FARAVID 33/2009


Jouko Vahtola, The birth of ski jumping in Finland

Finland’s ski jumping sport can be considered to have begun by 1907. Its birth process lasted 20 years. Ski jumping competitions were held already in the 1880s, but they were single events and had no continuation, not even in Helsinki. For a long time ski jumps were not at the international, i.e., Norwegian level. Yet, Norwegian influence, conveyed by Norwegians who had moved to Finland, was very significant. A high jump was made at the foot of a hill, and most important was to stay upright. The hills were very steep natural hills. Usually anyone who succeeded in staying upright for three jumps received a medal. Attention was paid to style and the integrity of the jump, but no systematic criteria were applied. Competitions at such ski jumps did keep ski jumping alive, although for example in Helsinki, the leading ski jumping city in the 1880s, competitive activity nearly died out in the 1890s.

The crucial prerequisite for the birth, establishment, and organization of ski jumping was the completion of a ”real” ski jump, with a built ramp and jump, in Alppila in Helsinki in 1905. It was also greatly influenced by the Norwegians. Decisive in the modernization and progress of ski jumping were the efforts of Norwegian master ski jumper Robert Pehrson, an engineer who had moved to Finland. Standard ideals of style were adopted and precise evaluation of style, using Norwegian-Swedish criteria, became the practice and the factor that primarily affected the order of the jumpers. The length of jumps grew to over 20 meters, which also already reached the lowest ”Norwegian level”. Ski jumping competitions were organized by a permanent organization, a sports club, as a continuous series. Thanks to Robert Pehrson, it was also possible to arrange international competitions, which had a decisive effect on the quick rise in the level of Finnish ski jumping, also. Already by the 1910s individual Finns were able to beat Swedish and even Norwegian ski jumpers, although they were not yet able to win competitions with them.


Faravid 33/2009