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What an absolute joy our trip to Swedish Lapland was – you know that feeling of worry that the transfer is not going to be there and you won’t like the food and the hotel? Well I have to say that lasted about half an hour and then I relaxed and enjoyed every minute. Máttaráhkká Lodge was wonderful, the first impressions were of the stillness, the absolute peace and quiet, with all this beautiful fluffy snow and the sun beaming at us in an utterly perfect blue sky. We sat on a little decked area and just breathed in all the fresh air looking to the distant snow covered mountains and then just couldn’t sit any longer and had a walk (plough) through the snow, spotting animal tracks everywhere – ptarmigan and artic hare – no moose or deer though, we wouldn’t see those until the next day when we ventured off on our snowmobile trip. First however was the stunning meal cooked by Roger and a wonderful hot tub experience whilst looking at the stars until it clouded over, then, once cooked and wrinkly all at the same time,  we made our way to bed.

After a marvellous buffet breakfast (I ate far too much) it was time for our snowmobile trip, I was excited and nervous all at the same time. There had been a fresh fall of snow in the night and the guide, Roger, who was following a GPS was a little uncertain of the route – we laughed as in the snowy wilderness how would you find your way? Thoughts of the Sami deer herders went through my mind but we zipped off into the unknown and within 20 minutes were lying deep in the snow unable to get up, floundering around like stranded fish! We had missed the track with one edge of the snowmobile with the result that it tipped over in the soft snow – it all seemed to happen in slow motion- and getting out of the snow again was hard work as we couldn’t stop laughing. After the guide had rescued us we journeyed for quite a while, the artic clothing keeping us snug and warm until Roger halted and said, sweeping his arm around “welcome to my office”. I looked around at the mountains covered in snow – there was no evidence of human habitation from our vantage point, it was pure unspoilt wilderness and realised that we had in fact being travelling on snow that was right up to the tops of the trees– what an amazing job to have! We shared a flask of lingonberry juice and then journeyed back, coming off the snowmobile another twice- the last time we were told it was a good spot to stop anyway as the guide had spotted some Moose tracks – we ploughed through the snow on foot to investigate and could see where the Moose had been eating the moss from the trees but the wise Moose had moved on elsewhere.

After lunch we visited the Icehotel, exploring all the rooms and chatting with other visitors discussing what we liked and what we loved about them – a visit to the ice bar was a must and amazing ice cups with wonderful coloured liquids, which was perhaps not wise, as we stood outside watching the harvest of the ice from the river below the hotel. Although we had missed the ice cutting demonstration we wandered around and admired the results – the swan was the most beautiful object with the sun shining through it and was the most photographed, from every different angle.

Then it was on to the Sami evening and what an entertaining time! First we met the guide and collected the snowmobile and the sled in which we sat to go and visit the reindeer sheltering in a little copse and fed them dried branches (there was a little competition amongst them as they were all the young males from the spring) then we were asked to look at the sky with the many brilliant stars and as we couldn’t see any indication that the aurora was going to visit we were asked to lay on the snow and make snow angels as that might appease the spirits (he was grinning from ear to ear) but my husband obliged, so then we could carry on to the lavuu and supper which was wonderful. He spoke of the beliefs that his people have in regards to the spirits of the ancestors and the influence that has on the generations as they come along, although nowadays they all have access to the ever increasing technology. As he warmed the food he spoke of the difficulties his people had experienced and how at one time they were not even allowed to build permanent houses. It is a plight comparable to the Indians of America – resident peoples being moved on and denied access to their own lands. He offered us a secret Sami desert (After Eight mints) which I have never eaten frozen but they lasted a long time! We watched the skies and had a brief glimpse of the lights before the clouds covered it over and we went back to the hotel with humbled hearts. A great guy, with a real sense of humour and natural entertaining abilities, who managed to educate us at the same time.

A very full day and I slept extremely well.

More excitement and trepidation – dog sledding. After greeting and harnessing the dogs we were shown how the brake was supposed to work (most important tool!) and how to move when cornering and told that we had to run when going uphill as the dogs would get too exhausted – I wondered about myself? However it was just the most incredible experience the sled travelling almost silently across the snow in picture perfect wilderness, a stop for lunch in a lavuu and a chat about the dogs, the guide Mia was heartfelt in her adoration of them, and onwards again – my turn in the sled in this time! Such fun and another fantastic experience that I will never forget.

Then we transferred to Abisko Mountain Lodge, another great place but in a different way. It was constantly busy with the guys from the heli-skiing trip (totally mad) and other guests sharing their experiences. We settled in immediately but then had to go to the Sky station for a meal and, we hoped, a good view of the Northern Lights. Sadly though the wind was blowing a gale and the skies clouded over fairly quickly allowing only a short viewing but we did see the awesome lights although it was disappointingly brief. It was such a shame that it clouded over.

