Ready for winter sports?

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Although it doesn’t seem so at the moment, soon it’s winter sports season in Finland. Schools and daycare centers in Finland expect all kids to have winter sports equipment. In this blog, we tell you what kind of equipment you should have, where to buy it, and where you can actually do winter sports. 

What kind of skates you should get?

Quite soon you will receive a note from your child’s school or daycare center telling you that each child should have their winter sports gear ready for winter PE classes. The note will say that your child needs skates and skis. 

Choosing the right kind of skates really depends on what your child, or you for that matter, would like to do on the ice. Those who want to play ice hockey or ringette, or generally just want to skate fast, should choose ice hockey skates. Ice hockey skates have a hard outer surface that protects the feet. The inside is usually well-badded making the skate feel comfortable. This combination makes ice hockey skates good skates for beginners since they provide good ankle support. 

Figure skating skates are for those who want to do jumps or figures on the ice. The spikes at the front of the skates are for this purpose. 3-4 spikes are sufficient for this purpose. Figure ice skating skates usually have leather or faux-leather shoe and they are usually harder and less comfortable than ice hockey skates. They do, however, provide better ankle support. 

Hybrid skates are normally meant for kids. They have a soft shoe and can either have an ice hockey blade or a figure skating blade. Because ice hockey skates normally have a similarly comfortable shoe, it really doesn’t make a difference if you get your child ice hockey skates or hybrid skates with ice hockey blades. Because hybrid skates are more comfortable than figure skating skates, buying your child hybrid skates with figure skating blades rather than proper figure skating skates makes sense. This is especially true with very small children. 

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What is the right skate size?

Skates shouldn’t be too big. Especially figure skating skates would have a firm but not too tight fit. These days there are adjustable skates on the market which grow 3-4 sizes as the child grows. These are a really good option. If your child plays ice hockey in a team or belongs to a figure skating club, these won’t suffice.

Here’s a video that’ll help you choose ice hockey skates:

Here’s a video that’ll help you choose figure skating skates:

What kind of skis to get?

Before you choose the skis you should know what style of skiing you’ll be doing since the two styles have their own ski types. Usually, a beginner starts with the traditional style and with the skis that go with that. 

With the traditional skis, it’s important to choose skis that are stiff enough and that are easy to maintain. Stiffness is important since in the traditional style since the ski needs to be in contact with the snow when the kick happens. Your weight and your skill level influence the stiffness level that the ski should have. A strong and skillful skier can have a stiffer ski than a beginner. If you buy your skis from a sporting good store, the clerks should be able to advise you on the right stiffness level for you.

The skis have different types of bottom surface treatments. The best skis for beginners are the so-called skin skis, which don’t require a lot of treatment or maintenance based on the weather. 

In addition to the skis and the ski poles, you also need to buy ski boots. As with the skates, they should not be too big. They should be snug but not too tight. Always try the ski boots (and skates) with those socks on you are planning on using when skiing. The traditional and the skate skiing styles both have their own ski boot style. Thus your decision depends on the style. There are so-called combination ski boots as well, but they are a compromise between the two. So if you know, that you are only going to ski the traditional style with your skis meant for that style, get boots that are meant to be used with that style as well. Make sure that your ski boots fit the binding. 

How do I know how long the skis should be?

The skis and the ski poles should be the right sizes. Good length for traditional style skis is your own height + 15-25 cm. The ski poles should reach up to your armpits or a bit higher. Here are good ski and ski pole heights for kids:

Childskisski poles
90 cm90 cm 70 cm
100 cm 100 cm 75 cm
110 cm 110 cm 80 cm
115 cm 120 cm 85 cm
120 cm 130 cm 90 cm
125 cm 140 cm 95 cm
130 cm 150 cm 100 cm
135 cm 150-160 cm 105 cm

There are special starter kits for kids that are 2-3 years old. For 3-5-year-old children, skis with the so-called step bottom surface treatment are good since they provide a good grip. For slightly older children (5-12) skis that can be used for both traditional and skate skiing are a good option. 

Where to buy the winter sports equipment? 

It really depends how much you or your child is going to ski or skate during the winter. If you don’t mind spending tens or even a few hundreds of euros on your equipment, it makes sense to buy your skates and skis from a sporting goods store where you’ll get expert advice on how to select the best equipment for you and for your child.

There are, however, less expensive options. As the fall has gotten underway, you might have noticed that there are more and more skates for sale at flea markets. Finland does have a thriving second-hand market. You can find skates for sale practically everywhere, skis perhaps less so. I visited the Reuse Center in Koivukylä, Vantaa, a week or two ago and they had tons of skates for sale. All of them sharpened and ready to use!

skates for sale at a Reuse Center
Sharpened second-hand ice hockey skates at the Koivukylä Reuse Center

As we mentioned, in one of our previous blog posts, there are also second-hand stores that specialize in sporting goods. In addition to skates, skis, ski poles and boots, they also sell ice hockey sticks, protective gear for ice hockey, downhill skiing equipment, etc. 

Where to do winter sports?

Winters in Finland these days have really unpredictable weather and hence the conditions are not always suitable for winter sports especially in Southern Finland and long the cost. Most often outdoor ice-skating rinks are usable only after Christmas, in January and February. Outdoor ice-skating rinks are often close to schools and daycare centers and they are free to use. Indoor ice rinks usually also have skating hours open for the general public a couple of times a week. Local sports clubs usually also organize skating schools for kids and sometimes also for adults. They often advertise at the daycare center and school notice boards. The fees are not particularly high.

Municipalities often turn their sawdust tracks into skiing tracks during the winter. They usually depend on cannon-made snow for their upkeep. Same goes for downhill skiing locations especially in Southern and Central Finland. Hence the skiing tracks and slopes are not as dependent on the weather as the local ice-skating rinks. Some local skiing clubs organize skiing schools for adults, more often such skiing clubs are meant for kids. 

Downhill skiing

We haven’t talked much about downhill skiing in this blog post. That’s because Finnish schools rarely incorporate downhill skiing into their PE classes. Downhill skiing locations in Southern Finland are rare and schools really can afford to take kids to do downhill skiing. If you are interested in downhill skiing, here’s a map of Finnish downhill skiing locations. Thankfully you don’t need to buy equipment for downhill skiing. You can always rent them on location. 

Children going up on a ski lift at a downhill skiing center in Finland.

Winter in Finland is long and dark. You really can’t fight it so you might as well try to enjoy it. One way to enjoy it is to learn how to ski, skate, or downhill ski. If you are not into that, try going sledding with your kids. That’s certain to induce a laugh or two. 

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