DURING A WINTER like this one, when the whole country is blanketed with snow, the best maintained and illuminated tracks tend to get crowded. Turning your skis towards virgin snow, however, requires a completely new set of equipment, namely forest skis.

Compared to the ordinary cross-country skis, forest skis are much longer (240-280 cm) and wider (7 cm), which is why they float nicely, even in deep snow. One could always opt for snowshoes but they don’t glide like skis do. The tip of the forest ski is slightly narrow and soft as a birch branch. This means that the tip will always stay on the surface even in conditions of poor or powdery snow.

As far as boots are concerned, the most traditional choice is a pair of Nokia rubber boots (yes, that’s the other Nokia) with loose felt liners, which will keep your feet dry and warm in any weather. Some prefer leather boots to rubber ones. Or one can even wear stiff telemark boots, which make the skis a bit easier to manoeuvre when going downhill. One should bear in mind, though, that the perfect telemark turn is not the easiest thing to do on long forest skis.

In the old days, forest skis were made of wood and had to be tarred annually. Nowadays they are often made of glass fibre and have wax-free bases which function well even in wet snow.

The Finnish Army still use forest skis in their training. The special qualities of the forest skis also make them especially popular among winter hunters and photographers. There is hardly a more convenient yet quieter way to enjoy nature!

Tuija Kauppinen