The following night was amazing – we had booked up for a photographic training session aimed at teaching people how to successfully photograph the lights and we had picked the right night – the lights put on a wonderful display for us and we got some memories to keep forever on the memory disc. The time just flew by and at midnight the display seemed to be at an end – there was some high cloud coming in- but just as soon as all the cameras were packed away there was one last burst of stunning colour and clarity right above us – we had been blessed!

 

What an absolute joy our trip to Swedish Lapland was – you know that feeling of worry that the transfer is not going to be there and you won’t like the food and the hotel? Well I have to say that lasted about half an hour and then I relaxed and enjoyed every minute. Máttaráhkká Lodge was wonderful; the first impressions were of the stillness, the absolute peace and quiet, with all this beautiful fluffy snow and the sun beaming at us in an utterly perfect blue sky. We sat on a little decked area and just breathed in all the fresh air looking to the distant snow covered mountains and then just couldn’t sit any longer and had a walk (plough) through the snow, spotting animal tracks everywhere – ptarmigan and artic hare – no moose or deer though, we wouldn’t see those until the next day when we ventured off on our snowmobile trip. First however was the stunning meal cooked by Roger and a wonderful hot tub experience whilst looking at the stars until it clouded over, then, once cooked and wrinkly all at the same time; we made our way to bed.

After a marvellous buffet breakfast (I ate far too much) it was time for our snowmobile trip, I was excited and nervous all at the same time. There had been a fresh fall of snow in the night and the guide, Roger, who was following a GPS was a little uncertain of the route – we laughed as in the snowy wilderness how would you find your way? Thoughts of the Sami deer herders went through my mind but we zipped off into the unknown and within 20 minutes were lying deep in the snow unable to get up, floundering around like stranded fish! We had missed the track with one edge of the snowmobile with the result that it tipped over in the soft snow – it all seemed to happen in slow motion- and getting out of the snow again was hard work as we couldn’t stop laughing. After the guide had rescued us we journeyed for quite a while, the artic clothing keeping us snug and warm until Roger halted and said, sweeping his arm around “welcome to my office”. I looked around at the mountains covered in snow – there was no evidence of human habitation from our vantage point, it was pure unspoilt wilderness and realised that we had in fact being travelling on snow that was right up to the tops of the trees– what an amazing job to have! We shared a flask of lingonberry juice and then journeyed back, coming off the snowmobile another twice – the last time we were told it was a good spot to stop anyway as the guide had spotted some Moose tracks – we ploughed through the snow on foot to investigate and could see where the Moose had been eating the moss from the trees but the wise Moose had moved on elsewhere.

After lunch we visited the IceHotel, exploring all the rooms and chatting with other visitors discussing what we liked and what we loved about them – a visit to the ice bar was a must and amazing ice cups with wonderful coloured liquids, which was perhaps not wise, as we stood outside watching the harvest of the ice from the river below the hotel. Although we had missed the ice cutting demonstration we wandered around and admired the results – the swan was the most beautiful object with the sun shining through it and was the most photographed, from every different angle.

Then it was on to the Sami evening and what an entertaining time! First we met the guide and collected the snowmobile and the sled in which we sat to go and visit the reindeer sheltering in a little copse and fed them dried branches (there was a little competition amongst them as they were all the young males from the spring) then we were asked to look at the sky with the many brilliant stars and as we couldn’t see any indication that the aurora was going to visit we were asked to lay on the snow and make snow angels as that might appease the spirits (he was grinning from ear to ear) but my husband obliged, so then we could carry on to the lavvu and supper which was wonderful. He spoke of the beliefs that his people have in regards to the spirits of the ancestors and the influence that has on the generations as they come along, although nowadays they all have access to the ever increasing technology. As he warmed the food he spoke of the difficulties his people had experienced and how at one time they were not even allowed to build permanent houses. It is a plight comparable to the Indians of America – resident peoples being moved on and denied access to their own lands. He offered us a secret Sami desert (After Eight mints) which I have never eaten frozen but they lasted a long time! We watched the skies and had a brief glimpse of the lights before the clouds covered it over and we went back to the hotel with humbled hearts. A great guy, with a real sense of humour and natural entertaining abilities, who managed to educate us at the same time.

A very full day and I slept extremely well.

