Arctic Finland: 70th annual reindeer cup races held on frozen Lake Inari

Reindeer racing on Lake Inari. (Photo: Saara-Maria Salonen/The Independent Barents Observer)

After a two-year pause, the annual reindeer race cup was finally taking place on the frozen lake Inari last weekend. The much anticipated annual sporting event was held in wonderful weather, where reindeer racing enthusiasts and curious spectators alike could go enjoy a day at the races.

The contestants must be able to keep their balance on the skis while being pulled for up to 35 kilometres per hour. (Photo: Saara-Maria Salonen/The Independent Barents Observer)

This year marked the 70th anniversary of the races, where the contestants are pulled by reindeer on tracks ranging from 1000 metres to 2000 metres. The contestants must be able to keep their balance on the skis while being pulled for up to 35 kilometres per hour. The semi-finals have been held all around the reindeer herding area since February, and the race culminates to the crowning in Inari.

Unlike many other sports, the reindeer cup has not been divided into genders, and everyone competes for the same trophy. (Photo: Saara-Maria Salonen/The Independent Barents Observer)

Of course, the event was meant to find the fastest reindeer and rider of the year, but it is also an important meeting point for people all around the Sámi homelands. After two years of no events, hundreds of people are travelling from far away to meet up with friends and relatives, while enjoying the atmosphere at the races. A small market square has been set up on the ice, where people can buy anything from sweets to leather goods and handmade jewellery.

After a two-year pause, the annual reindeer race cup was finally taking place on the frozen lake Inari last weekend. (Photo: Saara-Maria Salonen/The Independent Barents Observer)

The weekend consists of various contests, including suopunki throwing. Suopunki is a lasso type tool that is used to catch reindeer. Instead of reindeer, the contestants try to catch wooden posts or reindeer antlers. This year’s winners were Piia Magga in the women’s cup, and Jukka Kaarretkoski in the men’s cup.

Unlike many other sports, the reindeer cup has not been divided into genders, and everyone competes for the same trophy. This year’s winner was Sari Kettunen with her reindeer Sämpylä (eng. Bread roll), with the time 3:46,685, the fastest Sämpylä and Kettunen have ever gone.

Related stories from around the Arctic: 

Canada: Yukon Arctic Ultra endurance race back on track this year in northwestern Canada, CBC News

Finland: Miners hunting for metals to battery cars threaten Finland’s Sámi reindeer herders’ homeland, The Independent Barents Observer

Lapland: The Arctic Railway – Building a future or destroying a culture?, Eye on the Arctic

Norway: Sami education conference looks at how to better serve Indigenous children, Eye on the Arctic

Russia: Reindeer calves found dead for second year in a row on river in Arctic Russia, The Independent Barents Observer

Saara-Maria Salonen, The Independent Barents Observer

Saara-Maria Salonen is a Finnish and Inari Sámi journalist living between the UK and Finland. She has a Master’s degree in Journalism and Media Studies from the University of Sussex. Saara-Maria has a strong interest in Sámi issues and local communities around Lapland.

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