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Ice sculptures and Saami chooms attract tourists from across the globe

May 10, 16:07 UTC+3 MOSCOW

When southern resorts open the swimming season, the Kola Peninsula offers skiing and reindeer rides, ice sculptures and snow tents

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© Lev Fedoseev/TASS

MOSCOW, May 10. /TASS/. Arctic regions are the unique area, where winter tourism could be a high season even in May. When southern resorts open the swimming season, the Kola Peninsula offers skiing and reindeer rides, ice sculptures and snow tents.

This severe attraction is popular all over the world. While most visitors to the Murmansk Region used to come from Europe, recently tourists from Asia and even from Africa are coming to those places.

Hills of attraction

The Kola Peninsula’s key attraction is the Khibiny Mountains with the region’s biggest ski resort. About 40 years ago, Soviet skiers - winners of major international competitions - used to train there.

The resort’s second stage began less than ten years ago. The resort offers 37 routes of 47 km, the local infrastructures are developing actively, and the airport is nearby. Quite logically, the local authorities organize there the main local tourist cluster. A Finnish tourist company has signed an agreement to send over tourists to the resort, the local authorities told TASS.

The resort is truly unique. In 2017, an unusually cold year, the ski season finished in June. In warmer years, the Kibiny’s routes are open to mid-May.

Record-book snow

Next to the Khibiny Mountains have appeared a few tourist attractions, which other regions do not have. One of them is the Snow Village, which appeared in the Murmansk Region ten years ago and has become a tourist symbol. Dozens of thousands of people come here every year.

The project’s head, Maria Vasilyeva, told TASS that the Snow Village was registered in the Russian Records Book in 2013. "It is the biggest building of snow - its area is 2,014 square meters," she said.

The Snow Village is a complex of united buildings, made exclusively of snow and ice. It contains halls and galleries, decorated with bas-reliefs, sculptures and architecture details - all of ice and snow. Organizers attract every year dozens sculptors from Russia’s different regions.

Every year, the Village has a new topic: fairy tales, cartoons’ characters, etc. Anyway, it is impossible to keep the works for another season. The organizers told TASS, usually the Village works from December to early May.

Ice as art

In 2018, the Snow Village invites guests to see a Gallery of Snow Sculptures, located in the Apatity city. The exposition unites about 15 ice sculptures, decorated with light effects and special backgrounds.

This project was immediately registered in the Record Book as the first exhibition of ice sculpture in a snow gallery, the Book’s Chief Editor Alexei Svistunov told TASS.

Another new attraction in the current season is the Hyperborea ice park in Kirovsk, which unites specific ice sculptures and a snow labyrinth, hills, citadels, a throne with a colonnade leading to it, and a whirligig. The ice park’s decoration is devoted to the Murmansk Region’s attractions and to skiing.

Choom for tourists

Any description of the Arctic tourism cannot be complete without the North’s indigenous peoples, who have been more than willing to welcome guests. Between Murmansk and the Khibiny, there is another local attraction - the Saami village Sam-Syit. It is a unique village of the kind.

Over ten years of its existence, it made the Saami, the North’s indigenous people, well known all over the world. The Saami in Russia are about 2,000 people. The village’s head, Ivan Golovin, said welcoming guests from Europe, the US, China and India has become a tradition for recent two years, and the past season brought tourists from Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, Australia, South Africa and Yemen. "The world is coming here - sometimes we even do not know where those countries are," the villages, head said with a smile.

Tourists are most interested in the Saami history, traditions, in how the people survive in the Polar tundra. During tours, guests may peep into the Saami houses - big chooms, built at settlements, and into kuvases - "mobile" houses, which the nomads could relocate following reindeer routes. Tourists often have to experience the local extremes - in past winter, the temperature dropped under minus 40, and the visiting group rushed into a cafй, where the tourists remained for practically all the tour.

We can only imagine how visitors from heat-wrapped Africa may feel in the Polar tundra. Specially for them, the village’s administration has ordered 50 fur coats. "Right for a big bus of tourists," Ivan Golovin said. The fur coats are made by modern technologies, though the decoration is traditional. The coats, which are objects of culture, would save anyone from the frost.

Horns for tourists

Reindeer are an integral part of the Saami’s life. Visiting tourists enjoy treating the northern animals with bread, and children are riding them. This year’s season offers another attraction - a snow banana boat ride. Exactly what they do in the sea, though here the banana with tourists is pulled through the snow sea by a snowmobile. "The tourists were beyond joy, even a 90 year-old lady from China chose to try the fun," Golovin said.

Elk Valentin competed with reindeer. The elk was adopted at the age of one month, when its mother died. People used to feed it from a bottle, and now it walks along the village and allows pats and pictures.

For tourists’ comfort, the village has conveniences, which are untypical for the Saami life. In 2017, the village received for the first time permanent electricity supplies. "We are grateful to authorities of the Murmansk Region, as they have allocated 12 million [rubles] ($190,000) for the 80KWt transformer substation and the grid, and began renovating the road to us," Ivan Golovin said.

All these Polar sightseeing objects attracted to the Murmansk Region more than 330,000 guests in 2017. This figure may be compared with the region’s about half population. The growth of coming tourists was about 15,000 people year-on-year, and the authorities forecast the growth will continue. Quite soon, many tourists from Vietnam will go to see the Russian Polar area.

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