“I wonder when someone will come up with skis where you don’t need to ski at all”, says a man at a wilderness cafe over his hot coffee. “I supposed that would be caller dog trails”, the cafe owner replies.
Dog trails are the skiing trails where dogs are allowed to run on the track. Usually the dog rushes through the snow with the owner in a leash skiing speedily behind them. We are talking about the changes of the customer base in the wilderness cafes in Äkäslompolo, Lapland.
There are more and more bikers coming to the cafe now – fat bikes and half-electric fat bikes are very popular nowadays but were hardly known a few years back. Now someone is planning to introduce electric scooters modified to cope with snowy backcountry trails and subzero temperatures (don’t ask me how).
Wilderness cafes and ski cafes are scattered around the Ylläs and Äkäslompolo area where the cross country skiing, hiking and biking trails, and of course dog trails, snake through the landscape.
The log cabin with little lanterns outside is a delightful sight when you’ve been skiing for a good while. Take your skis off and step in.
Many of the cafes have an open fire which will dry your mittens or warm up your toes while you sit back to enjoy a bite to eat. Most places offer coffee and sweet cakes as well as hot dishes like fish soup or smoked reindeer soup. I usually stop for hot juice – kaarnikkamehu (crowberry juice) is the best if you are cold and out of energy.
Some of these cafes allow (nice) dogs inside and offer them water when the owners fuel up.
Some cafes are only a few kilometres from the village but some are further away. Many don’t have electricity or toilets, and the owners come to work by snow mobiles. But they come in any weather, even though poor weather usually forecasts a quiet day. You see, – 30°C weather is not ideal for a business that you can only reach by skiing 10km through the icy landscape.
Wilderness cafes and ski trail cafes are a common in most of the touristy areas in Lapland. They are part of the skiing culture, which is has long traditions in Finland. The owners of the more remote wilderness cafes say that the customers tend to be mostly Finnish, German, Austrian or Swedish; The international visitors who are comfortable to wander further away from the village are usually the ones who are familiar with skiing, or fat-biking.
But as long as you know that you will be fine to get there and back, there is no reason not to go.
- What: Wilderness cafes among skiing, hiking and biking trails in Lapland
- Where: Äkäslompolo/Ylläs, Lapland, Finland. And in most tourist destinations in Lapland
- Why: Stop by and take a break from skiing or biking