If you think of winter as being the months when there is snow on the ground and when temperatures are primarily below zero, then winter lasts here from November through until c. May. We can generally mush on snow throughout this period - although the beginning and end times vary from end to year and some years we are even happily sledding in October! Unlike many farms, however, we are hesitant to book safaris in the transition periods and so we tend to take reservations from c. mid November at earliest - and even those with the proviso that the safari booked might have to be shortened to whatever routes are possible to open at that time.
Locals further divide this time period into early winter (until c. mid Jan) and late winter, since the conditions in the two time periods are clearly different. Early winter includes the cross-over month of November and December. Some years, the snow cover is already well established in November, the temperatures are consistently below -10C in the daytimes and nighttime temperatures can fall below -20C. Other years, we may get one or more November weeks when the temperatures hover around 0 and the conditions become icy and challenging for dog training. Hence, we may need to supplement sleigh training with quad training in November - or, indeed, potentially stop altogether for a few days if the conditions become too icy and the risk to the dogs, too high.
In December, we enter the period of 'perpetual night' and this is clearly the darkest month of the year. The technical definition of somewhere within the arctic circle is a place where the sun either doesn't rise or doesn't set for at least one day a year. We are so far within the arctic circle, that that is true for us for 3 - 4 weeks each year, at this time. However, don't despair - this is one of the most beautiful times of year since the trees are laden with snow which doesn't get melted away in the sun (since there is none). And there is a c. 4 - 5 hour period each day when there is a magical twilight light that illuminates the erthreal beauty of the landscape. Even at night, when the moon and stars are bright, you can see surprisingly far without headlamps because of the reflection off the snowy landscape.
In December, Hetta plays host to British Christmas charter packages - groups of people who fly in for just one day to visit santa and do a crash course of arctic activities. A popular attraction during the winter months is Hetta's unique Snow Castle, which is built yearly in December, until it gradually melts in the May spring sun. The castle attracts c. 5,000 visitors each year.
Some time between December and February is generally the best time to see the Northern Lights and you start to see hints of the sun above the horizon until, by the end of January, you have daylight (a combination of sunlight and reflected light) back again for a relatively large portion of the day.
It tends to be very cold overnight in the winter months and, indeed, Enontekiö has the lowest average temperatures in Finland. Daytime temperatures vary between +5C and -45C - with the average probably being around -15C. February tends to be the coldest month but that isn't always the case. Even within one day the temperature might fluctuate by 30C. Guides often start the day in bitterly cold temperatures and gradually pull of clothing layers through the day.
Temperature, Snow Depth, Daylight and Northern Lights Sightings
You can check out the current snow situation here.
Reindeer are one of the few species to survive up here since they have oleic acid in their bone marrow which works as an anti-freeze. Lucky visitors may have a chance to see a reindeer gathering at some point betweeen end December and mid January since this is the time of year when they separate some for slaughter and vaccinate the rest. Willow grouse and ptarmigan are two of the six hardy bird species that are adapted to survive here and you often come across these on the roads.
Hetta's Christmas Market happens at the beginning of December, each year and takes place across two days. Local craftsmen present their wares in the village school.
The Frostskade 500 route takes you through Norway, Sweden and Finland during some of the coldest months in the Arctic. Participants can use a GPX to navigate and can travel by ski or snowshoe, using either backpacks or pulks for transporting gear.