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Ruka, near Kuusamo on the southern edge of Lapland, gives an added dimension to 'cool' as temps drop to 20 below (Celcius) in the dark months of mid-winter. That's not stopped this snug little ski area rocketing on to the world stage, with growth running at ten percent annually. It has been helped firstly by having some of the lowest priced lift tickets in Europe (always a help with prices touching £150 a week in some of the big French and Swiss ski areas) and secondly by developing a core boarding and freestyle culture (partly thanks to a symbiotic relationship with the ticket prices, but an eight month season from October to May is another big plus, who needs Spring and Autumn?). A third strong plus factor is that the resort's snow surety is legend. It is typically one of the first in the world to open in October each year (and one of the last to close each Spring). The icing on the cake was the awarding of the World Freestyle Ski Championships here in 2005 - the biggest ever ski event to be staged in Finland.

Located 25km north of the small town of Kuusamo, (with an international airport) Ruka is one of Finland's largest and most modern resorts. Facilities include dog sledding, snowmobiling and a huge indoor tropical pool complex nearby. 100% snow making and floodlit, with a very long snow-sure season from mid-October to mid-May.

Mountain

The resort's slopes are spread across four Arctic fells served by two dozen lifts. More than half of the slopes are floodlit until 7pm nightly, so don't worry about getting up early. The illumination creates a dreamlike atmosphere in the polar night . Ruka is the official sponsor resort of the Finnish Snowboard Team, many international freestyle teams train here as well. Not to forget the world class Ski Stadium, where the opening of the World Cup in skijumping and cross country skiing is held annually. A Freestyle Centre is used by the team as well as for any other interested skiers. It is located at the heart of the resort action on the western side of Ruka. The course length is 225 meters with an altitude difference of 106 metres. The overall gradient is therefore an impressive 53 per cent or 29 degrees. The view down the mogul field is rather daunting to say the least. The aerial site is next to the mogul run. Both sites will be clearly visible to the sunny terrace of the Piste restaurant. In 2001 Ruka was still pumping out snow from several snow cannons in late Spring thanks to funding from the European Government. The resort has received funding towards the 160,000 Euro cost (Aprox $160,000 US/£100,000) of the project which is intended to find out how long in to the summer they could keep their slopes skiable. The thinking behind the project was not to create a summer skiing facility for Finland's 'general public' but snow slopes for the country's amateur and professional racers and competitors. The project arttempts to keep a slope of 600m length open to mid-June (a month longer than usual) then the snow would be covered through the hottest months for use later in the year - a trick successfully tried by Snowshoe Mountain in West Virginia. The main idea behind the project is to create an affordable destination for summer training for Finland's native ski competitors who otherwise need to travel great distances to get to the summer snow. Training camps are held on the summer slope every year in May and June.

Families

In common with other resorts in Lapland, the excitement if being in such an isolated, northern community, full of friendly people and home to Santa Claus and his reindeer, make Ruka a good choice for families. Children six years old and younger receive free lift ticket and discounted rental equipment so long as they wear their free ski helmet. There is a kids' ski area on both sides of the fjell offering a safe and fun environment for learning skiing, as well as a tobogganing run. The ski lifts are easy to use rope lifts and Magic carpets. The weekly slope programme offers fun events daily for children of all ages as well as adults. Indoor indergarten is avalable from ages two to seven years old, all day and of high quality, but rather expensive. There is a free outdoor snow play area with ski lift next to the Rukahovi hotel and the main ski lift. Chilren using it must be accompanied by their parents. Chilren's ski school is available for kids aged five to twelve.

Eating Out

Restaurant Piste is the place where you bring your stomach in to line with the rest of your body's location - it serves up Lappish and Finnish specialities. If you feel an urge for Alpine cuisine for old times sake, the SkiBistro serves up a great variety of fondues and raclette.

Apres

Ruka's young crowd keep it lively right through the season, and unlike many ski resorts, right through the week. The Music Bar Piste is one of the hippest, with live bands and top DJs often in town. The After Safari Restaurant Zone is where dancing on the tables is de rigueur, afterwards stagger out to watch the northern lights and catch then catch the free ski bus home - time tables not yet known for season 2009-2010.

Boarding

Riders of all kinds can enjoy two superb snowboard 'streets', boardercross course and a FIS standard super pipe. BatteryPark is surely the best snowboard street in Finland developing every season with new obstacles and jumps always in great condition. Behind the great parks is the park team consisting of some of Finland's top snowboarders. As new school skiing is gaining more ground all the time, the park aims to provide for skiers as well. The Masto minipark on the other hand, is aimed mainly for juniors and beginners and is a great place to start practising before hitting the mighty BatterPark. World class snowboarding and new school events are held annually in BatteryPark. Fabulous Ruka in December and Oakley Girls Sessions in April to name some. Oakely Girls Sessions gained TTR 3star status last season, which gives a good chance for riders to gain some TTR points.

// HIGHLIGHTS //
Vertical drop
201m
Ski area
20
Resort height
291m
Airport
Kuusamo
Train station
Kemijarvi
beginner
30%
intermediate
50%
expert
20%