Eight decades ago, great excitement was in the air in Salla. The first finnish National Championship in winter sports were about to begin in Salla! The first slalom and downhill skiing races took place in 1937 at the original Salla Fells, Sallatunturi and Rohmoiva, which today are situated on Russian territory. The winner, racing on a natural surface and hand made wooden skis, was the legendary Erkki Penttilä. Back then, the runs were created by stomping by foot, the competitors made their way to the top of the run on foot and trying not to hit on a tree, while the audience cheered the athletes on both sides of the slope! There were no safety barriers, mattresses or ski lifts.
Since then, many things have changed and even the fell itself is not the same, as the original was conceded to Russia following WWII. A young local boy, who witnessed the original championships first hand, was inspired to replace the lost slope. His ski run is now flanked by 14 others as well as 6 lifts, and skiers from all over the world come to enjoy these slopes.
Salla - birth place of skiing
Among the organisers of the historic Finnish championships at Salla was the local Sallan Karhut sports club. The club has been active since 1929 and remains popular and well-attended to this day. In addition to alpine pursuits, the club also offers opportunities for other sports, including midnight trail running for both locals and visitors. The Salla Midnight Trail Run and last summer’s orienteering events were well attended, attracting both advanced runners and novices. More night-time running is planned for the next summer season and information on these will be provided closer to the time.
In tribute to the 80th anniversary of the first slalom and downhill skiing Finnish Championships, Sallan Karhut will be organising an anniversary National Championship slalom in Salla this spring. And what an event it will be, with an entire week’s worth of sporting fun and Finnish Championship races to look forward to! The event kicks off with slalom racing, including a Finnish Championships, a FIS event, as well Finnish Youth Championships in slalom, super slalom and pair slalom. Down the slopes there will be also other atractions and café for the audience including the Alpine Skiing History tent. “We are hoping to deliver a fun and popular sport event for all. If we succeed in attracting plenty of competitors and audience and offer an excellent selection of activities, the event will have a positive impact for the local area, including the tourism sector,” commented Sallan Karhut organiser Kalevi Korhonen.
The championships will be put together and run by volunteers, and the organisers are hoping to use local talent as much as possible. The challenge is to secure sufficient numbers of volunteers, who are able to attend full-time at such a long event and also need to be proficient skiers in order to work effectively on the slopes. This is particularly important as Sallan Karhut are known for their high standards and quality! The organisers are putting out a call for volunteers and everyone is welcome to join in, including former club members and the general public. The club Chairman, Jarkko Korkeasalo, highlights the important role partners play in the delivery of events of this kind: “Our partners are important to everything that we do, and the contribution of our active members and volunteers is vital. Happily, we have always received excellent support but you can never have too much help. We would like to invite everyone to join us with this exciting event and our excellent group!” The ski championships are organised by Sallan Karhut in collaboration with Salla Municipality and Kaunisharju Oy.
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