Saariselkä is located over 200 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle, which means that winter is longest season.
The first snow usually falls in Saariselkä around September or October. When the mean daily temperature remains below 0 degrees Celsius, winter has officially begun in Saariselkä.
- Winter sort of creeps in. For example, lingonberries may just be getting ripe for picking when we see the first snowfalls in the Saariselkä area, says Kristiina Aikio of Metsähallitus, Parks & Wildlife Finland. During the winter season, she oversees the activities of the Aurora nature hut in the Urho Kekkonen National Park.
Winter lasts over seven months
Winter in Lapland lasts over seven months, or around 200 days.
- Saariselkä is located over 200 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle, which means that winter is our longest season, Kristiina Aikio says.
Winter always means snow in Lapland, and the white snow brings much needed light to the darkness of the winter months.
The temperatures aren’t always freezing in Saariselkä, though. It’s quite possible to have warmer weather and wet snow as early as December. For the residents and holidaymakers in the North, snow is an element that allows many activities - such as skiing - that would be impossible during the warmer months.
- In the spring, the crusted snow gets so hard you can even ride a bike on top of the thick layer of snow. Snow hardens into a crust when it melts slightly during the day but freezes over again during the night. We often get this kind of snow in April, Kristiina Aikio says.
You can even sculpt snow into works of art or use it to build all kinds of constructions.
- A snow sculpture is easy to make. You need a cardboard box, which you pack tightly with snow. You can wrap a string around the box to tighten it further. When you remove the cardboard from around the cube of snow, you can then use a sharp knife to sculpt the snow into the desired shape.
Snow protects animals from the cold
Snow can also provide protection from harsh winter temperatures. Many animals spend the long winter hiding underneath the snow. Once the snow cover reaches depths of 30 to 40 centimetres, the temperature underneath the snowpack generally remains slightly below freezing at 1-2 °C, regardless of the temperature above the snow cover. If there is no snow, the temperature of the unprotected ground may drop to 25 degrees below freezing when the air around it is at -35 °C.
- Winter makes no difference to the animals; they get on with their lives as normal. During the winter, their main occupation can be foraging for food. Some birds live in the Saariselkä area year-round. We have around 30 wintering species here, Kristiina Aikio explains.
The snow cover is thinnest on the fells
The snow cover is hardest and thinnest on the fells, where it’s always windy. The beautiful crown snow-load is formed when wet snow accumulates on treetops.
- The amount of crown snow on one tree may weigh as much as an elephant. The tapered spruce, which is also known as candle spruce, is able to withstand the weight of the snow better than other trees. It can bend all the way to the ground without breaking, Kristiina Aikio says.
The coldest time of the year in Saariselkä is usually the beginning of February. The polar night lasts around five weeks in Saariselkä and two months in Nuorgam.
- When the day begins to lengthen after the Winter Solstice, the amount of light increases by about five minutes every week. The first bird to return to the North is the pine grosbeak.
Spring begins when the mean daily temperature rises and remains above 0°C.