The Kola peninsula : skiing at the end of the world

Three skiers went to explore the potential around the small town of Kirovsk, in the heart of the Kola peninsula. Guillaume Harleaux recounts his first impressions of this extreme north-westerly part of Russia, passing from scepticism to a benevolent curiosity.

Yves Thollon

There are few areas on our planet which have not been explored, few areas forgotten through time. It is, however, to one of these, a place called Kola that we, with Fabrice Dompnier and Bertrand Clair, went this winter. A peninsula situated to the south of Mourmansk and to the north of the part of the world where the Khibiny mountains lie.

Yves Thollon

It is difficult to find any information about skiing on the Kola peninsula. The online maps vouch that a massif does exist to the south of Mourmansk, that of the Khibiny (flat Finnish mountains), mountains without points or peaks, just plateaus as if they have been levelled by laser. A geographical peculiarity which aroused our curiosity. This was fortunate, because the arrival Mourmansk airport in the rain, then a two hour taxi ride to Kirovsk, made us wonder what we had let ourselves in for. The further we went, the more we wanted to make a u-turn. Forests of electric pylons surrounded by factories and mines open to the sky welcomed us to a natural environment which had difficulty in finding its place.

Yves Thollon

It wasn’t until two days later, when the rain and cloud had disappeared that one was able to take in to account the potential of the area. A paradise of urban freestyle, but also a good potential for ski-touring with gullies (more or less natural) which verged on descents of 1000 m. Luckily, because the austerity of the area gives you the shivers. However, despite their visible coldness, Russians are for the most part very pleasant and have pleasure in helping you. The architecture probably had something to do with it. It is big, grey and square… even the snow is grey in the springtime. Maybe we should have shifted our visit by a fortnight. I think that, in mid-winter, the landscape must be completely different, and maybe we would have had the chance of seeing the auroras borealis.

Yves Thollon

Finally, during the week we were content with these gullies created by great blasts of dynamite, and even if it was the beginning of May, we found good snow to ski on. Last year Kirovsk (Big Wood) ski resort closed in July, that says a lot about the weather conditions in that area.

Yves Thollon
Yves Thollon
Yves Thollon



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