More excitement and trepidation – dog sledding. After greeting and harnessing the dogs we were shown how the brake was supposed to work (most important tool!) and how to move when cornering and told that we had to run when going uphill as the dogs would get too exhausted – I wondered about myself? However it was just the most incredible experience the sled travelling almost silently across the snow in picture perfect wilderness, a stop for lunch in a lavvu and a chat about the dogs, the guide Mia was heartfelt in her adoration of them, and onwards again – my turn in the sled in this time! Such fun and another fantastic experience that I will never forget.

Then we transferred to Abisko Mountain Lodge, another great place but in a different way. It was constantly busy with the guys from the heli-skiing trip (totally mad) and other guests sharing their experiences. We settled in immediately but then had to go to the Sky Station for a meal and, we hoped, a good view of the Northern Lights. Sadly though the wind was blowing a gale and the skies clouded over fairly quickly allowing only a short viewing but we did see the awesome lights although it was disappointingly brief. It was such a shame that it clouded over.

The following night was amazing – we had booked up for a photographic training session aimed at teaching people how to successfully photograph the lights and we had picked the right night – the lights put on a wonderful display for us and we got some memories to keep forever on the memory disc. The time just flew by and at midnight the display seemed to be at an end – there was some high cloud coming in – but just as soon as all the cameras were packed away there was one last burst of stunning colour and clarity right above us – we had been blessed!

Click here for breaks to Lapland Northern Lights.

Mushing your own Husky Sled Team

We watched as the guides harnessed up the dogs. The dogs were so keen to leave and start pulling that the sledges are staked down with a rope with an anchor on the end so that they don’t leave without us ! Basically 6 dogs have individual harnesses that attach to the sledge and then also attach to a central rope. This means that they can all pull equally forward but also stay together as a team. They are paired up so that there are 3 pairs.

The guide briefed us on how to Mush the Dogs – as it is called. Basically there is one passenger who sits in/on the sledge depending on the type you get, and one Musher who stands behind on a little platform holding onto the sledge in front. There are 3 main things to remember he explained.

  1. Hold on when you leave – there will be a big jerk when it sets off!
  2. Brake when necessary– probably the most important skill as the dogs are so keen they will set off at the top speed they can go, and it’s important to keep a distance from the sledge in front so they don’t run into each other! The brake is basically a metal ridge behind the sledge platform. When you step on it it sticks into the ground and so slows the dogs down as they are pulling against this resistance.
  3. On the upward slopes he explained if the dogs are straining, the driver should get off and walk behind to lighten the load for them – but still hold onto the sledge so you stay connected with the team, and then jump back on at the top – before they regain their speed again and you are left behind!

He explained that there would be a stop half way for a hot drink, and that we could swap so we all had a go at driving, but that it would probably be better to have the heavier person driving first as the dogs get tired at the end.

And then we set off and IMMEDIATELY there is silence. The contrast between the cacophony of the noise and total silence was shocking. Then you settle into the silence and listen to the sledge runners crunching over the new snow, and it is wonderful.

Our guide with his dogs was ahead and we followed along a narrow path with snow laden trees either side. It was beautiful, thrilling and truly Narnia-like. The blue Polar light gleamed on the frozen lake we passed and my eyes were filled with the pure beauty, wilderness and pristine forest view.

Each sledge had 6 dogs that are rotated regularly so that they get used to all running with each other to give the kennels the most flexibility with their teams. Our sledge kept pulling to the side and my husband kept asking me to lean to the other side to balance it. This seemed quite hard work and I could tell he was leaning as well. The guide looked back and stopped his sled, anchored it, walked back and asked us what on earth we were doing?! We explained the problem and he told us to take his team and he would take ours and see what the problem is. Within a couple of minutes he stopped us again and started moving the dogs position around on the harness. Basically they were not pulling evenly and so the left hand dogs were pulling more strongly and therefore pulling us off balance.

So we swapped back again and now the gentle ease of sliding across the snow came to us. We were back to peace and calm as we glided across the snow. It is probably one of the most relaxing things I have ever done. Even when the dogs are pulling at their top speed on the flat you are only doing about 15 miles per hour so you can relax into the rhythm of nature.

Half way we stopped and anchored our dogs in a lovely little clearing in the forest for a warming hot Lingonberry juice and swapped Mushers. So this time I was driving and I was feeling a bit nervous. But no need to, the dogs know what they are doing and pretty much follow the sled of the guide in front.

I had to break more than I expected to keep the distance and also because I wanted a bit of space in front of us to truly enjoy the wilderness experience. Certainly the guide was happy with that. As the dogs tired I did need to jump off a bit and walk behind on the slopes to give them a breather, but this was no hardship. On one steep hummock I had to shout “ya ya” at them (in true Swedish sounding style!) to get them going faster to heave the sled over the top. That was such fun that I have to confess to shouting it more than I needed later on, on the flat!

