I closed my eyes. Tiny snowflakes drifted onto my face. I tried to register a sound but there were none. Just silence. My body felt weightless, like I was hovering in mid-air, yet I knew I wasn’t. It was a strangely soothing feeling as I felt my muscles quite literally unwind, from my fingers right down to my toes. The sensation of total relaxation surprised me, considering where I was at that very moment: strapped into a thick rubber survival suit and floating in a hole carved out of a frozen lake, 150km north of the Arctic Circle in Finnish Lapland!
Ice-floating is one of many winter activities in Finnish Lapland. In Ylläs (pronounced as ‘Ool-las’), the premier winter sports destination in Finland, you can embark on all sorts of activities including snowshoe hikes, husky-sledding, reindeer and snowmobile safaris. When I heard about the ice-floating experience in a nearby lake, I didn’t have to think twice!
On our way to the lake, we passed a smoke sauna (a traditional Lappish experience) before being led into a cute house where I was hoisted, fully-clothed, into a thick survival suit. These suits were designed for Arctic expeditions but here in Ylläs, they have a more relaxing purpose: to keep you warm and afloat in the icy water of the frozen Lake Ylläsjärvi. I had a look at myself in the mirror and burst out laughing – I looked like a Teletubby in that bulky suit!
Once we were tightly strapped in, we received the green light to venture outside. We trudged through the snow to the lake which was completely frozen except for a ‘pool’ that had been carved out of the ice. After a few instructions, I slowly lowered myself onto the ladder and into the water. The air in the suit rushed from the legs to my upper body, creating a vacuum effect around my legs and the opposite effect around my upper body (which started to look like the ‘Michelin Man’!). Once my feet touched the lake bed, I allowed myself to lean backwards and drift away.
The first thought that crossed my mind was the sensation of floating in mid-air. “Is this what it feels like in zero-gravity?”, I pondered. The water was calm and the suit kept me warm and snug. My mind and body relaxed in an instant. I lifted my head up every so often to remind myself of where I was. It was surreal to see the frozen lake, the snow-covered trees and the icy water I was in. The only part of my body that started to get cold were my hands.
I floated in the pool for about 20-odd minutes in a blissful state before paddling back to the ladder. It was an unworldly experience, one that I would highly recommend to anyone looking for a surreal (and very relaxing) winter experience in Lapland.
Getting there: the closest airport to Ylläs is in Kittilä, about a 40-minute bus-ride away. There are scheduled flights from Helsinki as well as a variety of chartered services from various points in Europe to Kittilä.
Note: a big thank you goes to Visit Finland and Ylläs for hosting me in Lapland. As always, all opinions expressed above are mine.