Christmas 1982 in Kemijärvi. Sami Mustonen, age 5, opens his present to find something he has been earnestly wishing for: his very own downhill skis! The following winters are spent on the slopes of Suomu with his older brothers. Little Sami watches in awe as the famous Kellokumpu brothers from his home village reap success. Kemijärvi is going through a mogul skiing craze.
30 years later, having won bronze in the Nagano Winter Olympics and created an international career as a mogul skier, Mustonen is heading for a familiar summit on the Zermatt ice cap in Switzerland with his coach and colleague Lauri Kolomainen. Mustonen has been looking for a suitable ski sponsor for the Finnish national team for a long time, but to no avail. “Do I have to start making these things myself”, Mustonen says jokingly. He has no idea what his comment will eventually lead to. He goes on to found Shaman Skis – a manufacturer of mogul skis that relies on the Lapland brand.
Roots in Lapland
Mustonen’s home town of Kemijärvi and the nearby Suomu slopes have set the stage for many success stories. The Lapland-based roots of mogul skiing are evident in Shaman Skis’ products.
– Our first two models were named after the postal codes of Kemijärvi and Rovaniemi, Sami Mustonen says.
The latest two ski models of Shaman Skis are adorned with the postal codes of Muurame and Jyväskylä. There is another mogul skiing concentration in Central Finland, which is home to Mustonen’s business partner Lauri Kolomainen. A knee injury ended Kolomainen’s professional career prematurely. Today, he works as the Finnish national mogul skiing team’s head coach.
Shaman Skis are made in Central Europe in a factory that manufactures skis for several top brands. The Lapland-based brand is aiming at the international market and especially North-America, where mogul skiing is popular. Mustonen and Kolomainen’s long-term experience in the sport has helped them gain a foothold in the ski market.
– Still, we’ve had to spend many years convincing people that these are good. When people have actually put our skis on, the feedback has been genuinely positive, Mustonen says.
Mogul skiing is a relatively niche sport with some tens of thousands of enthusiasts around the world. Major ski manufacturers are not interested in such a marginal sport, so mogul skis had not been keeping up with the development of the sport. Mustonen and Kolomainen’s work quickly resulted in skis that are now used in top competitions around the world. The skis were first used in Zermatt only a year after the idea had been born, and by the time the Sochi Winter Olympics took place, three out of four Finnish mogul skiers competed using the skis from Lapland.
For this season, Shaman Skis found a distributor in North-America. The company primarily manufactures competition skis, but according to Sami, the different models serve hobby skiers as well. The skis have sold well and the duo hope that the growth will continue enough to make manufacturing these skis from Lapland a profitable business one day.
To the future with passion
Shaman Skis is 3 years old, and the company currently runs largely on the entrepreneurs’ passion. While Kolomainen travels around the world as the mogul skiing team’s head coach, Mustonen works a day job at the BRP snowmobile factory in Rovaniemi. Their free evenings are spent doing their company’s paperwork. Being a manufacturer of mogul skis and starting a ski brand of their own is a dream come true and a reward in and of itself, but the biggest encouragement comes from the feedback from competitions.
– Last season, Jimi Salonen won a medal in the world cup and came in fifth place in the overall competition using our skis. The success in competitions gives us faith that this is worth continuing, Mustonen says.