The three hours passed so quickly and I was heartbroken when I saw the Kennels coming into sight. It was a magical experience, one that I could definitely do again and again – I refuse to call it a “Once in a Lifetime Experience” as I am determined to experience it many more times!

For more information on Northern Lights breaks which contain this activity.

“Would you like to be a passenger?” No, I thought I want to drive as well! It was minus 20 degrees, and I was about to set off on a 3 hour snowmobile journey up through the hills and forests around Kiruna in Swedish Lapland.

Snowmobiles are surprisingly easy to drive. Turn a key, press a button and the accelerator is a lever you squeeze on the handlebars. Let go of the lever and the snowmobile glides to a halt. I’ve never driven a motorbike but I imagine it’s very similar except the Snowmobile is very stable due to the skis which really do make you feel safe. The handlebars have heaters built in which are so effective that I had to turn mine down as my hands were sweating! There is a plastic see through visor and I was also wearing a helmet with visor to help protect the face from the wind. I had also opted to wear a balaclava to help protect my face from the cold. With my elegant (not!) all in one thermal suit, boots and gloves I was as snug as a bug – amazing in that temperature!

So we set off through the forest always climbing up to reach the open hillside where we headed for the top for the view. 3 snowmobiles in a row, our guide leading the way. Halfway up the hillside thick mist rolled in circling around us blocking out the lovely view. Petri, our guide, advised us the plan was changing as “this was no fun” and headed back down to where it was clearer and warmer.

We stopped for a hot lingonberry, the local favourite non-alcoholic tipple, and watched a skier on the frozen lake. I use the word “skier” loosely as she was being pulled by a husky and there wasn’t much exercise for her involved – It looked great fun!

We set off again across the frozen lake and “let rip” and went fast. I really thought I was being quite daring until we stopped to watch 2 young guys with racing snowmobiles. The leading youth pastime in the area – football doesn’t cut the mustard! Apparently there is a whole league of snowmobile racing attire, equipment and accessories. Now I realised I wasn’t really pushing it that fast after all!

At the end of the frozen lake we had to cross a road and it amused me that there was even a road sign warning drivers that snowmobiles would be crossing.

I have to say when we reached the end I was tired and slept well that night. All that fresh clean air and turning the snowmobiles when driving through thick snow can be hard work and my shoulders had definitely had a work out. But what a great experience – a really fun and easy way to get out into the wilderness.

 

For more information on breaks which contain snowmobiling click here

Some of you may be watching the latest reality show “71 degrees North” on ITV. This new adventure reality show stars 10 celebrities and is set amongst the icy glaciers and snowy landscape of Norway, mixing spectacular experiences and pure danger, with sheer entertainment and breathtaking scenery. Activities so far have included Husky Sledging, Snowmobiling, Swimming in the Icy Waters and Building a Snow Cave. To come is reindeer racing, frozen waterfall climbing and snow hiking to name but a few.

As many of our Arctic Adventures breaks are set in similar conditions, though we offer Arctic breaks in Greenland, Sweden, Finland and Iceland and include many of these activities we thought it might be interesting to talk about what you should be wearing in these climes.

In order to dress right in a cold climate it is important to regulate the body’s exchange of heat with the surroundings.

The 3 layer clothing principle outlined below will ensure your comfort.

What to pack
An inner layer or Thermal base layer made from synthetics, wool or a woollen mixture (pure cotton should be avoided since cotton clothing cools down when it becomes wet.)
A middle layer of clothing should strengthen and regulate the heat insulation, isolate air and hold the humidity from the body. For example woollen sweater/shirt, fleece or thermal sweater.
An outer additional layer of woollen jumpers/sweaters, fleeces or thermal sweaters made of breathable material in order to allow even distribution of body heat, which can be added if required. Good Quality Woollen Socks
Gloves and Hat (for use outdoors when arctic clothing is not essential)

What would be provided to complete your Arctic Wear

An arctic jacket and trousers or thermal overalls, warm protective boots, outdoor hat, balaclava and gloves.

A proper hat restricts the great heat losses from the head while giving protection to ears and neck. A Balaclava offers excellent additional protection from the elements and can be worn under your Arctic Hat. People may find this of help to protect their faces from the elements (when travelling on snowmobiles in particular).

Gloves give good protection to the hands, and Arctic Thermal Shoes protect against moisture as well as the cold ground. They are larger than a normal shoe, in order to leave space for socks and soles, and to have an insulating layer of air in the shoe. Remember to take good quality woollen socks.

So now you are set and know what to wear! Take a look at the Arctic Adventure Breaks and see where you would wear them!

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