In this age of wellness and physical activity, skiing is becoming more popular year after year. It is a comprehensive sport that affects the muscles, the bloodstream, the metabolic processes, and the mind. In addition, it is an inexpensive open-air sport that will take you to the woods, and we already know the good effect the forest has on us.
Wolf Sport is located in Ruka Village, on the lower floor of the Shopping Centre Kumpare, and is the only business in Ruka that is focused entirely on cross-country skiing. Wolf Sport was founded in 2013 by entrepreneur Pasi Kuusela. Kuusela grew up in Kuusamo, but has also lived in other parts of Finland. In particular, when he was living in the plains of Lapua, he longed to get back to the fells and hills.
Pasi recalls his first ski race as a young boy, almost 50 years ago, where he lost his lead when he had to stop to remove clumps of snow from the bottom of his skis. But he still received a Batman car and a candy bag as a prize for completing the race. This race left him with a strong interest in the proper waxing of skis.
Cross-country skiing enthusiasts come to Ruka-Kuusamo from many different countries, but Wolf Sport's customers mostly consist of people staying in cottages and caravans and tourists of all ages, mainly from the Oulu region. There are many loyal repeat customers and many of them stop by to say hello and let us know when they have come to the fells.
Skiers from foreign countries tend to use more services from rental companies, but they do come to buy thermal underwear and other clothing. In addition to buying equipment, maintenance, clothing and accessories, customers can leave their skis for summer storage at Wolf Sport and then pick them up for the following season serviced and ready to use. Kuusela’s motto is personal and familiar service.
"Feel free to come and chat, ask for tips, feel our skis and enjoy the atmosphere”, invites the owner.
FIS Ruka Nordic is the largest annual event in Ruka-Kuusamo. The best cross-country, Nordic combined and ski jumping athletes gather at the Ruka ski stadium to compete for victory and thousands of spectators come there. During Nordic, people don’t shop for skis so much during the actual competition, but come look at what we have to offer them in advance, and after the competition they come shopping and go skiing in the tracks of the world stars.
The trendiness of top skiers from Finland and other countries has an effect on the number of people who ski as a hobby. Kuusela tells about an interesting sales success: The trademark of Norwegian skier Klæbo, pink Leki ski poles, has made young boys in particular to buy out all of the pink ones.
Nowadays you can be skis from supermarkets and online shops. However, to find the right skis Kuusela recommends a more personalised approach. The old-fashioned paper test, where a piece of paper placed under the ski tells you the right weight, stills works better than new tests. Kuusela recommends skin skis, which always work. Even when purchasing these kinds of skis, it’s important to remember the right rigidity, but when you buy from Wolf Sport you can exchange them if necessary. To make sure the ski works, you can take them for a test, free of charge.Clothes to match your skiing style
But with regard to new clothing outfits, Kuusela has only praise. Cross-country ski skirts, tights with padded thighs and hips, three-finger gloves or lobsters, and protectors over the top of ski boots provide warmth at the right places and make skiing more enjoyable even in colder temperatures. Removable pole straps make it possible to grab a water bottle from your backpack or take photos without needing to remove your gloves out of the poles.
The type of outfit you choose also depends largely on your skiing style. The tour skier will sit down in front of a campfire, choose a scenic path and dress warmly, enjoying the nice weather. The active or fitness skier goes in any kind of weather and dresses lightly in thin technical fabrics. The same outfits can be used even when there is not snow on the ground, for cycling and running, so it’s worth investing in them.
The stadium tracks are hilly and challenging for even the toughest skiers, but Ruka-Kuusamo has many kinds of tracks. The Ring Route (Ympäryslatu) in the centre of Kuusamo and the track along the shore of Talvijärvi lake are excellent for people who want to ski on flat land; the same is true for the tracks of Kuontivaara and Vuossali. The Pyhävaara track, which is a bit more challenging, takes you to outstanding scenery and cosy fire pits at the edge of Ruka fell. Kuusela’s favourite place is on the Alakylä track, which goes alongside the massive profile of Konttainen hill leading to the bridge that passes under the face of Valtavaara hill.
"There's something mystical about it, it's a must stop every time; to pause and admire", says Pasi Kuusela.
March mornings, when the sun shines on the tracks that are slippery from the low nighttime temperatures, are the best skiing time. After the first of May, however, Kuusela heads to the ice on Kitkajärvi, where skating on skis on ice that is still half a metre thick, circling the islands, is enjoyment at its best. Of course, you should not go if you are not familiar with the soft unfrozen places, but with a local skier you can find some treasures not recorded on track maps.
At the end of the spring, Pasi often leaves to the northern part of Finnish and Swedish Lapland to enjoy the last snow of spring. Despite his urgent life as an entrepreneur, Kuusela manages to ski between one and two thousand kilometres every winter. There is a challenge for each of us.
This blog is part of the commercial collaboration between Wolf Sport and Ruka-Kuusamo Tourism Association.
Text: Salla Karhumaa Photos: Kia Olin, Ronja Vanhatalo, Pasi Kuusela