TrainingSki across Finland: Rajalta Rajalle Hiihto

FasterSkierMarch 29, 2004

JoAnn Hanowski has been one of the top female skiers on Team Rossignol for the past 15 years. She resides in Duluth, MN and is an avian ecologist at the University of MN Duluth.

It seemed like a simple plan, after 5 marathons in 8 weeks, I would end my ski season by skiing across Finland. No race entries and travel logistics, no flourocarbon waxes, no worries about mass starts and snow conditions. The idea was just to get up every day and ski, after all, “sometimes racing gets in the way of skiing” (a Gene-o quote). But here it was, day 5 of the 7 day trip and I am being asked to do an interview with the local newspaper reporter from Ranua (hardly low-key). It was my first finnish-english translated interview. Seems like I was the news of our group of 86 that were making the trip from the Russian to the Swedish border. I was the fast, American, professional woman skier, who was skiing the fastest of all the skiers in the “tour” this year. Apparently this was big news just south of the Arctic Circle.

The tour organization was great. Our ski tour guide Jaako was making his 12th trip from border to border and Erja was our host. Because we did not have the opportunity to shop (we only stayed in one town during the 7 nights), you could arrange for her to buy you anything that you needed during the tour (beer was especially popular). The bus drivers were great, loading and unloading all of our stuff every day. They got to know which bag was mine and would have it in a special place for me when I finished every day.

Finish Food and Sisu

I found that I had a lot of energy and looked forward to the ski each day. They provided a lot of food, but I found that I just needed a normal amount of food including breakfast of yogurt and muesli, meat, cheese, bread and coffee. At the end of each ski, I would rehydrate and eat an energy bar. After that, the saunas were always hot and it was nice to take a short nap every afternoon. The first evening meal was mostly white and spiceless food (fish and potatoes) and a salad, followed by fruit soup. Now fruit soup is not really very good, picture watered down red jello with lignonberries, blueberries, raspberries, but without sugar. We had no sweets and got to craving cookies and diet coke after the first few days. The final meal of the day was served during our informational meeting that was held each night to give us the logistics for the next day. This was more meat, cheese, bread and some fruit.

I don’t think that you need any special conditioning to complete the tour, but you would have more fun if you were in shape. Heidi, a Finnish girl living in London had not skied at all during the winter. She finished the tour with some major blisters, but I sensed that she was not really having fun. The Finns had a lot of sisu, but probably not as much as the two Slovenian teenagers that skied with their father. One person in our group thought that it was akin to child abuse to make these kids ski that far every day, but they both seemed to be enjoying themselves, or at least they were still smiling at the end of each day. Our group also included the Finnish couple that had skied all 21 tours-they were quite the couple, she skiing in front of him all the way.

All in all, it was an interesting and fun week of skiing. If you are looking for an adventure including wonderful skiing along some remote country side, meeting interesting people from all over the world, and perhaps enjoying a bit of competition (Finn guy has done the tour 7 times now), I would highly recommend the RR. It was a wonderful way to end the ski season.

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