Have you ever driven on ice?
In Finland you can, as there are three official ice roads which are free and open for anyone to drive.
Just wait for the winter weather to arrive and come to experience the fun of driving on ice!
Three Ice Roads in Finland
In Finland there are three official ice roads. These roads are opened if the winter is cold enough. Meaning that the ice must be strong enough. The ice layer must be at least 40 cm (16 inches) thick for the ice road to open.
At the earliest, the ice roads have already opened in mid-December. But usually the roads open in January or February. The ice roads are usually closed in February or March. But there have been years when the ice roads have been open even in April.
If the ice thickness hasn’t grown enough by the mid February, then the ice road isn’t opened at all. This have happened on average once in a decade.
How to Drive on an Ice Road in Finland
When an official ice road is opened, it is free for all road users. There isn’t a road toll or entry free. Anyone can drive it as it would be a normal road. On the ice road all the normal traffic rules apply. In addition to these there are a few additional rules to make sure that the ice road is safe to use for everyone.
Ice roads have weight restrictions. Cars are allowed to drive on ice roads, but heavier vehicles are generally not allowed. The maximum speed limit is usually 50 km/h (30 mph).
Cars should not drive closer than 50 meters to each other and stopping the car on an ice road is not allowed. If a car breaks down on an ice road, and you stop to help, don’t stop your own car right next to one you are trying to help.
The three official ice roads in Finland are Oulu-Hailuoto, Koli-Vuonislahti and Räisälä. These ice roads are constantly maintained and the ice condition is monitored. Driving on an official ice road should be safe, as long as you follow the traffic rules and common sense.
In addition to the official ice roads, some local ice roads mights be opened during winter on lakes and in archipelago. But unless you are absolutely sure that these are safe to drive, you shouldn’t take a chance. The ice might not be as strong as it looks. Or strong enough to carry a car. There might be cracks or water on the ice. So drive safely, and use only official ice roads.
Oulu-Hailuoto ice Road
Oulu-Hailuoto ice road is plowed on the ice of the Bothnian Bay sea to connect the city of Oulu with the Hailuoto island. This route is normally operated by a ferry. But thanks to the ice road, people don’t have to wait for the ferry’s.
Oulu-Hailuoto ice road is about 10 km (6 miles) long. It is the longest ice road in Finland.
Koli-Vuonislahti Ice Road
Thanks to the Koli-Vuonislahti ice road, you can drive over the lake Pielinen. This is a popular route used by locals and tourists alike because of the Koli National Park. The ice road shortens the distance between the city of Lieksa and Koli village by 51 km.
Koli-Vuonislahti ice road is 7 km (4.3 miles) long. It is the longest ice road on a lake in Europe.
Räisälä Ice Road
Räisälä ice road is on the lake Kemijärvi. it replaces the ferry that usually operates there. The length of the Räisälä ice road is about 500 m (0.3 miles).
Koli Ice Road
Image by Riitta Supperi / Kuvatoimisto KEKSI / Finland Promotion Board