Few things are better fun than cross-country skiing. When you feel your heart pounding as you glide through a beautiful landscape, and get your lungs full of crisp winter air, you certainly feel alive. Soon the season is over but probably for one or two weeks you still have a chance! Here are a few tips on skiing in Helsinki:
Paloheinä is easy to reach and offers a lot of services. Hop on bus 66A in front of the National Art Gallery Ateneum just next to the railway station, or bus 67, which leaves from platform 4 from the bus terminal East of the railway station. With 66 you can ride all the way to the end, with 67 you better ask. The bus brings you to a hut which offers a room for changing clothes, a sauna at particular times for 5 euros, and a small cafeteria. You can check out the details here. Suomen Latu ski rental is open Mon-Fri 12 – 19 and Sat & Sun 10 -16.
Paloheinä has maintained ski trails for 3 km, 5 km and 7,5 km (although they may not all be in suitable condition right now). These trails are in the woods and have a lot of hills, so be sure you can handle the downhill part before you head off. If you do go on a trail, and encounter a slide down that looks scary, take off your skis and walk down, BUT DO NOT WALK ON THE SKI TRAIL. A ruined trail is dangerous for other skiers, and you may get hit by someone sliding full speed downhill around the corner because the person has no way of stopping in time, and hopping off the trail in full speed requires skill that not everyone has. On the fields surrounding the woods you will have plenty of opportunity to practise on mainly flat ground. For example here you can find some instructions on basic skiing techniques.
Kuusijärvi in Vantaa is another place that is easy to reach by buses that leave from the terminal East of the railway station, instructions are provided in the link just given. A company called Exture apparently offers equipment rental service at Kuusijärvi if ordered in advance. Kuusijärvi has a traditional sauna and a smoke sauna and a possibility to dip into a whole in the ice (more on that later). Some of the longer trails at Kuusijärvi also have a landscape that reminds at least me of Lapland so in that sense it is a deluxe place for skiing.
If you already have the equipment, many trails are available in recreational parks all around the Greater Helsinki area. These trails are marked in the recreational map which you can get printed from swimming pools etc. and which apparently is now available also online. Ulkoilukartta shows ski and running trails, and pyöräilykartta shows cycling routes. You can check the situation of a ski trail from an online service, which shows you also the trail on the map. Red means the trail is in good condition, blue stands for reasonable, and black for bad.
Cross-country skiing is a very effective full-body exercise, so you will get hot once you get the idea. A set of technical underwear, a light woollen pullover, and a technical or cotton windstopper shell is a good start. You can take off the woollen pullover once you start going full speed. If you bring a lightweight backpack, or a fanny pack, you can also bring some warm juice and a small snack to enjoy along the way, and if you do stop, the woollen pullover comes handy.
If and when you do stop to admire the view, blow your nose or catch your breath, step away from the ski trail. According to the etiquette, the person who comes from behind you is responsible for giving way to those in front, but that holds only for people who are skiing.
Finally, a beautiful description of the joys of skiing is offered by Elsa Beskow’s story Ollin hiihtoretki (Olli’s skiing trip). It was my favourite story as a child, and the next generation seems to love it as well. Beskow is a Swedish writer who painted pictures and wrote stories for children in the late 1800/early 1900. Her stories are still engaging depictions of the everyday adventures of life. Her books are available also in English, so you can practice your Finnish by reading them side-by-side.