As a kid, during winter time, I often used to sit down with my dad to watch ski jumping on TV. We were obviously rooting for our countrymen, who took part in these competitions. I remember how much the tabloids wrote about these Finnish “heroes” that nearly always had success in each and every competition, whether it was a team event or a personal contest, it did not matter, the Finns were good. Alas, as much as my voice has gotten deeper since those times, has the quality of the Finnish ski jumping team gone down. The sport even went so far as to declare that they were in a crisis, in 2011, having put in place a rescue plan to hopefully change the direction of the team as well as attract sponsors to the sport. One could say that as an unplanned monument to the rise and fall of Finnish ski jumping, stands the derelict ski jump tower in the southern parts of my hometown, Jämsä.
Pitkävuori, as it is called, was built in 1964, to be a jumping venue for the biggest of competitions. For decades many competitions were held at Pitkävuori, however, due to the towers location, many events had to be canceled because of strong wind conditions. The profile of the jump was also becoming rapidly outdated, the jump flinging the skiers too high into the air, when compared to more modern jumps. The final jumps at Pitkävuori were seen in 1994 and since then only an Audi has touched the jump (climbing upwards video), to commemorate an anniversary of a car model.
Today, the tower stands alone, only accompanied by the ski lifts next to it, which have also gone silent long time ago. I have not visited the sight in a while, only driving up to the tower now, in hopes of getting a few scenic pictures, but the hill had already become a home for a lot of trees and plants, which foiled my plans for a clear shot of the scenery. However, I managed to capture a few nice images of the rather massive structures that had been left alone, unattended for years. Now, in many countries it might not be odd to abandon large constructions to fend for themselves against mother nature, but here in the middle of Finland, a country that lives out of being efficient, it is odd to see such a large object just standing alone here in the woods without any plans for use. For a few brief moments in the past, the tower was apparently open for viewing the landscape, which consists mainly of trees and lakes, but perhaps the attendance rates were low and the upkeeping costs were high and now the hill is silent again. The training jumps, for youth, have also apparently been abandoned and there are only a few skis here and there, to remind of the days when these hills saw jumpers.
Even though, I took this text a bit into memory lane, I do understand that it was not such a wise decision, way back in the sixties to build a massive jump, in the middle of nowhere, on a windy spot, between two ski jumping cities (Lahti, Jyväskylä). The nearby ski resort of Himos, which saw its first skiers in the 80’s, sealed the fate of the ski slopes at Pitkävuori as well. To wrap things up, with good planning, the future of the hill would have looked much brighter than it looks today, heck, with great planning they would have realised not to build the damn thing in the first place. Luckily, however for the Finnish ski jumping team, mentioned earlier, the future is not as grim and dark, as I might have painted it to be. It will be a rocky road to climb back to the top in ski jumping, but it is not impossible, if sponsors and the audience continue to back the team up and more importantly that the team has the SISU to keep on pushing forward.
Perhaps in the end, the jump does still serve a purpose. It is not to remind of the rise and fall of Finnish ski jumping, but it is to remind each and everyone, who sees the tower, to always have a great plan for every project they embark on or otherwise the project might end up becoming a derelict monument, just as the Pitkävuori Jump did.