the nature.

Alppi recommends that the people interested in cross-country biking at Ounasvaara should come regardless of the season. She emphasizes the importance and helpfulness of an instructor. She regularly leads groups of 6-8 people and is able to customize each tour based on the group’s riding ability and desires.