In English

Traditional wooden snowshoes take you off the beaten track

James and Virpi Thornton both think that their wooden snowshoes are one of the best ways to take a relaxing winter walk into nature. Kuva: Otto Ponto

Virpi Thornton takes relaxed steps in the untouched snow right by the slopes of Kätkätunturi fell. Her step only sinks into the snow by a couple of centimetres, even though there is more than 80 cm of snow. Thornton is wearing traditional wooden snowshoes, and when she wears them she does not need ready made tracks to walk on.

The traditional wood-framed snowshoe is approximately twice as big as many modern plastic snowshoes. When Virpi Thornton lifts the snowshoe up, it reaches her waist. Her husband and business partner, James Thornton, has a pair of even bigger snowshoes with him that almost reach up to his shoulders.

– You can go anywhere with these. And you can really explore nature freely, says Virpi Thornton.

MAINOS - juttu jatkuu mainoksen jälkeen

MAINOS - mainos päättyy

Between the wooden frame of each snowshoe is a lattice made from rawhide, and its bindings are either leather or fabric. According to the Thorntons, the choice of model for a traditional snowshoe relates to its main purpose: In a dense forest, smaller and wider models are used, and in open areas or for distance, longer and slightly narrower ones are much more suitable.

Thorntons found traditional snowshoes through the culture of bushcraft. Bushcraft consists of traditional wilderness skills which are used in surviving, thriving and enjoying the outdoors. Their first snowshoes were just for recreational use, to find a way to walk in deep snow without needing pre-made trails, James Thornton says.

Tourists also get to go out and explore nature and the forests of Lapland on nature tours with the Thorntons through their company, GreenTrek Ltd. Operating a company that specialises in nature-based experiences and excursions comes from Virpi’s and James’ strong love for nature and their wish to share their knowledge and skills, as well as how to move around in nature with their customers.

The couple have lived in Lapland for almost six years now and worked in the tourism industry when the pandemic hit, and like with many others, their jobs came to a standstill.

MAINOS - juttu jatkuu mainoksen jälkeen

MAINOS - mainos päättyy

– We had time to think about what we wanted to do. We realised that people can get so much out of simply just going into nature to see what they can find. We teach plant and animal species, walk along animal tracks and discuss all sorts of other topics when we are out with people, Virpi Thornton says.

The Thorntons run their business together with just the two of them. They keep the sizes of their customer groups small with a typical maximum of four persons at the moment. Their first winter was quiet due to the pandemic, but the winters since and the one coming are much better and busier.

Snowshoes are a useful tool for getting around in nature in the winter. For tourists not used to such amounts of deep powder snow, they are easier to get to grips with than, for example, much longer and clumsier forest skis.

– It is so lovely to see when people realise how easy snowshoes are to use. It leaves energy for observing your surroundings and we can discuss what we are seeing and what we have seen, says Virpi Thornton.

MAINOS - juttu jatkuu mainoksen jälkeen

MAINOS - mainos päättyy

The Thorntons’ journey to Levi has seen many twists and turns, and they have sought training from places ranging from Inari to England. Levi itself is full of contrast and there are differences even inside of Levi. The Thorntons live about 5 km from the hectic centre of Levi, and they think it's a pretty calm place to live in.

– When we moved here we didn't even realise what a party reputation Levi had. But to be honest, it's a pretty big place and there are plenty of quiet spaces around and outside town for those seeking silence, says Virpi Thornton.

These snowshoes are also very suited for other services that the Thorntons offer in their company: Campfire-making and cooking, Northern lights photography excursions, and teaching people how to take photos of the northern lights.

– Many of our customers have only seen very manipulated and photoshopped images of the northern lights. Northern lights can at first look very tame and like clouds, but having a good camera really helps you spot them. And then your brain creates connections between what you see in the photos and in the sky, says James Thornton.

During the excursions, even while learning about how to take northern lights photos, the customers are also encouraged to live in the moment and enjoy things as they are, and not be too concerned with just taking pictures. The Thorntons also take photos as mementos for their customers, since taking photos in the cold and dark can be extremely challenging.

– Most people want to take their own photos of course, but they also take time to put their camera phones away and just enjoy the moment, says Virpi Thornton.

– For a lot of people, simply just going into nature to see and hear and feel what's out there would be of great benefit.

These oversized snowshoes carry their user in deep snow even outside of the walking tracks. Kuva: Otto Ponto
Ilmoita asiavirheestä