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Lapland and the Icehotel

Anonymous
Fri, 02/15/2008 - 19:54

Magic! I don't classify myself as sporty, but I thoroughly enjoyed Arctic Boot Camp. The accommodation was a pleasant surprise, as I'd been expecting an unheated shed after reading the Trip Notes. Instead the base camp of the Mushers Lodge was just like a normal warm house, with added sauna. Bunkbeds were incredibly creaky but the view of the dog kennels was worth it. The Wilderness Lodge 8 miles away in the forest near the frozen lake was fine too. No running water or electricity, but a roaring woodstove soon warmed it up. There were 3 rooms with 4 solid bunkbeds in each off the main room and an attic of beds above. The 2 long drop loos were in a very picturesque hut, and the cold temperatures meant there wasn't much of a smell. If you go, do brave the sauna. There's a warm changing room next to it, and the wood-heated sauna really gives off a different heat to the electric ones. You feel incredibly clean afterwards.

 I didn't take to cross-country skiing but by walking the 8 miles I beat everyone home! Igloo building was a great way of bonding and surprisingly satisfying. I hated the 4 hours of snowmobiling as an hour would have been enough. The rare high-speed blasts across the frozen lakes were fun, but the relentless bumpy tracks and roaring noise really jarred with the beautiful tranquillity around us.

Dog sledding was the definite highlight. You learn how to harness them and then control your team by braking or helping scoot the sledge up the hills. The yapping before they start is incredible, but once they're running they're silent and you can really enjoy the snow-covered landscape. The snow off the tracks was up to my waist and the trees had huge dollops of the white stuff - it was like Narnia!

Unfortunately we came back late from dog sledding so only had half an hour to dash round the Icehotel's amazing design suites before they closed. There were some beautiful sculptures. We had a great meal at the Homestead restaurant, kicked back in the warm bar below the Icehotel restaurant before heading down to the Absolut bar. It really is amazing, and felt very James Bond despite being dressed as an oil rig worker smelling of dog.

The overnight stay in the Icehotel icebeds was alot better than I'd anticipated too. The warm block has lockers more than big enough to take two daysacks. There were toilets, showers, changing areas, towels, hairdryers and a sauna too. You don't sleep directly on the ice, but have an ice plinth, mattress, insulating reindeer skin and then a thermal sleeping bag designed for minus 40. The ambient room temperature is minus 5 so you're definitely warm enough. The standard rooms are pretty plain and monastic after the design suites, but I suppose it doesn't matter too muchas you've got your eyes closed for most of it.

I slept in thermals plus a microfleece and hat which was ample. The only trouble is the sleeping bag is a real mummy one, with a tiny hole for your nose, and felt a bit claustrophobic. A highlight was the trip to the loo at 3am. I stumbled out through the ice hall, all soaring blues and greens and white, and felt like I was on another planet! 2 minutes later the warm block was playing ethereal Swedish folk singer Sofia Joff. I bought the CD in the shop the next day which really transports me back...

Top tips: Don't worry about taking boots, hiking boots or full-on ski gear as insulated boots, cosy mittens, fur-lined hats and really warm overalls are provided. You just need something to travel in to and from the airport. The transfer minibus is heated too. You don't need to lug a huge rucksack, as all your stuff stays permanently at the Mushers Lodge. Take a suitcase and then a daysack for your toothbrush for the overnight stays in the Wilderness Lodge. You'll wear the same clothes two days in a row, so you won't need to pack much.

Trip Notes advise taking alcohol with you. If you do, you'll need to pack it in your hold luggage if you're transferring at Stockholm because of the liquids ban. Transporting it to the Wilderness Lodge in a day pack is a pain, so probably best to take individual beer cans or a hip flask.

Whether you're a girl or a boy, take moisturiser as the air is VERY dry and your skin will suffer.

Take snowgoggles for snowmobiling and heat pads for feet and hands as it gets incredibly cold.

Take a head torch for the Wilderness Lodge and midnight walk to the loo. And I found my hat sometimes fell down in front of my eyes, so I fixed it with a plastic clip for plastic bags. Plastic bags are a good idea too for decanting your overnight toiletries.

Most days I wore thermal long johns, thermal long-sleeved top, then fleece jogging bottoms, a microfleece long sleeved top and a normal outdoor fleece under my overalls. I'd recommend taking about 3 sets of thermals to switch around and 2 microfleeces. I loved my Polar Buff too.

Oh, and put your camera on a cord so you can hang it round your neck, tuck it underneath your outdoor fleece to keep it warm and not worry when you're trying to take pictures one-handed hanging onto your dog sled as you fly across a stunning frozen lake!

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Anonymous
Thu, 02/21/2008 - 11:06

I'm looking to book this trip for Christmas this year - well excited after reading your review!

Excellent piece

Neil

Anonymous
Mon, 03/03/2008 - 14:00

Got back on Saturday 23 February from this trip.  Oscarina makes much the same comments as I would.  It was much more comfortable at Mushers Lodge and even the wilderness lodge than we had expected. The temperatures generally did not seem as cold as we had thought they would be or maybe we went too well prepared because of what it said in the trip notes. We didn't use the hand and feet warming pads we took at all.

It was tiring but so much fun and the 2 days with the dogs was the best.  The cross-country ski-ing was hard work and (never having skied before) I took them off and walked part of the way when I got fed up with falling over on a rutted downhill section but managed to get back on to complete the rest of the course. The lunchtime trackside campfires were very welcome and I shall miss the sausage and cup-a-soup concoctions prepared by our brilliant guide Sabine. 

I went passenger on the snowmobile trip as I was too nervous to be in charge of one and I found the noise and smell a bit incongruous with the beauty and tranquility around us. The main plus for the snowmobiling was that we could get further into wilder scenery and I could take more one-handed photos from the back seat.  My camera behaved well (I kept it in my top zip pocket between shots, sometimes in a zippy bag) and I only needed to change the batteries once.  Tip: if you have binoculars, have them with you all the time. The one time we saw a grazing moose was on the snowmobile trip and I had left mine behind.

Our group of 11 of very assorted ages (17 to 60+) worked well together, starting with the team igloo construction on our first day.  Only the four more mature members of the party actually did the proper sauna experience at the wilderness lodge (including rolling in the snow), the rest preferring to stay in the cabin in the warmth of the log fire.

Oh and we did see a slight glimmer of northern lights, which was better than nothing.

Jean

Anonymous
Tue, 03/04/2008 - 21:14

Can you advise me as to how long you spend dog sledding?

Anonymous
Sun, 03/09/2008 - 21:37

We spent two days dogsledding and our guide said that if the group wanted to, she could change the itinerary so we could do it for another day as well (e.g instead of the snowmobiles) but although we all really enjoyed the dogs, we also wanted to do the snowmobiling.

 Jean

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