Voted a top-10 “must experience” ski resort by “Visit Finland”
Vuokatti, near Sotkamo in the Kianuu region of central Finland (570km north of Helsinki) is a village, range of 13 hills, and winter sports location. The friendly family who shared our shuttle bus from the airport – and helped to translate our stilted attempts at Finnish – were quick to tell us that we’d come to Finland’s best ski resort. A glowing recommendation, indeed, in a country famed for its abundance of snow.
The village and hills of Vuokatti sit in the northernmost part of the Finnish Lakeland region, just 240km south of Finnish Lapland, by the shore of the Jäätiönlampi lake. Though popular year-round, Vuokatti is best enjoyed in the winter. It has been voted a top-10 “must experience” ski resort by Visit Finland1 and a top-12 resort by The Culture Trip2.
Despite possessing neither the flash nor the fame (nor, it has to be said, the price tag) of the likes of Andorra or Zermatt, thousands of tourists and snow-seekers flock there every year and the Vuokatti Sport Olympic Training Centre is a major hub of Scandinavian sporting.
On the Slopes
Fourteen slopes make up the Vuokatinrinteet (“Vuokatti slopes”). All are immaculately maintained, groomed at least once per day and topped up with snow making machines when snowfall is low. Watching one of these machines, sometimes called “snow cannons,” blasting snow out into the air is quite a sight!
With a range of lengths and difficulties available, from the easiest “blue” slopes, through to the “reds” (more difficult) and “blacks” (for serious experts only), skiers of all experience levels will find something to suit their ability. Even for complete novices, the five available “blue” slopes offer variety and great views of the beautiful scenery.
The 50m Hupikukkula slope is perfect for young children, absolute beginners, and those just getting their “ski legs” back. The longest run, the red-rated Ylakatti, is over a kilometre long. Several of the more advanced slopes offer jumps, ramps and other obstacles to test your ability.
If you’re venturing to the topmost point on the slopes, take the time to stop at Ripa’s Kuppila. Ripa’s is a tiny cafe in a hut which serves hot drinks and snacks. A hot chocolate and fresh doughnut is the perfect thing to revive body and mind on a cold day.
A Vuokatti slope pass is €42 per day, €187 for seven days, and €296 for 14 days for an adult (2020). Other pricing options are also available, depending on how long you are staying and how often you want to ski. The slopes are open 09:30 – 19:00 every day from December to early April.
For beginners or those wanting to improve their skills, the Vuokatti Ski School offers 1-to-1 or 2-to-1 lessons in blocks of 50, 100 or 120 minutes. Prices start from €60 for 50 minutes. All Ski School instructors are friendly and patient professionals, licensed by the Finnish National Association of Ski Instructors, who want to help you to get the most out of your time on the slopes.
Vuokatti is tremendously popular with cross-country skiers as well as those who prefer the downhill variety. There are over 150km of trails, of which 32km are lighted (unless the temperature drops below -20C). Trails open in early October each year, and skiers can check routes and conditions in real time on the vuokattisport.fi website.
Trails take you through dramatic forest landscapes and, as you go higher, through demanding hills some of which are as high as 165m. Many trails take you to the edge of, or even across parts of, the frozen Jäätiönlampi and Särkinen lakes. Clear and helpful maps available from the Vuokatti Sport Institute or online lay out suggested routes of various difficulty levels, or you can always improvise! The trail map is colour-coded by difficulty level, so you need not worry about getting out of your depth.
Cross country skiing offers a wonderful opportunity to enjoy the picturesque scenery of the Vuokatti hills and lakes.
If you do one non-skiing activity in Vuokatti, make it the snowmobile safari. Starting from €129 for an adult driver (€89 for a passenger and €69 for a child), Vuokatti Safaris are led by experienced local guides and take you deep into the winter wonderland of the Vuokatti hills.
The shortest safari lasts around two hours and covers 20km, and tours of up to 5 hours are available. Snowmobiling is exhilarating and simply the best way to see all the beautiful winter scenery the region has to offer. A particular highlight is driving across the middle of the frozen Jäätiönlampi lake.
Half way through your Vuokatti Safaris tour, you’ll visit the charming Rekikesti Cafe, located in a secluded cabin high up in the hills. The friendly owner, Katri, and her staff will replenish you with traditional Finnish sweet cardamom buns and hot drinks before you continue your journey. On longer safaris, you’ll also get a warming soup lunch.
Safaris are suitable for complete beginners and children from the age of 5, though drivers must be 18+ and have a valid driving licence. Snowsuits, gloves and protective visors are provided – but wrap up warm, the wind in the hills can be icy!
Night-time “Northern lights” tours and shorter safaris with a chance to try ice fishing are also available.
You will not be short of things to do in Vuokatti!
- Husky safaris are a unique and exciting way to take in the scenery – and you or your children can even have a go at guiding the dogs yourself, under the watchful eye of an experienced handler.
- Ice-skating is available, both indoors at the Vuokatti Ice Arena and outdoors on the 3km IceWay skating track.
- Snowshoe trekking can range from a gentle stroll among the winter scenery or a full-body workout, and going at night is another way to chase the Northern Lights.
