René Köhler, Scandinavian Wintersports Founder and Guide
René, tell us a little about yourself, and what you are doing now?
I’ve been working in wintersports business since the early 90’s. Mainly in the skifields of the Alps, Canada, Australia and even the Dutch indoor snow slopes, before founding Scandinavian Wintersports in 2004.
How does someone from the Netherlands end up in the business of taking people up to Lapland and a winter experience?
With the experiences from other winter destinations I noticed the opportunities and potential of Lapland during a wintersport holiday in Finland in 2001. First, I started to organize an active adventure trip for friends but through word to mouth soon it turned out to be an attractive concept for other travelers as well. Today we still don’t advertise to attract our customers.
Can you tell us a little more about the climate of Lapland and just how cold it is?
The climate in wintertime is challenging. Extreme coldness of -40 degrees aren’t exceptional. Due the dry land climate it’s still possible to be outside and being active. In general it is minus degrees during day and night between November and March.
Four winter seasons? How does that work?
Winter in Lapland is a very long season and characteristics of winter change quite a bit throughout the winterperiod. Kaamos (Oct-Dec) is the period of dusk. Daylight is getting shorter quickly. Deep Winter (Dec-Feb) is the period that nature is asleep and covered by a blanket of deep snow. Early spring (Feb-Apr) is the period that days are getting longer quickly, but temperatures are still below zero. Late spring (Apr-May) means very long daylight which makes the snow melt during the day. Slushy snow conditions, but with frost during the nights great conditions for cross country skiing or ski touring.
How do you manage the cold?
First of all, you need to be prepared with the right gear and knowledge how to use it. Second, you need to check conditions and always consider a safety margin. This means always take a bag pack with you with something to eat and drink, extra layer, dry socks and gloves.
You have partnered with Rossignol for over 15 years. How did this come about?
My background in wintersports is based as a ski/snowboard instructor and trainer.
How do you advise guests to dress the first time they come to Lapland?
We organize info events where we show how to get prepared properly for a visit to Lapland. Besides, through our online channels we present short movies how to get dressed. Mainly explaining how the layer system works best and what kind of fabric is useful and how to use it.
You take people into a very extreme environment. How do you manage the risk?
Mainly through knowledge and equipment! With the knowledge of the circumstances, risks and area the risk is already reduced a lot. Besides, with the right equipment and knowledge how to use it properly the risk is even lower. Of course, you still need to know how to deal with people and to share your knowledge. In the end there is also an emergency plan.
What advice do you have for people who want to become an outdoor guide?
An outdoor guide should not only be interested about being outdoors. He or she should also be interested in people! Personally I think you should be able to have even a touch of educational ambition to learn your guest at least one thing that surprises them.
Why Armadillo Merino®?
The first technical layer is most important! If your body stays dry, you don’t get cold easily. Merino wool has been proven to be the best solution in this for me. Besides the functional issue Armadillo is comfortable to wear and strong quality fabric for intensive daily use.
Comments and what is your favourite piece of Armadillo Merino®?
My favourite Armadillo piece is the Heavy Boot sock. It easily keeps your feet dry, but also has a great insulation which upgrade your regular hiking shoe to a winter proof boot without having to put on more layers of socks (and the risk of being too tight in your shoes or getting blisters!).
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All images photo credit: Scandinavian Wintersports