R.O.C.K. in the North of Finland

SnoRiders chats with a member of the Finnish freeriding crew—Riders of Cold Kingdom

by Kirsten Armleder

A man soaring through the air on a sled in the mountains of Finland.
Mikko Kanto is a 31-year-old from Finland who discovered snowmobiling when he was about six years old. Today, he’s part of the Riders of Cold Kingdom Finnish freeriding crew. Teppo Vertomaa photo

Canadians pride themselves on embracing winter and the freezing temperatures that typically ensue but we aren’t the only ones who have perfected this unique skill—just ask the Riders of Cold Kingdom (R.O.C.K.). This crazy group of freeride sledders spend six months of the year catching big airs and schralping powder throughout Lapland, a region in the far north of Finland. Being situated within the Arctic Circle, you can imagine how cold it can get in Lapland but even when it is below -30 C, these guys are still firing up their sleds early in the morning, eager to head out for another day of adventure—provided their sleds will even turn over.

SnoRiders was able to gather some intel on snowmobiling in this wonderful part of the world via Mikko Kanto, a Finnish snowmobiler and a member of R.O.C.K. Plus, we couldn’t resist asking him some questions about himself and being a part of the R.O.C.K. crew.

Tell me about yourself. I’m a 31-year-old, big and sympathetic guy from Oulu, Finland. Oulu is not on the top 10 places for snowmobiling, so I’ve spent a lot of time in northern parts of Finland and Sweden and luckily made bunch of good friends around the sport. Apart from sledding, I like to spend my time swimming, playing guitar, reading books and working. Black humour is also close to my heart.

How long have you been a snowmobiler? Since I was a kid. I’ve always loved two-stroke smell in the morning. It all started when I was around six years old. We had a cabin in Syöte ski resort and after begging for hours, my dad rented a Ski-Doo Safari Citation for a few hours. I immediately fell in love. For many years, it was trail-oriented riding. Around 2004 to 2005, I got into freeriding. Thank God.

How did you get into snowmobiling? Originally, it was my uncle’s and dad’s fault. My uncle had Yamaha Phazer II E, and after 377 Ski-Doo Safaris it felt somewhat unbelievable! I was jealous hearing all the safari stories from my uncle, as they used to have 2,000- to 3,000-kilometre safaris each winter. It all was very exciting for a little Mikko: the machines, the stories, long winters and survival. The original “flame” is still there.

What does the term “freeriding” mean to you? Most of all, it means super good times with best friends. It’s freedom, and a method to forget all the stress. It also means enjoying the nature and respecting it. The meaning of life is to have a good time! 

Tell me about the Riders of Cold Kingdom. Basically, Riders of Cold Kingdom is a freeride snowmobile community from Sodankylä, Finland—above the Arctic Circle. R.O.C.K. started around 2005 to 2006 as a natural result of friends riding and filming it. The basic idea was (and still is) to have a good time and share the feelings and best moments we’ve experienced. By the day, R.O.C.K. has made six freeride movies (five of those have been released) and during the 2012 to 2013 season, we moved onto a series format and released High on RPM, which means four episodes. All R.O.C.K. productions are free to watch in the Internet. Each year, we’ve tried to add something new into our productions, and we’re happy that we were able to add some cinematic or storyline elements into snowmobile movies in general. High on RPM is a natural follow-up, as not even snowmobilers themselves are willing to watch 30- to 60-minute movies too often.

Apart from video productions, we like to explore new riding spots and improve ourselves as riders, but never too seriously—we always have that little twinkle in the eye.

What is the terrain and the snowmobiling like in your country? Diverse—both terrain and snowmobiling in general. We are allowed to ride only on marked trails in general and for freeriding you need to have landowners’ permission. The sport is doing well; we have lots of enthusiasts, especially in northern Finland. Over time, we’ve also had great names in snowmobile racing. Freeriding has become a big thing in the past years here as well.

When does the season usually begin and end? The first trip of the season is the Rovaniemi snowmobile fair on the first weekend in November. Usually, I consider that as a season opener, but we get to ride first time in December. The season usually ends around May Day in Finland, but we can go for the last rides on snow even on the first days of June in Riksgränsen, Sweden.

What is your favourite kind of riding? Boondocking in the forest from February to May, when we have best powder and also get some sunshine at the same time.

I hear you get a lot of extreme temperatures in Finland? What was the coldest day of sledding yet? You could say so . . . we have plenty -30 C days in January and February. The coldest day I’ve ridden was February 2012 in northern Sweden. it was -38 C when we started (See High on RPM episode #1).

What are the Riders of Cold Kingdom up to in the summertime? Holidays and planning next winter trips and productions. R.O.C.K. crew member Joni Maununen rides snowmobiles every month of the year and he is one of the fastest watercross racers in Finland as well. He recently won the watercross king race. The rest of the crew focuses on cheerleading for Joni in summer.

To see their videos, visit the Riders of Cold Kingdom website. You can follow them on Facebook as well. 

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