Photos: Andrew Napier
The lights are on all day - the slopes this far north only see daylight for a few hours a day, and even then it’s mostly overcast. The surrounding villages are small and remote, and the lifts run from 9 to 7. This is Ruka, the home to some of the hottest skiing talents on the planet. It also played host most recent Slvsh Cup featuring the local talent in a “Finland vs The World” format. I hopped on the phone with Slvsh’s Joss Christensen to get an inside look on and off the hill at Slvsh Cup Ruka.
First things first, what makes the skiers from Ruka so damn good? I asked Joss, and his answer wasn’t about something in the drinking water. Instead, he explained that “they’re kind of in a bubble up there. There are two villages, one on either side of the ski resort, other than that, you’re kind of in the middle of nowhere up north. So really all there is to do up there is go skiing and hang with your friends.” So, endless hours of skiing, and thinking about skiing, and talking about skiing. Check. Pull these skiers out of the bubble, where there’s some actual sunshine and they’re on another level.
Team Finland was represented by Antti Ollila, Aleksi Patja, Joona Kangas, and Elias Syrja - tasked with defending their home turf and fighting for the Slvsh Cup win. Joss noted that this is probably the most fearsome country team possible in Slvsh, anchored by three-time finalist and 2017 Slvsh Cup winner Antti. Here’s how Joss described it, “In general, the Finnish skiers just have the craziest tricks - bending their knees in the craziest ways, and doing things like landing with one ski backwards, or taking off with one ski backwards. It’s a very unique take on skiing that you don’t see much anywhere else. I think America would give them the best run for their money though.”
The “bubble” of Ruka proved to be a great venue for a Slvsh Cup, too, removing any distractions and providing a great park. Long days on the mountain and long nights off hill brought the crew pretty close together. Joss remarked that the cup had major throwback vibes to the days of competitions before national teams split the community up into their own worlds - everyone was just hanging and having a good time.
I was unable to pry any specific stories out of Joss, but this will give you the gist, “We were up until like 4 am every night, one night I’m pretty sure Max didn’t go to bed until 8:30 in the morning [laughs]... Johan Berg is probably the craziest off the hill - he’s a silent killer, and he’s definitely a good apres skier. The Finnish skiers are probably the quietest out of anyone. Finnish is like a secret language because no other countries speak it. The Swedish and Norwegian dudes can’t understand it, but the Finns can kind of understand them. So they can be a bit in their own bubble until they get more comfortable around the crew. Aleksi breaks the mold the most… he’s a chatter.”
The hottest take from the off-mountain action, however, was the soundtrack to the cup. Skier Hugo Burvall AKA Phantom on Da Track provided the beats for the videos, making Slvsh a fully in-industry production from design, to sound and filming. Bigger news may be the tunes they listened to at the cup, courtesy of the mixtape made by Joss, filmer Andrew “Napes” Napier, and Torrin Yater Wallace. Joss said much of it may never see the light of day, but stay tuned for the drop.
The games themselves were everything we’ve come to expect from a Slvsh Cup - tight battles, comebacks, upsets, and plenty of great riding. The consolation game between Antti and Max maybe epitomizes the Slvsh spirit the most, with a sick comeback attempt from down four letters Max really showed his skills. More importantly, the vibe of this game was tangibly rad. Joss commented on this, too, talking about how the consolidation games are often the best of the cup because the pressure to get the W is off, and the prize money is pretty similar between 3rd and 4th. The result is a “bonus” game of sorts, where the skiers just get to go out, have fun, and push each other.
Joona’s semifinals upset of Antti is another reminder why we love Slvsh. Antti was maybe having a bit of an off day, and his buddy took him down. While Joona certainly isn’t unknown, he has probably been a bracket buster to those who tried to predict the outcome.
Through these cups, Slvsh continues to be an amazing bridge in the ever-more polarized world of skiing. Slvsh Cup Ruka was no exception, bringing a crew of skiers from all over the world to take on a hotbed of skiing talent on their own turf to duke it out for the win. The simplicity of the concept once again serves to remind skiers from Joss to the viewers what it is we love about freeskiing.
Tune in for tomorrow’s final game with Joona challenging Colby Stevenson for the win!