We arrived in Finland on Tuesday at the Rovaniemi airport, where the temperature was +5 Celsius, the sky gray, and the earth brown. During the drive north to Muonio, our home for the next 3 weeks, the thermometer dropped a few degrees and at one point along the road we saw what looked like a little bit of dirty old crusty snow. But for the most part it looked a lot like Vermont in November–except more reindeer grazing along the side of the road, and the woods look different–mossier and more like taiga, with lots of Scots pine and Norway spruce. There was a light mist hitting the windshield. When we arrived, we settled into the same little cabins we had last year, complete with their awesome little clothes-drying closet and compact European design.
Luckily for us, the people at Olos seem to have the art of snow-storing pretty well figured out, and theres a nice 3 km loop of skiing on snow that was kept from last year and then spread around the trail. Its a pretty weird feeling to be skiing on this little ribbon of white through the mossy enchanted-looking lapland forest. Last year there was just enough natural snow even when we first got here, that I never realized how the whole forest floor is covered in moss and little shrubs and things. Beside that, the loop is the same as last year–good terrain, lots of fast skiers. The Swedish biathlon team showed up yesterday, as well as the Russian women’s biathlon team, and combined with lots of skiers from Russia, Estonia, and Finland, I feel like I’m constantly getting passed as I ski. I have to keep reminding myself to ski my own pace and not go too fast. All the people make the small loop more exciting and interesting–the human landscape is always changing, even if the natural one isn’t.