..It’s the month of October, and the area outside of Lapland Hotel Olos is the site of a veritable ski pilgrimage. A dozen tongues are spoken simultaneously as platoon after platoon of sportsmen and women clip their skis on and disappear into the forest. There’s hardly a snowflake on the ground, but the skiing trail looks picture-perfect.
Welcome to Muonio, mid-Autumn capital of cross-country skiing.
An estimated 20+ locations around the world are now farming snow for the next season; Beitostølen and Trysil in Norway, Lahti and Ruka in Finland, Davos and La Clusaz in the Alps, and Canmore in Canada to name but a few. Still, many national cross-country ski teams keep on returning to relatively remote Muonio where trails are the longest – and, some say the best prepared.
The early snow business is a profitable business – a daily walk-in pass (yes, you could walk-in and train right next to the skiing elite) is 20 Euros – one of the highest access fees for a trail anywhere, any time
Now, the Lapland neighbors across the border are starting to catch up.
Swedish ski resort Gällivare started its own snowfarming this year.
The big skill to learn is how to save as much snow as possible through the summer – some resorts allegedly lose up to half of their stored snow.
“We’ve looked at how they do it in Muonio, and there are snow losses of about ten percent” Stefan Nieminen of Sports Events Gällivare Lapland tells Sveriges Radio.
The actual storage is done by covering a mound of snow with a thick layer of sawdust – up to half a meter.
The natural snow is not good; snow cannon-produced snow survives the summer heat much better.
Gällivare is aiming big. Some 20,000 to 30,000 cubic meters of snow was stored in two large piles – enough for several kilometers of ski trails (most other places save 10-15,000). It took sixteen truckloads of sawdust from a nearby mill to cover the mounds. Next season, Muonio might have a competition right next door!
TOP PHOTO: courtesy of SR/Sveriges Radio