The history of Finnish Worldloppet Masters

Finland is a country with many Worldloppet skiers and Masters. In 2017 Finland had the second highest number of Masters of all the nations in Worldloppet and most multiple masters. Also several skiers who have collected more than ten Master titles are coming from Finland.

The book

“Elämyshiihtoja maailmall – Worldloppet Masters Finland 1986-2016”

tells of how the Finnish marathon skiers first started a loose association of Worldloppet Master skiers (mainly for travel purposes) and then developed into a large organisation which unites all the Finnish Wordloppet masters under one roof.

Skiing around the world in Finnish:
“Elämyshiihtoja maailmall-Worldloppet Masters Finland 1986-2016”

Hannes Larsson and other Masters as authors of the book

The book opens with a general history of skiing by J P Roos, which describes how skiing develop into a mass sport, with interesting details from the early history of skiing and unknown Russian mass skiing events, among other tidbits. Another important information is that the first long distance mass race (Tervahiinto) was organized in Finland in the beginning of the 20th century. So Vasaloppet is not the oldest, as Tervahiihto is still going strong.

After that, Hannes Larsson writes about Worldloppet and the International Association of Worldloppet skiers. The two latter parts are mostly based on the book by Hannes Larsson, the Finnish-French Worldloppet skier, who, with now 30 Master Titles, is definitely the master of Masters. His story you can read in English in Hannes’ own book (Cross Country Skiing all over the World).

After this, the 30 year history of Finnish Worldloppet Masters is described in detail, with lots of pictures (worth to look at!). Worldloppet Masters Finland was established when some of the first Finnish masters convened in Lahti in 1986 and decided to form an association, which was formally registered only much later. The activity consisted at first mainly in organizing trips and meeting yearly before the Finlandia Ski Race in February, as well as other meetings. A ski vest for masters was planned long before it was finally realized.

Finnish Worldloppet Masters in 1986.

In the second section, the activities of WMF are described by the periods of the chairpersons, of which the longest was that of the first chairman, Mauri Mäkelä. He was also active in organizing trips to the Worldloppet ski events. Conflicts and problems during the different periods are also discussed. The bulk of the material consists of the interviews of the chairpersons. The description of their activities is quite detailed. There were many projects which succeeded and some which failed. An attempt to make a vest common for all Worldloppet masters failed, but the Finnish masters did get their own vest, which is very much visible in the Worldloppet races. But there were also difficult periods. At one time there was even talk of closing down the association as there were not enough active members, This situation has happily reversed. The problem of the webpage, which was acute for many years, has also been successfully solved.

The third section consists of stories of two special masters groups which were very active especially in the 1990’s. The first of them was the group of Finnish Swedish Masters from Ostrobothnia, who organized their own trips and had very active cooperation which still continues.

The final sections contain interviews and texts by active members of WMF from old times to the present. Here are included also the exceptional worldloppet masters, such as the famous Finnish skier Pauli Siitonen, who won the Vasaloppet several times (see below), Siiri Rantanen, a still very active top Finnish female skier from the 50’s and Juha Mieto, famous for his near losses in Ski World Championships. And all the great Finlandia WL race winners, Siiri Rantanen, Pauli Siitonen and Jukka Hartonen are remembered. Many Worldloppet travel stories are also included.

There is also an extensive photo presentation of the 30 anniversary banquet in Lahti in 2016.

In the end, all Finnish Worldloppet Masters are listed by year and number of Master titles.

First insights into the book of Finnish Worldloppet skiing

To give you some flavour of the book, here are some anecdotes and stories included in the book:

In addition to the book, we celebrated the 30th anniversary by ordering a special edition of skis, both classic (with skins) and skating versions. More than 50 pairs are now in use by Finnish Worldloppet masters. So if you happen to see a skier with a Worldloppet logo on his Peltonen skis, you know that it is the special edition! One Finnish master, Ilmari Ojanen ordered the skis but left them unused, for later donation in a ski museum.

The Finnish ostrobothnia WL skiers are a special group who organised travels to the races beginning from 1980’s. The stories about their adventures are in Swedish and are very instructive in the difficulties that previously met the long distance travelling skiers. Especially Marcialonga has been difficult, both when getting there and finishing the race.

Pauli Siitonen is famous among all the long distance skiers. He has won several Worldloppet races and is the man behind the term “Siitonen step” which was popular before full skating became possible. According to Siitonen, he did not invent the technique, which was used always when it was possible (i.e. after the tracks were made by machines and even before when the snow was hard and icy. ) His most bitter loss was in Vasaloppet when he did not realize that a Swede was coming from behind and passed him on the goal line. Just because he thought that the big applause was for him and not for the guy coming from behind!

Timo Hakulinen is one of the first Masters in Finland, 1985. He participated in the races before the Worldloppet organisation was established, for instance in Fossavatnsgangan and in New Zealand. He tells interestingly about the races before they became Worldloppet races. And problems when he could not use glasses because of the fog or when his shoulder was displaced and he had to ski the remaining race with one arm only.

Another skier with a large portion of sisu was Kari Kilpinen, who successfully resisted the efforts of the organizers to stop him when he had terrible cramps or threw up his food just before the finish. As he says: I would never have believed that I will be a triple master after having bought a pair of skis in 1994 just to keep up my condition!

Hannes Larsson has a chapter in the book about Worldloppet as an organisation but also he gives us some personal reminiscences. He started Worldloppet events in 1977 but became WL master only in 1996. After this, he began collecting Master titles. Even after he was diagnosed as having the classic ailment of endurance sportsmen: paroxysmal atrial fibrillation, PAF. He was operated in 2014 and has skied several races after that. He has had several accidents, for instance in Fossavatnsgangan which has quite difficult downhills when the tracks are icy.

Last but not least: Worldloppet skiing is not only a men’s hobby in Finland. We have many female Masters in Finland and some of the tell their stories in the book. For example, Raija Neuvonen, double master, has a very detailed description of her experiences in Japan in 1998, when she skied the Sapporo Ski Marathon (and the Othaki ski marathon). She stayed with Japanese families who belonged to the Sapporo-Finland association and she was the only Finnish participant in 1998 (nowadays there are more). In Hokkaido, there is lots of snow, but not as many skiers as in Finland…

There are still some copies left and available for a price of 35 €. So if you are interested, just send an email to

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