Monday, March 12, 2012

Winter sports: snowshoeing versus cycling... plus Rastila news

Now I've finally recovered from last weekend's sub-24 action (that's a joke, I'm strong as an ox), I'd like to make some observations about winter cycling and say something about our first experience with snowshoeing. 

I've ridden at least once a week this winter and I think I've ridden in every conceivable winter weather. Apart from one occasion when the snow drifts were too high to negotiate, I would say that cycling is quicker and easier than other forms of transport - walking is too slow, public transport causes the shivering-sweating routine and I'll happily admit that brushing the snow from my car four times in one day is no fun at all. 

This one particular day, the thaw and refreeze had created some interesting shapes in the ice all along the 10 km ride from home to Oittaa. As well as being bumpy, the grooves where more than a little terrifying. Everyone tells me to ride faster, "Speed is your friend", they say. Not on this day, it wasn't. My only consolation for riding slowly was the fact that my body was still in one piece when I arrived to pick up the snowshoes.


The greatest gift of snowshoe walking is the fact that you can go anywhere. On a bicycle, you can't just ride anywhere. In the forest, walking in shoes is impossible in winter (on the right is Florian without snowshoes) and also restricted in summer too - bushes are too thick, swamps too deep, cliffs too steep. Snowshoes allow you to go anywhere. You can aim in a certain direction - for example, towards to sun - and you never really need to deviate from that direction. We were assisted by quite firm snow, but still the shoes should stop you sinking in every condition and the crampons allow you to climb and descend better than in normal walking shoes in summer.

Oittaa is hardly wild, and there were crosscountry ski tracks throughout the forest, but we were able to avoid society as much as possible, so much so that we soon scoffed at the designated snowshoe route, and aimed for the harshest climbs in the remotest parts of the forest. This allowed us to come across and completely deserted field and tracks that we assume were that of a lynx (apparently they have been seen in the area).

I should add that the service from the hire shop was excellent and the price was not too bad either.  By the time I write this, an excited Florian has probably invested in his own pair. That, and the picture of Elsa below... what better endoresment for snowshoeing!

After a few hours on the snowshoes, my ride home over the bumpy ice paths was not looking too enticing. But after some leftover marzipan, the 15 km long way home along Kuninkaantie and smaller asphalt roads was perfect. Only the dust thrown up by the cars is worth mentioning, making me wish I was back in the forest again.

On a brighter note, the cabins (and sauna) in Rastila are free on Good Friday, that's 6th April. Send us an email to if you want to come. It shouldn't cost more than 30e each including sauna. 4-person and 6-person cottages are available, so the nice man told me. Or you can bring your tent...