I dig out my skis from the winter store, attach them to my feet and grab the poles. The first kicks and pushes, accompanied by the familiar hissing sound, make me smile. I don't need to think about the movements or the right rhythm. Skiing is like cycling: If you've learnt the skill as a child you don't lose it, even after a long break.
For me it has been six months since I last went skiing. It was the most magnificent day in late winter. The place was the Paloheinä district of Helsinki, where a colourful mass outing was taking place. It seemed as if there were more people there than in the city centre, some 20 kilometres away. People of all ages and sizes were enjoying the fresh air, the joy of exercise and, last but not least, the sunshine reflected by the shimmering snow. It was freestyle, and everyone from accomplished skiers to small children was moving at their own pace. Some were venturing out on skis for the first time, with many people having hired equipment and received instructions from the ski rental office.
I am in a peaceful world of my own.
Now, in the early winter twilight, things are different. The illuminated skiing tracks running along the banks of the Vantaa River are nearly deserted – I meet only a few people taking exercise after a day in the office. I pass under the motorway leading from Helsinki Airport, some 10 kilometres away, to the city centre. Despite the traffic on the road and the densely populated surroundings I am in a peaceful world of my own.
The city lights glow on the horizon, making me think of the many skiing trips I've taken to Lapland. There the bright moon on a cold night shines a unique kind of light which is intensified by the snow. Nights like that have a dreamlike quality, emphasised by the silence in the wilderness. It is hard to believe that that world is only an hour's flight away.
I continue skiing, unzipping my jacket a little when my muscles start feeling warm. At Haltiala Farm, where cattle graze in summer while city children gather to see the wonders of country life, I take a drink of juice from my bottle to benefit from the effects of the sugar. Skiing exercises the whole body and uses quite a lot of energy.
I ski at a brisker speed for the rest of the journey. Long pole pushes work wonders on my shoulders, which are stiff from working at a computer. Each kick slides the skis forward. My thoughts drift even further as I stop thinking about everyday matters. I arrive back at my house sooner than I expect. Taking the skis off I feel happy. The skiing season has begun.
Lapland Airports: www.laplandairports.com/
Text: Sami Laakso