And now, a harrowing tale…about sleeping in an igloo.
My suitcase was empty by the time I arrived. Every item of clothing I packed was layered tightly on my frigid body, including both sets of gloves and a ridiculous number of socks. I was in Finnish Lapland and, although it was only 3 pm, kaamos (the period between December and January when the sun refuses to rise at all) had already set in for the season. It was pitch black and icy cold as my husband and I drove the 30 minutes from Ivalo Airport to the Kakslauttanen Resort.
The resort is a winter dreamland, home to Santa’s house, the world’s first glass igloos, and a range of other accommodations options like log chalets and snow igloos. I had come to spend my 30th birthday in one of the famous glass igloos, where my excitement to wake up and see the Northern Lights from the warmth and comfort of a cozy bed led me to mistakenly dress for spring skiing in Colorado instead of dressing for holing up in one of Finland’s most northern regions.
I was greeted by a Nordic woman dressed in a silk blouse and slacks, standing on the snow-packed porch of the main lodge with a warm expression that seemed unfazed by the icy wind that had somehow already penetrated through my multiple layers of fleece. We both looked each other over suspiciously before exchanging greetings, my teeth chattering as she casually mentioned how this was the warmest winter they’d had in Lapland for more than two decades.
I was obviously ill-prepared for the experience, which is why I was thrilled when the woman winked at me and pointed me in the direction of the resort’s rental winter gear. I swapped my fur-lined boots for a pair of insulated Norse wellies and eagerly squeezed myself into a windproof onesie before sitting down for the welcome speech with a hot mug of tea and a list of activities to choose from during our stay. I caught myself tuning out the briefing as I excitedly circled Dog Sledding and Northern Lights Snowmobile Safari on the list, coming back to reality as I heard her say, “…since many people get lost. Also, make sure to wear a hat when you go outside after you use the sauna or your hair could freeze off.”
Kakslauttanen Resort offers three different smoke saunas, including the world’s largest smoke sauna that can hold more than 100 bathers at once. The smoky smell of the sauna reached my nose as I loaded my suitcase onto the wooden sled they provided for each of us and began making my way toward the glass igloos. They all looked the same in a sea of packed powder, and I tried to make note of my surroundings so I could find it again. At 5’9”, my husband had to crouch to his knees to enter through the tunneled doorway or our glass igloo, where a petite dome opened up to two single beds pushed together beneath a Zebra patterned comforter worthy of Liberace.
We had booked the two-person igloo with half board (breakfast and dinner included), which meant the room came furnished with a toilet and a sink, but we would need to use the main bathhouse for any shower or sauna needs. A small curtain lined the rim of the igloo to protect onlookers from seeing anything below our shoulders while standing, but the roof remained gloriously opened, the glass perfectly clear and open to the dark skies above. We lay on the bed with eyes wide open, hoping the Northern Lights would make an appearance before dinner.
With dry eyes and grumbling stomachs, we finally gave up, grabbed our gear and made the trek back to the main lodge for dinner for a three-course dinner with wine. We were halfway through our elk steaks when a voice came on over the speaker saying the Northern Lights were out. The dining room emptied in a flash, leaving half-eaten bowls of soup, full bottles of wine, and nibbled pieces of bread to wait as we hurried outdoors, no time to grab jackets. The handful of us present huddled together in a group in silence as we gazed up at the dimly dancing colors in the sky, amazed by the sight and unaware of our freezing bodies until we returned indoors to thaw out and finish the meal.
A quick drink at the glass igloo bar, and my husband and I headed back to our igloo. Chilled to the bone, I decided to warm up with a quick sauna and shower, so I stowed my valuables, clutched my hat, and left our glass dome for the bathhouse. Warmed and clean, and all of my hair tucked safely into my hat, I braved the cold once more as I hurried back to our igloo. Only, I had no idea which one was ours. The darkness and snow placed a blanket of similarity over the igloos, and a slight panic came over me. Do I knock on each one? No, that would take too long. Peak over the curtain to see if I know the people inside? No, I’m not a creeper.
I had left my cell phone in the igloo, so I found another tourist and mimed the phrase, “Can I borrow your phone,” until she had pity on me and let me call my husband through her Wi-Fi signal (which was surprisingly strong for Lapland). “I can’t find you!” I cried. “Wait one minute and flicker the lights so I can see which one is ours.” He laughed and agreed, and soon I was chasing down the sole flickering igloo in a field of glowing glass. We crashed into bed and fell asleep in almost no time, the warmth of our bodies and a few packets of hand warmers keeping us warm in the slightly heated room.
I woke around midnight to the sound of my phone buzzing with birthday wishes and looked up to see the sky light up with brilliant colors of green and red, dancing like I’d never seen the Northern Lights before. I turned to wake my husband, but he wasn’t there. Panicked, I grabbed my coat and ran out the door only to find him at work building a snowman outside our igloo.
“What the heck are you doing,” would be the edited version of what I really said to him.
He smiled at me, looked up at the Northern Lights, and looked back at me with a grin. “I didn’t want you to get lost again,” he began, “so now you have something to remember which one is ours the next time you can’t find your way. Oh, and happy birthday.”
It’s hard to explain, but from that moment on the cold never touched my body again during that trip, where images of my husband grinning beneath the Northern Lights would forever warm my newly 30-year-old heart.