I booked this trip as a package holiday with Crystal Ski. I rarely book package holidays. I’m not usually a fan to be honest. But this worked out such good value and it was all made so simple.
We got an excellent package for the direct flights, transfers, self catering accommodation, ski hire, kids’ ski lessons and a visit to Santa’s cottage. Check out the latest deals from Crystal Ski here.
We stayed in Ruka, Lapland’s largest ski resort and winner of ‘best ski resort’ for 3 years running.
Getting to Lapland
I booked this trip as a package holiday with Crystal Ski because it worked out such good value and it was all made so easy. Flights were direct from London Gatwick to Kuusamo, Finland with Tui.
I have to say I dislike the way you’re shepherded around with the same people for everything on a package holiday. Bus transfers mean a bit more waiting around and there’s that feeling of being on a school trip… Although that’s kind of nice in a way! I could relinquish some responsibility for getting us to the right place at the right time to the travel reps! Phew!
Arrival day at the resort was difficult because we arrived exhausted.
We had a 3am start for a 6am flight. Thankfully the transfer went smoothly from the airport to Ruka Village and everyone was dropped at the same point (avoiding the usual annoyance of multiple drop offs when using shared transfers).
We went to the welcome meeting because we’d only pre-booked the Santa visit and there was more we wanted to do. The queues to book activities were a pain. We spent hours waiting to book a trip to a reindeer farm and everyone got seriously grumpy. I wish we had pre-booked more before we travelled, it’s really easy to pre-plan with Crystal Ski.
Taking the girls back to the apartment for some free play with their own toys helped them regroup before we headed out for dinner. The space for the them to play was really useful.
Ruka Village Apartments and Hotel
The sauna doubled as a lovely way to warm up after braving the bitter temperatures outside AND was the perfect place to dry laundry. You know you’re a parent when you’re excited about doing laundry on holiday to avoid having so much when you get home. On that note – you can buy laundry detergent in the local supermarket. We bought a box and left it in the apartment for the family after us.
Now I know having your own sauna sounds luxurious but the accommodation is basic. The pillows were awful and the twin beds certainly weren’t luxurious but the space was excellent and worked well for the family. It was clean – always important. We had a small dishwasher (including dishwashing tablets) and the kitchen was stocked well with all the utensils we would need to make breakfast in the morning. If you wanted breakfast provided you could head downstairs (without having to go out into the cold!) to the Colorado bar for the buffet breakfast.
For skiers and boarders there is a ski locker for each apartment on the ground floor and a large dryer unit in the entrance to each apartment for drying off wet gloves and ski boots. Read my full review of the slopes in Ruka here.
Ruka Village - A small ski resort with everything you need
Ruka Village itself is tiny. You could barely call it a village. It’s more of a purpose built ski resort with accommodation, bars, restaurants, a supermarket and gift shop. The village also has a bowling alley, indoor soft play area and a few takeaway food options. There are a couple of outdoor play areas too for wrapped up little ones to climb on. We found an ice slide too which entertained them for a few minutes.
The beauty of the village being so small is that everything is very close by. The ski lifts are literally minutes from your door and you can ski straight back into the village. Skiing Ruka is fab by the way! Here’s my full review of the skiing and boarding in Ruka.
The other side of the mountain is known as Ruka Valley, the valley is slightly smaller than the village and has similar accommodation with a couple of eateries for lunch and dinner.
Eating in Ruka
Classic Pizza did really good thin crust pizza, the ribs at Colorado bar were delish and I have to give a shout out to RU OK burger as well. Top tip – the kids burger and chips are just as big as the adults and include chips in the price.
Visiting Santa’s Cottage in Lapland
This activity was badged as a chance to visit Santa’s cottage, go sledging with elves in Santa’s garden, eat cookies baked by Mrs Christmas and of course, meet the big man himself.
I couldn’t help feeling a little bit underwhelmed by the whole experience.
We were allocated the 5:30-8:30pm slot for our Santa visit. The bus transfer was running late so what was already going to be a late night for my youngest got even later – we didn’t get back to the resort until 9:45pm which is entirely unfair on a 5yo who has a ski lesson early the next day.
We were greeted at the cottage by enthusiastic elves who ran the children through deep snow to go sledging (the best bit of the whole visit according to my kids). Afterwards we were brought into a little hut for warm juice by the fire and a chat with the elves (they really were very engaging with the children!) before being ushered into the cottage…
The 20 children took off their hats and coats and settled on the floor in front of Father and Mother Christmas ready for a story. Santa shared a bit about his reindeer and talked through a map of Lapland; explaining where his toy factory and post box were.
He invited each child up to get their own elf hat and then we had a break for a cuppa. The cookies were the same gingerbread cookies offered everywhere else with no ‘made by Mrs Claus’ feel about them. The catering was seriously lacking given the activity cost £200 per family.
We learnt a Finnish song about Santa and eventually Santa handed out a little gift to each of the children.
All in all it felt a bit too educational and not quite magical enough.
There are some really special grottos in the UK and it seems that the make believe Laplands created by some of our garden centres are better than this particular reality.
That’s not to say my girls didn’t love the trip and we do have some fabulous photos with Santa.
More Snow and Ski Trips
A round up of the best ski resorts for families; skiing with beginners. We cover best ski resorts in Europe and the best ski resorts in North America
Ruka, Lapland as a ski destination. Plenty of gentle runs and the family park is well designed with 3 magic carpets to get novices up the slope.