TALLINN - For most people, winter time means cold weather, the flu season and trying to stay warm. Some people agree that winter has more downs than ups, but there is one thing that most people enjoy about the winter season in Estonia - snow. But the snow, of course, is all about skiing.
Skiing in the Baltic region is becoming more and more popular. The region has a lucrative geographic position and long-held skiing traditions. Estonia, in particular, is an excellent base for those who are really crazy about snow. There are great opportunities for those who like cross-country skiing and other winter sports disciplines.
One hundred meter-high slopes suit the beginner perfectly. But these long and steep slopes are also fun to descend for more experienced skiers as well. In addition to all this, it should be mentioned that due to its geographical position, winter in Estonia is one of the most stable in Europe.
Sudden changes of weather cannot do much harm to the skiing season as it does in some parts of the Alps. Southern Estonia is a modern tourism region with wonderful nature and an interesting past. The region is unique and mysterious: lakes, hills and the nostalgic atmosphere of small towns.
Otepaa is considered to be Estonia's best resort. It is the highest Estonian town, situated 150 meters above sea level. The Otepaa Landscape Reserve is the largest of its kind in Estonia and abounds with lakes (one lake for every 9 sq. km). There are lakes for swimming, fishing and also for birds to nest.
Otepaa is an ideal location for sports, hiking, skating, swimming, fishing and snowboarding. It's a perfect holiday spot for families and young people, who give their 'thumbs up' for active holidays.
Actually, Otepaa, the small town set in the hills of south Estonia, is the most well-known winter sports center in the Baltics. It is also called the winter capital of Estonia, as the area around it gets more snow than any other part of the country. Otepaa is known first and foremast for its ski centers, first of all Tehvandi and Kuutsemae.
Otepaa got its name, which in Estonian literally means 'bear's head,' after the shape of the castle hill, which reminds you of a bear's head. It's also where in 1224, Bishop Hermann started building the first known brick castle in Estonia, called 'The Stone Fort.'
In wintertime Otepaa becomes a winter sports paradise for skiers, snowmobile riders and for anyone who enjoys the snow: there are slalom slopes equipped with elevators and lots of cross-country tracks.
The most popular winter attractions in Otepaa are the FIS World Cup Otepaa Competition (cross-country skiing) and an ice-fishing competition called 'Golden Fish.' Moreover, Otepaa and its surroundings is a place where Estonian Olympic medalists, such as Jaak Mae, Andrus Veerpalu and Kristiina Smigun live and train.
The success of Estonian athletes and the history and development of Estonian skiing deserve wider attention. If one is interested in skiing, or is just a fan of winter sports, then Otepaa Ski
Museum would be quite an interesting place to visit. The museum consists of four halls, where the history of Estonian skiing, as well as the achievements of Estonian winter sportsmen are represented.
Otepaa also is one-of-a-kind place in Estonia, where one can play golf in winter. Picturesque 18-holes golf course, situated just a few minutes car drive from the Estonian winter capital, was designed by architect Pekka Wesamaa. Near Otepaa's center, with its many world famous events, but still far enough from the noise, in the middle of Otepaa Landscape Reserve's natural life and its depths of beauty, peace and quiet, is located the leisure time center, worth seeing and learning about.
Otepaa Golf Center is a positive exception among the Estonian Golf courses. There are many kinds of festive events all year long. The place and facilities fit perfectly for corporative events and big competitions. Children have their own facilities, where experienced nannies are taking care of them, while parents are enjoying golf or other activities.
There is even a special place for the cigar lovers called 'La Casa de Habanos,' where one can enjoy a cigar without disturbing others, but still be a part of the event.
We may call Otepaa a positive exception, since usually the golf courses don't offer activities all year round. But here every sporty soul has the possibility to play winter golf and be a part of the annual amusing winter golf championship.
The second exception is made by the nature panorama, which looks as if a painted background - cupolas, lakes, virgin forest and the small inhabitants of Otepaa Nature Park - goats, hares and the rare eagle.
In one word - Otepaa - is a paradise for everyone who enjoys the snow, winter sports and active recreation.