A Finnish Arctic ski resort closed by coronavirus tests a creative approach to plan for next season

Levi Ski Resort will test a new fabric that could preserve snow through summer and aims for a record early opening in October.

By Thomas Nilsen, The Independent Barents Observer - April 9, 2020
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Like all ski resorts in the country, the Levi Ski Resort in Arctic Finland had to shut down operations overnight at the peak of the season because of the coronavirus outbreak.

The closure has had a dramatic economic impact on multiple Arctic tourism businesses, from hotels, restaurants, activity providers and tour guides.

[Arctic tourism businesses fear they won’t survive the coronavirus crisis]

But instead of only focusing on the bold red figures, the Levi resort is now looking beyond the devastating sudden end to this winter season.

Snow groomers are currently working hard to collect the snow from the skiing slopes into several large snow piles. The piles are then covered with three layers of so-called geofabric to avoid rain, wind, and sunlight to get in.

“Snow depots are staying under the covers until it is time to spread out snow back to the slopes for the new season opening,” Marko Mustonen, the ski resort’s commercial director tells the Barents Observer.

He plans for a record early season opening in October for the front slopes in the center of Levi.

“We are testing new Finnfoam isolation material, which is a high vapor resistant material. It should minimize evaporation of snow to 5-10 percent,” Mustonen explains.

[Arctic wilderness tourism is hit especially hard by the coronavirus]

Normally, the snow remains in the slopes until melting in early May, but because of the corona closure in late March, way more of this year’s snow can be collected and preserved.

Each pile is 10,000 to 30,000 square meters, Mustonen says, and the piles are shaped by diggers to a form optimized for the covers to prevent smelting in summer.

In addition to the huge piles at the front slopes, similar piles are made at the steep black slope on the west side of the Levi mountain, well known for the annual opening of the Alpine Skiing World Cup in late November.

25 percent loss of annual sales

Mustonen says the impact of the coronavirus, of course, is dramatic for the entire Levi destination.

“It came at the highest possible season. For us, as a ski resort, the loss will be around 25 percent of annual sales.”

He thinks the long-term impacts of the pandemic will change the world.

But, as Mustonen puts it: “We are positively looking forward.” First to the summer season if the corona situation allows it.

Then, towards a record early opening of next skiing season with preserved snow thanks to new Finnish cold-climate creative solutions.

“We believe people are eager to spend their time in outdoor activities like skiing, biking, hiking and breathing fresh Nordic air,” Mustonen says with an optimistic voice.