Winter fun is just around the corner

  • 2009-10-01
  • By Ella Karapetyan

SEASON'S GREETINGS: Resorts are gearing up for the first snow.

TALLINN - It might seem that winter is way too far off, but that's what is special about the Baltic climate 's winter can start in mid-October and last till the end of April.
Winter comes along and brings its beautiful and pure white snow with it. Sure, sometimes it just gets too cold for comfort, but most of the time it is rather bearable. The landscapes of winter are fantastic in Estonia. Estonian winters are not extraordinarily cold (except for some periods), but are just too long. Snow starts falling at the end of October and spring begins in the middle, or end, of April.
What might make it hard for people, especially for the newcomers, is that the days are really short in November and December, so there are only a few hours of daylight. People go to work when it is dark and come back when it is even darker.

A general tip for staying warm on cold winter days is to put one spoonful of vodka or Vana Tallinn liqueur in your tea. The drink is so named because, according to local legend, it hits the drinker on the head and cuts off his legs.

If one wants to go out, he'd better put on lots of layers of clothes, a hat of course, and pull up his scarf over his mouth, but not over the nose, as when one breathes the condensation freezes and makes everything even colder. Actually, in winter the snow compensates for the cold and dark. An Estonian's favorite winter pastime is cross country-skiing. Downhill skiing and snowboarding are becoming more and more popular with youngsters. Younger children get excited about sledging down snowy slopes and skating, or playing ice-carousel on frozen lakes and rivers.
Estonia definitely is not the hottest place in Europe 's but when it comes to winter sports there is plenty to make you sweat.

Skiing is a fun way to enjoy the best of winter in an active manner: short distances, intact nature and beautiful snow-white landscapes give something for the mind as well as the body. Estonia is a relatively flat country, so cross country skiing is the most popular. Downhill skiing and snowboarding are done on its hills. Estonia's landscape variety provides for ski enthusiasts of every level, but is an ideal destination for beginners and intermediates.

Ski resorts are modern, all necessary equipment is available for hire as are private instructors. South Estonia, around Otepaa the ski-capital of Estonia, is where most ski fans head in winter.
Skiing in Estonia is very safe, as there are no avalanches and the main ski resorts in Otepaa and Vorumaa offer well lit ski tracks during the late evening hours.
Cross-country skiing (also known as XC skiing) is the most popular winter sport in Estonia. As a sport it became popular after World War I when the first ski competition was held in 1921, in Tartu. This has become a yearly tradition and the Tartu Ski Marathon, established in 1960, now attracts professional and amateur cross-country skiers from around the world.

After a day of refreshing winter activities, it is nice to sit down in front of the fireplace and sip a cup of hot tea or mulled wine, or do what the Estonians do 's heat up in a 100 degree steam room, whip yourself with birch branches (braver ones use juniper!), then run outside and roll in the snow.
The temperature difference gets your blood running and invigorates your senses. Estonians say that a sauna cleanses the soul.

Actually, once you have survived until March, it gets better; think positively, the winter is soon over!