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Winter pursuits in Lake Saimaa

As well as being a beautiful location for a summer holiday, the Lake Saimaa region also has plenty to offer winter visitors, from energetic sports to family day trips

Sally McIlhone

Feature

by Sally McIlhone

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Those who like to ski in their spare time have cross-country and downhill options here in Lake Saimaa. Using supplies of snow stored from the year before, cross-country tracks are laid around the Imatran Kylpylä hotel (Imatra Spa hotel). January, February and March are the best months to enjoy this sport, and visitors can admire the snow-covered woodland and peaceful frozen lakes as they glide along. For downhill skiing enthusiasts, the Myllymäki ski resort has six slopes and equipment is available for hire, while those who are particularly energetic are likely to enjoy a trip to Ruokolahti FreeSki.

After a day of exercise in the snow, warm up in the Imatra Spa hotel’s Taikametsä spa, which has a wide range of pools and facilities; the Yorokobi hot pool and massaging showers, for example, will soothe aching muscles. For a deeply relaxing experience, visit the Venla day spa at the hotel, which offers a range of aromatherapy treatments and massages.

Ice skating is another popular pastime around Lake Saimaa so, when the lakes freeze, head to the bay in Lappeenranta town. Beginners can book a Nordic skating tour with Saimaa Adventures, which provides an instructor to teach you the necessary techniques. Saimaa Adventures also offers snowmobile and all-terrain vehicle safaris for those who would prefer to explore the ice on wheels. Skating can be enjoyed inside too: indoor skating is available at the Lappeenranta ice hall and, to see the professionals at work, head to an ice hockey game and cheer on one of the local teams. 

For those with iron wills and strong constitutions winter swimming is an option. Hardy Finns find it invigorating to go for a dip in the freezing water before warming up in a lakeside sauna. If you’d like to experience a dip into the winter water but would prefer some added comfort, Saimaa Adventures runs a dry suit flotation experience in the Vuoksi river. These specially made suits allow the wearer to remain warm while submerged in water at sub-zero temperatures. The suit keeps the wearer afloat during the relaxing and unforgettable one-hour experience.

For a festive family experience not too far from the North Pole, book a reindeer sled ride. With Wild Tours and Safaris, customers can explore the Rauha area of Lappeenranta in the back of a reindeer-pulled sled. You’ll be wrapped up warm during the session and will be given the chance to stop at the Capri shopping centre before being invited back to the charming WilliPoro cottage, which is shaped like a tipi, for soup or smoked fish by the fire. During December, children can meet Santa Claus and his reindeer, and will be offered hot drinks and sweets. Wild Tours and Safaris also runs ice-fishing trips for families, couples or solo adventurers.

To get involved in the latest winter craze in the region, book a parasailing experience. Wearing a parachute, you will be pulled along behind a snowmobile; when the parachute catches the air, you’ll soar into the sky 70 metres above Lake Saimaa, where you can take in the stunning views.

While out in the stunning scenery, you may catch sight of the rare inland Saimaa ringed seal, identified by its dark grey colouring and white circular markings. There are just over 300 of these creatures left on the planet, and organisations such as the Finnish Association for Nature Conservation (known as SLL in Finnish) are working to protect the seals.

Whether you want to enjoy your favourite sport or learn a new activity, winter in Lake Saimaa offers many possibilities.

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