From the Top – the History of Alpine Events in Finland


The success of Finns in the freestyle events in the Nagano Olympics in 1998 as well as Finland’s improved success in slalom at the same time turned the interest of Finns increasingly from traditional Nordic skiing to Alpine sports. When and how did Alpine sports arrive in Finland, and what are some details of their history? 

The Ski Museum’s exhibition From the Top answered these questions. The information and unique photographs were enriched by a colourful collection of exhibits and nostalgic films. 

The first World Championships in Alpine skiing were held in 1931 in Mürren, Switzerland. Alpine skiing first entered the programme of the Olympic Games at Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany in 1936. In Alpine skiing, there has always been an equal number of racing events for women and men. 

Finnish Alpine skiing has its roots in fell skiing. Women were the first to provide instruction in the sport. Erkki Penttilä (1905–2004) is considered the father of Finnish Alpine skiing. 

The first Finnish national championships in Alpine skiing were held in Salla, Lapland in 1937. Finland sent a team to the Alpine World Ski Championships for the first time in 1939. The competition was held in Zakopane, Poland. In 1948, Finnish Alpine skiers made their Olympic debut in St. Moritz, Switzerland. 

Riitta Ollikka was the first Finn to gain World Cup points in the 1970s, and she won the silver in the downhill event of the Youth European Championships in 1974. Martti Kellokumpu was the first medallist in a major Alpine sports event: he took bronze in mogul skiing in the Alpine World Ski Championships in 1986. The events at the 1999 World Championships in Vail, USA, put Finland on the Alpine skiing world map. After the first round of the men’s slalom event, Kalle Palander was in seventh place. In the second run, he took everyone by surprise and beat the world elite, taking the gold. This was Finland’s first gold medal in the World Championships of Alpine skiing. 

The exhibition portrayed the Finnish history of Alpine skiing decade by decade, including Finland’s achievements in freestyle, speed skiing and snowboarding. The text panels were illustrated by photographs that had not been shown in public before, as well as comic strips drawn by the cartoonist Jupu for the exhibition.