We’re a pretty well-travelled bunch. Not exactly blasé about jetting off on the next mini-break… but close. So when the prospect of a trip gives you goosebumps, there has to be something pretty special involved. Lapland, deep in the Arctic Circle, did the trick.
Our destination was Levi, Finland’s biggest ski resort near Kittilä. After a three-hour flight to Helsinki, we jumped onto a tiny plane for the hop deep into the frozen north. Arriving in the dark, with the luminous snow around us, we drove through shapeless forests to our winter cabin. Though lavishly appointed, with a fully stocked larder and a host who had access to lashings of Finlandia vodka, we were warned not to enjoy too much of the local hospitality, as, at 9am the next morning, we would need to pass a breathalyser test in order to go skidoo riding. Yikes. Saunas and early nights all round.
Take a deep breath
In the most nerve-wracking examination since A-Level French, we all scraped through the breathalyser test and were given the green light to head for Lapland Safaris (lapinsafarit.fi). A veritable assault course of thermal layers, balaclavas, snow-suits, inner gloves, outer, gloves hats and helmets needed to be conquered before we were led out to our skidoos. After strict instructions about (not) speeding, and staying in a crocodile formation last used at infant school, we headed off. As we sped across frozen lakes, through forests and over mountains, the stunning winter landscape whipped by. Crisp, clear light. Bright winter sunshine. It was intensely beautiful. Literally breathtaking.
Euphoric after the first few hours’ skidooing, we forged through a forest glade before emerging onto a vast expanse of frozen lake. The ice, we were told, was thick enough to land a jumbo jet on. Not – we pondered – the best place to go fishing – our next activity. However, undeterred and armed with an auger and a gnome’s plastic fishing rod – bet J R Hartley never had to put up with this - we bored a hole in the ice before lowering the lure into the murky depths.
Some considerable time – and no fish – later, we were relieved to find that lunch wasn’t dependant on our success. Instead, in a circular cabin, hidden in the woods, a meal of cream, potato and salmon soup and tea had been prepared. Hot, filling and very delicious.
Reindeers don’t fly (but they do taste nice)
Our first (live) introduction to this Finnish creature – once the most important industry in Lapand – was unceremonious, as a disgruntled beast was instructed to drag us (on a sled) around a well-trodden course. That was the theory, though Rudolph appeared to have other ideas, making uncontrollable forays into bushes and snowdrifts. Both man and beast were relieved when he was unshackled and returned to forage in the snow.
Just don’t say “mush”
Astride our skidoos again, we headed for the final activity of the day: husky sledding. The excited yelping of dogs filled the air long before we saw the animals. These pups clearly love to run, and they couldn’t wait to get started. As it turns out, sledding is harder than first thought. (Top tip: unless you want to end up horizontal, stand on the break. And stay there. At all times.) Several capsized – or whatever the terminology is – sleds later, we were split into teams of two – one rider and one driver – to navigate the frozen slopes with the dogs straining at the leash. Cornering proved especially interesting, though Lewis Hamilton would have been impressed with our efforts.
… More on that famous hospitality…
Divested of dogs, snowsuits and skidoos, we finally had time to enjoy a glass or two of the local spirits. These ranged from the unbelievably revolting (Terva, made with “tar” being the most notably disgusting), to the unbelievably delicious such as Finlandia Vodka, which somehow tasted like the crisp, clean country we had spent the day exploring.
And so to the end of our Lappish experience, which took place in an unlikely looking hut, furnished almost entirely with wood and reindeer skin. (Vegetarians be warned.) Restaurant Kammi (hulluporo.fi) prides itself on serving up all forms of reindeer — roasted, sausage and stewed. While the atmosphere is somewhat all-you-can-eat (Finn-style), after a day in the – very – fresh air, we felt this should be embraced in order to try as many local specialities as possible. To accompany, what could be more fitting than more Finnish vodka to toast an excellent day.
When to go
Finland is at the mercy of the seasons. Winters are cold and dark – Helsinki ranges from 5ºC to -17ºC and daylight is around six hours a day.
How to get there
Finnair flies from London to Helsinki and Kittila (finnair.com)
To win three-day a trip to experience Lapland with Finlandia Vodka, you must purchase a bottle of Finlandia vodka and send a copy of your receipt with your name and address to email@example.com or post to Nathalie Mountain, Esquire Magazine, 72 Broadwick Street, London, W1F 9EP
Terms & Conditions -
Prize Details: There is one prize of a trip for two people on the Finlandia Winter Experience trip in Finland, courtesy of Finlandia Vodka.
The prize includes return flights from London Heathrow to Helsinki and all meals and activities.
This prize draw is only open to residents of Great Britain aged 18 or over, excluding employees of Brown-Forman, Bacardi Brown-Forman Brands, their subsidiaries, families, agents or anyone professionally associated with this promotion.
Only one entry per customer will be permitted, regardless of the number of bottles bought, and there will only be one prize. Customers must enter the prize draw in their own name and not on someone else’s behalf.
The closing date and time for entries into the Finlandia Vodka prize draw is midnight on 15th January 2011.
Details received after this date and time will not be included in the prize draw. All entries received by midnight on 15th January 2011 will be entered into the prize draw and the winner will be drawn at random, with the winner of the prize being notified by 31st January 2011 at which point the winner will be given full details of their prize.
If the winner cannot be contacted or does not respond within 7 days of the initial notification, or cannot take up the prize, then Brown-Forman reserves the right to select another winner.
The prize trip will be offered on fixed dates only (Monday 14th – Weds 16th March 2011). If the original winner is not available to take up the prize, the Promoter may select another winner. The Promoter’s decision is final.
There is no cash alternative available for the prize.
The prize is non-transferable. Brown-Forman reserves the right to substitute the prize with another prize of equal or greater value or to terminate, amend, extend or shorten the promotional period at any time and without notice.
Brown-Forman has organised this prize draw in good faith but cannot accept any liability relating to the prize draw or the prize offered. All entry instructions form part of these terms and conditions.
By entering this promotion, all participants will be deemed to have accepted and be bound by the term and conditions. Illegible, incomplete or corrupt entries will be invalid.
For details of the winner’s name and county please send a SAE to the Finlandia Department, Brown-Forman, 45 Mortimer Street, London, W1W 8HJ.
THE PRIZE INCLUDES ICE FISHING, HUSKY DOG SLEDDING, A REINDEER SLED RIDE AND DRIVING A SKIDOO. THE WINNER AND GUEST PARTICIPATE IN ALL ACTIVITIES AT THEIR OWN RISK AND AGREE TO RELEASE BROWN-FORMAN CORPORATION AND ITS SUBSIDIARIES, AFFILIATES, PARENTS, AND AGENCIES, AND THEIR RESPECTIVE OFFICERS, DIRECTORS, EMPLOYEES AND REPRESENTATIVES FROM ANY AND ALL LIABILITY IN CONNECTION WITH THEIR ATTENDANCE AT THE EVENT OR THEIR PARTICIPATION IN ANY CONNECTED ACTIVITES, HOWSOEVER ARISING. THE WINNER AND GUEST MAY BE REQUIRED TO SIGN A DISCLAIMER TO THIS EFFECT.