Skinbased Road Trip: A journey of Two U.S. Americans in Lapland – Part 1

Text: Alan Goldbetter & Photos: Rami Valonen


In February 2022, two U.S. Americans, Tess Smith and Alan Goldbetter, departed on a winter road trip across the Northern Nordics. Their goal? To discover the roots of Skinbased skiing and experience firsthand the terrain and nature that inspired their creation. Below is the first half of Alan’s account of the trip. We hope you enjoy.



Day 1: Rovaniemi, FinlandFeb. 20th, 2022


The snow was lightly falling from the steely gray skies as I pulled into the small parking area outside of Rovaniemi’s airport. Tess’s plane had just landed, and I was there to welcome her to the start of her first visit to Lapland.


The two-and-a-half-hour car ride to Ylläs, in Finnish Lapland’s western fell country, passed quickly. Tess told me about her new house in California, and I explained how living in the small village of Äkäslompolo, located at the foot of Ylläs fell, had been for the last two years.


She discussed her growing excitement for the sport of trail running, and I talked about Skinbased skiing and the joy that comes from moving freely through the nature. It was a joy I looked forward to sharing with her.


Tomorrow we will start our journey in earnest. Rami Valonen, friend and photographer, will join us on our cross-Nordic road trip. He will use his talents as a photographer to document our trip through the North. But for now, it is time for Tess’s introduction to Finnish sauna.


Day 2: Hetta, FinlandFeb. 21st, 2022


The first proper day of our Skinbased road trip took us to the village of Hetta. Located deep in the fell-country of Finnish Lapland, Hetta serves as a starting point for many, great skiing daytrips and overnight treks. It was a fitting place for us to begin, as it was this type of terrain, forested hills and rolling fells, that first inspired the creation of Skinbased skis.


For Tess, this was her first outing on Skinbased skis. Considering this, as well as the fresh snow and dense trees, we both opted to take KAR skishoes. Versatile, stable, and great in a variety of different terrains, they seemed like the perfect tool for the day.



Our short daytrip took us from the Fell Lapland Visitor center, up the Jyppyrä fell, and to the lean-to cabin at its summit. The clouds were coming and going nearly all day. Sometimes they surrounded us, muffling the sights and sounds of the forest, making us feel alone in the great wilderness. Other times, like during our climb, they would lift to reveal hidden views.


Rolling snowstorms peppered the area, bringing a mix of swirling snow and blue skies. It was the end of a storm cycle, and a gentle blanket of fresh powder lightly hung in the surrounding forest.


Arriving at the shelter, we built a small fire and had a little break. It was fun to explain to Tess the intricacies of Finland’s hut system and watch her easily start the fire with a single match and some birch bark.


The downhill in the fresh snow proved to be great fun. A few good turns, some small falls, and a ton of laughs were had as we picked our way down through the forest, avoiding the marked trail which we had used to ascend. When the snow is fresh and soft, it's hard to have a bad day!



Day 3: Hetta, Finland to Abisko, SwedenFeb. 22nd, 2022


An early start. Today we crossed from Finland to Sweden. We watched from the window of the van as the soft colors filled the sky and the sun slowly rose. The drive to Abisko National Park was lengthy, especially in the winter conditions. We passed many kilometers on the snow-covered roads, the occasional sleepy villages, and long stretches of silent forest.



Day 4: Abisko, SwedenFeb. 23rd, 2022


The sun was reflecting hard off the snow, and from the van we were almost fooled into thinking it was a warm day outside. But once the door was open, a stiff breeze reminded us that it was indeed still winter out there.


Exiting onto the shore of Abisko Lake, we were greeted by a stunning view. The slender, 70 km (43 mile) long lake spread out before us, stretching as far as the eye could see in either direction. Large fells dominated the horizon. The Gates of Lapland, a well-known and eye-catching natural landmark, was visible behind us.



Our daily tour took us across an expanse of the frozen lake, and then brought us back along a section of the shoreline. Having grown up in the warm climate of the southern U.S., I still find the magic in skiing over a frozen body of water. Tess was more enthralled by the discoveries that the coast had to offer; an ice cave, where one could ski among jagged piles of ice that early-season winds had deposited into the small haven.


We returned to the car windblown, hungry, and with big smiles on our faces. The only thing that could have made the day any better was the pizza that waited for us back in town.


Day 5: Abisko, SwedenFeb. 24th, 2022


The wind was still blowing fiercely when we woke in the morning, so for our last day in Abisko we decided to forgo the detailed planning and simply drive around and ski what looked nice! We were surprised to spot some powder snow in town, on a hill just below the train station.



Putting the idea to the test that you can have as much fun on Skinbased skis in the cities as in the nature, we went for it. The skiing was so much fun! The snow was so good, and it didn’t even matter that the hill was short because it was so easy to just turn around and head back uphill - no need to stop and transition.



All too soon evening began to arrive, so we began the short drive back to our cabin. Along the way we stopped to climb up one small hill so we could watch the sunset behind the big mountains. A lovely end to a fun day.


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Thanks for joining us for Part 1 of our Skinbased journey across the Nordics. Be sure to check in next week to read about the second half of the trip!


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