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To celebrate the launch of our Santa’s Lapland short breaks in Kilpisjarvi, Tracey Greenway investigates the myths and magic from which this curious little village originates. Here, she sheds light on the early years of a place where the sun does not rise during the winter months.

Perched at the northernmost tip of Lapland, Kilpisjarvi is a remote village steeped in time-old legends and epic sagas. Once home to roaming giants who forged the landscape in their fearless pursuits, this bewildering place is now the perfect location from which to embark on a search for Santa: with myths and magic prevalent, it is no wonder the real Father Christmas is rumoured to have settled nearby.

The story of Kilpis begins long ago when giants roamed the lands. The sullen giant Saana fell in love with the beautiful giant Malla, and they were to be married by the wise magician Paras. Another giant, Paltsa, was jealous of the match and wished to marry Malla himself. Wanting to stop the wedding, Paltsa called upon three witches of Lapland who summonsed stormy winds to stop the ceremony. The fierce frozen winds swirled around the wedding party and the area began to fill with ice. Saana, sullen and surly as ever, was the first to freeze. Malla, having seen Saana been frozen, flung herself into her mother’s arms and, amid the swirling storms and the heightening drama, began to cry. She shed tears which ran and formed a lake – a ‘jarvi’. As the tears ran and the lake formed, the icy storms continued. Malla, and her mother, succumbed to the same fate as Saana: they were frozen by the winds. Now, Saana and Malla had been frozen in time and immortalised forever in the Fells of Kilpis surrounding the lake formed by Malla’s tears, establishing the name: Kilpisjarvi.

 

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Snowmobiling's Early Days: The Harley Davidson Story

Since the original invention of the snowmobile in the 1930’s by French-Canadian inventor Joseph-Armand Bombardier, the machine best suited for both work and play on the Arctic tundra has seen many iterations. Here we learn a little more about the short-lived yet notorious arrival of the infamous Harley Davidson to the snowmobile marketplace.

The Harley Davidson journey into snowmobiling began with AMF (American Machine & Foundry) in 1966. In this year, AMF introduced the fantastically named ‘Sno-Clipper’ & ‘Ski-Daddler’ to the American market, powered by a single cylinder engine and sporting a spritely 15.2 horsepower engine with speeds up to 40mph: the image from the 1968 AMF brochure depicts the perfect family-friendly option.

In 1969, AMF acquired the Harley Davidson brand and shortly after, in 1972 the Ski-Daddler was transformed into the first HD snowmobile, named the Y398. With the transformation came the introduction of a 2 stroke parallel engine (a modern version is often found in snowmobiles today) and a consistent 30mph was readily available. The engineering features of the Harley Davidson Y-series weren’t the highlight of this product however. As a well-known brand, and a big player in the American automobile market even then, it is no surprise that the marketing campaigns and accompanying apparel for the Y-series machines were the real highlight. 

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A trip to this part of the world has been the top of many people’s bucket list and is becoming more popular due to the craving for snow many Brits can’t quench at home. Although many websites can provide you with tips on the best places to stay, cheap flights and thrill-seeker excursions, there seems to be a lack of personal ‘tricks of the trade’ tips from someone who has spent considerable time in Lapland. So, after spending the last six months working as an Outdoor Instructor for Transun’s supplier, I have put together my top five tips for a trip to Lapland...

1. Lapland is cold 
Yeah, I’m sure you’re thinking you could have worked that one out on your own, right? Wrong. During the months of December and January, temperatures in Lapland can drop below -30 degrees (the coldest day we experienced this season was -42 degrees). This is not something to joke about and if you and your family or friends are not prepared, you will waste your valuable holiday time in this beautiful region. Mittens, thermal base lasers, hats, thermal socks, fleeces… these are all essential to a trip into the Arctic Circle. Transun will provide you with thermal snowsuits and boots, but you must ensure that you are kitted out with the right gear underneath. Thermals must be the first layer that you put on. If there is any layer of clothing between your body and the thermals, the insulating properties will not work and there will be no point in wearing them. This goes for socks too, thermals must always be the first layer. Children are not as adept at regulating their body temperature as adults and tend to spend more time playing in the snow. Ensure that they are kitted out with the right gear before they go outside and bring a backpack full of extra layers and hand warmers every time you leave the hotel.

2. The Northern Lights are not a guarantee
Whilst Transun’s holidays take you to idyllic locations for witnessing the magnificent Northern Lights, it is called Aurora Hunting for a reason and it is luck dependant. Download the ‘Aurora’ app before you arrive and use this, along with the staff’s knowledge to predict which night to stay up hunting. Sometimes this means peeling yourself away from the hotel bar around midnight and sticking your head out the door to check for a starry sky. Or it can mean setting your alarm at hourly intervals through the night to ensure you don’t miss the elusive light display. Top tip - leave your snowsuit, boots, hat and torch by the door so you can jump into them at short notice. You don’t want to be the only guests not to see the lights because you were searching for a missing boot!

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The Sami heritage is rich and colourful, and the traditions of today’s Sami have their roots in the customs of ancestors past. Here, expert Alice Hicklin of the University of Cambridge, gives a brief introduction to the ancient Sami…

Although there were references to ancestors if the Sami people in the works of Tacitus in the first century AD, it is not until the year 555 AD that the first reference is made to the ‘Skridfinns’, the people from whom today’s Sami are traditionally descended. During the Viking age, the Skirdfinns made the northern part of Scandinavia their home. These early Sami groups settled in territories which were divided into social and economic units. By the turn of the millennium, contact between groups had led to a more ‘pan-Sami’ culture, evidenced by the similarities in artefacts and religious practices.

Although the Viking believed the Sami to be in inferior to them, they nevertheless greatly respected them for their magic and healing powers. Norse and Sami religions overlapped somewhat in their use of ‘seior’ (divination) and belief in magical clothing and weapons. In the Icelandic Sagas of the twelfth century the Sami often took on roles such as shamans, healers or spiritual advisors in their stories.

At this time, there were clear divisions between the Nordic and Sami peoples, though there were little hostility between the two. The two societies lived in a kind of symbiosis, and there are even records of marriages between Norwegians kings and Sami women.

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