- Superpark Vuokatti is an activity centre with games, an Adventure Zone with climbing walls, slides and a pedal car track, a well-equipped gym, and even an indoor golf arena.
- The MAX Snow World is a unique indoor snow park which is kept at a constant -3C all year round, and offers activities from snowtubing to sledging, climbing and snowskating.
Further afield: Sotkamo
The free SkiBus runs to the small municipality of Sotkamo four times per day and the journey takes just 15 minutes from the bottom of the Vuokatti slopes. Things to see include the Lutheran Church of Sotkamo, built in the late Renaissance style with neo-gothic detailing, and the Sotkamo Parish Church (or “Fifth Church”) which is the biggest in the region, accommodating 2400 people. You can learn about the history of the region in the Old Warehouse Museum, which has a modest collection of around 800 objects. You should also take time to see the impressive bronze moose statue by Nina Terno, dedicated to the famous Finnish writer Professor Veikko Huovinen.
Useful Information about Vuokatti
How to get to Vuokatti
The nearest airport is Kajaani, 43km away. Most international visitors will fly to Helsinki then take a domestic flight to Kajaani, which takes around 1 hour and 20 minutes. The Airbus shuttle to Vuokatti runs regularly each day until 7pm.
The nearest train station is in Kajaani. Direct trains from Helsinki take just over 6 hours. Regular direct buses run from Kajaani to Vuokatti, taking between 30 and 50 minutes.
Vuokatti is very close to Finnish national road 76. It is a 6.5-7 hour drive from Helsinki, and a 40 minute drive from Kajaani airport. Car rental options including Hertz, Avis and Europcar are available close to the airport.
Where to Stay
The Vuokatti tourism website claims proudly that “over 8000 beds” are available in the area for visitors.
Vuokatti Slopes (Vuokattirinteet) Caravan Park
Veikontie 3, 88610 Vuokatti
+358 8 619 4111
An affordable option, and as close to the bottom of the slopes as you can get! €40/day for non members, or €850 for a place for the whole winter season (01/10 – 15/05.) Price includes use of the service building, which has showers and a sauna.
Suvikkaantie 6, 88610 Vuokatti
+358 207 229 620
Double room €280-300 per night in peak season
A stylish boutique hotel with only 16 rooms, located just 500m from the foot of the ski slopes, the Hotel Vuokatti offers lake views, a large sauna, and an outdoor swimming pool which is open all year round for a refreshing dip in the summer and Nordic ice-swimming in winter.
Holiday Club Katinkulta
Katinkullantie 15, 88610 Vuokatti
+358 300 870 970
€110–185 per night for a studio, €125-210 per night for a 1-bedroom residence
A sprawling lakeside resort with self-contained, semi-detached lodges ranging from studios to 4 bedrooms. Each apartment comes with a fully equipped kitchen (except for studios which have a basic mini-kitchen) and a private sauna. Hotel rooms are also available, starting at €88 per night. Katinkulta has a tropical spa, three restaurants and a nightclub. The resort is located 3.5km from the slopes, but the SkiBus takes you there in 15 minutes. This runs four times a day and is free.
Ilkanmäentie 2, 88600 Vuokatti
+358 40 586 1685
€1100 per week for a double room
Vuokatti’s newest luxury hotel, Aateli, opened in 2017. With 15 premium rooms (of which three are suites with saunas,) Aateli also offers the first Zen Spa in Finland and their Aurora Tower from which, at the right time of year, you might catch a glimpse of the northern lights.
Where to eat and drink
Kidekuja 2, 88610 Vuokatti
+358 10 783 1800
Informal and family-friendly Tex-Mex restaurant with generous portions and good vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options.
Starters from €6.90, mains from € 15.50.
Kidekuja 2, 88610 Vuokatti
+358 10 783 1805
A traditional Kainuu restaurant, focusing on serving fresh and local food. Best known for their excellent steaks. A poor choice for vegetarians and vegans – almost all the dishes are meat-based.
Starters from €8.90, mains from €24.90.
Hotel Vuokatti Restaurant
Suvikkaantie 6, 88610 Vuokatti
+358 207 229 620
A small menu of delicious and beautifully presented dishes. All main courses contain meat or fish. Non-residents are welcome to dine but booking is essential.
Starters from €8, mains from €18.
Ilkantie 8, 88610 Vuokatti
+358 8619 4145
Pirtti is open only during the skiing season and located at the foot of the Vuokatti slopes. It serves a regularly-changing, inexpensive menu, ideal for lunch during a day on the slopes. Set in a round room with a pointed roof, Pirtti is striking and cosy.
Food and Drink: Other Things to Bear in Mind
Vuokatti is a small place and there is not an abundance of places to eat out. Much of the accommodation in Vuokatti is equipped for self-catering and this is an excellent option if you don’t mind cooking.
There are two supermarkets in Vuokatti, one on the outskirts of the Katinkulta resort and one just across the main road from the foot of the ski slopes. Grocery prices are typically slightly more expensive than in the UK, with some fresh produce being significantly more expensive.
A word of warning: alcohol is extremely expensive in Scandinavia. Expect to pay upwards of €20 for two glasses of wine or single spirit-and-mixers, and €30-40 for a bottle of wine in a mid-range restaurant.