Olympic winner Lydia Lassila and her family moved to Levi from Australia
In December 2020, Lydia Lassila, her husband and their two young sons packed up their bags and skis and started their journey to Levi. This happened shortly after the family had built a lovely new seaside house on the southern coast of Australia. Australia had gone into lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic. Lydia's family are seasoned travellers, and they decided that the time was right to chase their dream: living in Finland and experiencing a real winter.
"Finns have a fantastic enthusiasm for the seasons!"
Lydia Lassila is a former freestyle skier from Australia. She won Olympic gold in Vancouver in 2010. She and former mogul skier Lauri Lassila have been married for 14 years. Their older son is in third grade at the Sirkka primary school, while their younger son is still in kindergarten.
"We wanted to experience a real winter, and the kids could go to school in Finland. In Australia, we would pack school lunches for our kids, but here they'll get free lunch at school, which is just amazing. Our boys have always spoken Finnish, but now they've also taken up reading and writing it; this is the right time for them to pick up those skills."
Originally, the Lassila family was only meant to stay in Levi until August 2021 before moving back to Australia. Now the family has decided to stay in Levi. For how long? Only time will tell.
"The village we lived in Australia was small, too, with about 1,000 inhabitants. Everyone there is very physically active ‒ just like here in Levi. We've got everything we need to live comfortably here. The airport is close by, there are a lot of great shops, Rovaniemi is nearby, too, and there's a large fell that's perfect for skiing. It's been easy to get into Finnish culture. I've visited Finland many times over the past 20 years, so I'm very familiar with the country. I'm also currently learning Finnish myself!"
Lydia will attend the World Cup this year to see the top female slalom skiers battle it out for the opening points of the season.
"I've never been able to watch a slalom race live on site, so I'm really excited for Levi's event. As a freestyle skier, I always focused on my own performance and racing, and I never had the time to attend other events. From 2008 to 2018, I'd always come to train in Ruka before the race season kicked off, and that's where I would compete, too. It always happened in November-December, just in time to coincide with the Levi World Cup. I'm very familiar with Ruka, but Levi is a much bigger hub. The services are better here, and our kids' school and kindergarten are nearby.
The Lassila family was already accustomed to working from home before the coronavirus pandemic struck. Lydia runs two companies. Her first business BodyIce was created to answer her own needs after Lydia suffered a knee injury in the 2006 Torino Olympics. She was quickly frustrated by the ineffectiveness of the cold treatment products available on the market; they would leak or slip, and weren't cold enough to help. She decided to design a range of stylish ice and cold packs, which lead to BodyIce. The expanding range of products includes easy-to-use, efficient, portable and reusable cold and heat treatment solutions for the recovery process after an injury. Lydia's other company is Zone By Lydia.
"In 2012 I discovered yoga and its endless benefits for the mind and body. At the time, I was suffering from a back injury that I didn’t think I could recover from. The experts told me that my sports career was over. My mental coach introduced me to his yoga master who helped me start my yoga journey through solo instruction, and I've never looked back."
"Zone by Lydia was a product of that journey. All our yoga products are made from sustainable, durable materials like cork and hemp. We're very proud to be a Climate Neutral Certified brand."
Lydia is a familiar sight at the Levi Wellness Club, where she trains during the day. Ice swimming is also part of her routine ‒ she even goes straight into the freezing water without warming up in the sauna beforehand!
"I often took ice baths during my sports career, so I'm very familiar with cold water. Now that we live on the shores of Lake Immeljärvi, I get to swim in the lake throughout the year. There's nothing like the fantastic feeling of well-being after ice swimming."
Water is an important element to Lydia. She loves the ocean and surfing, which she could do every day in Australia.
"Of course I miss my friends and family in Australia when I'm here in Levi, as well as the ocean. As long as I get to surf in the ocean every now and then, I'm happy. I've also heard that you can surf in northern Norway, and we're planning to visit Narvik or Lofoten to see how surfing on the Atlantic feels.
The first snow has already fallen in Levi, and the polar night period is right around the corner. How has Lydia, who has lived under the Australian sun her whole life, adjusted to the cold and dark?
"The conditions are demanding here. If we had a winter like this in Australia, everyone would be staying indoors. Here, life goes on as normal and people have adapted to the varying weather conditions and the changing seasons. Even though the winter is long here, there's always plenty to do. And even if it's -20°C, people are still out and about. I really admire that."
"I love to see the enthusiasm Finnish people have for the different seasons. You can see it in the shops, too: they're constantly anticipating whatever season is to come. Christmas lights hit the shelves as early as October, and March is considered the start of grilling season. Finns are always ready for everything no matter the season, and you need different gear for a lot of things."
Life is good for the Lassila family in Levi.