The Finnish ski resort of Ruka could be thought of as the “Loveland of Europe.” The relatively small ski area in the Nordic country opened Monday for the ski season’s first non-glacier operations in Europe. With its opening, Ruka continued its 10-year streak for that distinction, according to the resort.
While Loveland Ski Area owes its early North American opening dates to a high base elevation of 10,800 feet, Ruka can thank its extreme northern latitude. Located in northern Finland less than 20 miles from the Russian border, Ruka has a base elevation of only 660 feet. The resort’s peak sits at 1,614 for a vertical drop of about 950 feet.
Assisted by an extensive snowmaking system, Ruka generally has the longest European ski season outside of the Alpine resorts with year-round glaciers. For example, the 2009-10 season at Ruka went from Oct. 13 to June 13 for 244 days of skiing.
Lighted runs are a necessity, because the northern latitude allows for about 3 hours of sunlight each December day. Literally on the bright side, visitors can view the aurora borealis, or northern lights, once it turns dark. On the other end of the ski season in June, the sun never completely sets.
(Photo courtesy of Ruka)