5 reasons why Finnish winter is crazy cool

Finland’s winter weather can be extreme, but it doesn’t have to stop students from having fun
The photo shows a man and a reindeer greeting each other in a wintry environment.
Photo: Aalto University Business Students association KY / Aaro Lahtinen, Tiija Kivi

In the mood for something different, something arctic — maybe something extreme!? Finland is the adrenaline junkie of the Nordic countries with extreme winter conditions that are worth writing home about, but extreme doesn't have to mean bad. Aalto University is perfectly located to provide an arctic backdrop for students to push limits, expand horizons and try something new — then defrost accordingly. So, when Finland freezes over here are 5 reasons why the Finnish winter promises to deliver.

People running out from a sauna
Photo: Harri Tarvainen

Cold-water plunge + sauna

This might sound counterintuitive in a country so cold, but this hot/cold combination is strangely refreshing! While the cold-water plunge gains global popularity, it has its roots in Finland — a country surrounded by water. Recent studies have shown that cold exposure can help with muscle soreness and energy levels. Maybe even your research focus, too!

A sauna is a wooden structure where you sit naked on benches and throw water onto hot rocks. Steam and heat surround you while melting your worries away. There are 3 million saunas in Finland, in a population of 5.5 million people, so there’s almost no excuse to not hit the steam! Student housing is a good place to start the sauna search. 

Starter series: first, sauna. Second, cold-water plunge. Repeat. Nothing comes with more bragging rights than swimming in icy water. Finnish-approved substitutes: rolling in snow or a very cold shower.

A person standing in the snow during the polar night in the Finnish Lapland.
Photo: Jaakko Posti / Visit Finland

The concept of ‘Kaamos’

There's a period during the Finnish winter that really stands out. The sun gets tucked away for a while and the country is illuminated with a deep blue hue. It’s dark. It’s different, and it lasts for months. It’s called Kaamos. A Finnish word that means Polar Night. It refers to the areas inside the Arctic Circle where the sun doesn’t rise (from November – January), a rare phenomenon. Although the Finnish winter lasts longer than Kaamos, long Finnish winters bring long winter holidays — and a moment to slow down. Once the darkness sets in there’s plenty of time to breathe between studying.

Christmas and New Year’s break: about 2 weeks off!

Tips for keeping your head in the game during Finland’s darkest months can be found here.

The picture shows a person skating in a wintry landscape.
Photo: Aalto University Business Students association KY / Henrik Asklöf

Ice fishing, skating and long weekend walks

Sitting on a frozen lake in -15C (5F) definitely classifies as extreme and cool! Ice activities don’t require tons of gear, just the right timing — the right clothing — and the right drinks in hand. Finland is surrounded by thousands of lakes (and the sea) so it’s only natural to want to hang out on top of them when they freeze. Ice fishing, skating and long winter walks are 3 classic experiences and with the sea so close to campus, they’re easy to execute. Step 1: pick your favourite over-ice activity. Step 2: drink hot beverages while sitting, fishing, skating or walking. It’s more about getting out, absorbing nature and shaking off that cabin fever than anything else. Prepare to hit the sauna later to defrost.

The picture shows the Northern lights above a wintry forest landscape and a downhill slope.
Photo: Harri Tarvainen

Home of the Northern Lights (also known as: Aurora Borealis)

People flock to Finland from all over the world to track this mesmerising event. If you manage to be outside on a clear winter night from September – March you may catch a glimpse of one of the greatest phenomena known to man — the Northern Lights. These auroras are caused by geomagnetic storms when solar winds from the sun mix with Earth’s atmospheric gases, and according to recent university research, the auroras seem to be crackling. While the northern parts of Finland are most known for the lights, they can also appear in the south. Insider tip: many student associations plan awesome winter trips to Lapland, so keep an eye out for accommodation and activities!

The picture shows students in a funny sledge during Laskiainen, a pre-Easter celebration
Photo: Aalto-yliopisto / Mikko Raskinen

Powder skiing and sledding

There aren’t many countries in the world that turn into one giant network of skiing and sledding trails, but Finland knows how to do winter! Although Finland isn’t known for having steep mountain peaks, the country is known for its long rolling hills. A perfect place for arctic explorers. There are even a few ski resorts close to the university. Winter will drop snow and where there’s snow, there will be sledding! Finland is home to a huge annual event called Laskiainen, a pre-Easter celebration with hardcore sledding that symbolizes the coming of spring. Laskiainen has also become a huge student event. If you don’t have a sled, Finnish-approved substitutes: anything that slides downhill over snow.

As the saying goes, ‘where there’s a will, there’s a way.’ If the stars align, it’s possible to experience this whole list in one day. Morning: sledding during Kaamos to the ice-fishing spot. Afternoon: cold-water plunge and sauna right before seeing the Northern Lights — spiked tea required.

Text: Michele Lawrence

Get to know Finland and Aalto

Finland’s excellent reputation in education, combined with a wide range of courses offered in English, makes Finland and Aalto University an attractive study destination for international students.

A guy peeks from behind fresh green birch branches. Photo: Aalto University / Unto Rautio

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