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Sports destination created by water

How did these landscapes come about?

At the end of the Ice Age, around 12 000 years ago, the continental ice sheet that had shaken Finland’s surface was melting. Suddenly, however, the climate cooled and the retreat of the glacier’s edge came to a pause. Within the ice sheet, in tunnels and crevasses, meltwater flowed as glacial rivers. These glacial rivers transported, sorted and deposited huge quantities of gravel and sand at the margin of the ice sheet, creating an outstanding geological wonder, the hundreds of kilometres-long Salpausselkä ridge.

As the huge ice blocks that had broken off from the glacier and become buried in the ground melted, steep-sided depressions, kettle holes were formed. Today this kettle hole landscape hosts the Salpausselkä stadium and ski jumping arena, the very heart of sports in Lahti. For over a hundred years, this unique natural environment has inspired people both to exercise for wellness and test their limits in fierce competition.

The area of the Sports Centre is one of the finest sites of Salpausselkä UNESCO Global Geopark. Over time, the Sports Centre has developed into a year-round recreational and competitive venue for dozens of sports. The Ski Stadium has been designated as a built cultural heritage site of national significance, including the sports field, grandstands and ski jumps. The site is significant both in architectural terms and as part of the cultural and sporting history of Lahti and Finland.

In Lahti, the unique terrain of Salpausselkä provides a platform for varied race tracks that are some of the most demanding in World Cup. Legendary spots along the tracks are well known for the commentators. The steep J-curve on the hillside is one of the most famous spots on the race tracks – even the best skiers don’t always manage the curve the best way.

Have you heard of the days when the 50 km race was skied in the diverse, rolling terrain of Salpausselkä? The legendary Salpausselkä sports venue is not limited to the area of the Sports Centre. Behind the ski jumps, a “skier’s heaven” opens up in winter time, with tracks leading along the Salpausselkä ridge towards Messilä and the rocky Tiirismaa, the highest point in southern Finland at 223 metres. In the time, when there were not grooming machines or event ski tracks, Salpausselkä nature was used in ski competitions. But nowadays, when racing tracks are drawn nearby the stadium, the wide networks of tracks challenges the active skiers, families and kids.

Salpausselkä Geopark, encompassing six municipalities, belongs to the worldwide network of UNESCO Global Geoparks. Geoparks are single, unified geographical areas that have sites and landscapes of international geological significance. A geopark raises awareness of the importance of the area’s geological heritage and promotes local sites, products and services. Some of the key objectives of geoparks include preserving a region’s natural and cultural heritage, strengthening local identity and promoting sustainable tourism.

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