The ski resorts of Tahko Mountain, Kasurila and Vuokatti, owned by Huippupaikat Oy, are enhancing regional attractiveness through investment projects. The company has made it through tough times thanks to its light administration and good support network.
Back in 1986, Huippupaikat Oy was in charge of running the Vuokatti ski resort. In the same year, construction of a local ski resort, Kasurila, began in Siilinjärvi, and a few years later the company also bought the slope operations of Iso-Syöte and Tahko Mountain. Downhill skiing was all the rage, and business was good for ski resorts.
In the later years of the 1980s, the Finnish Gymnastics and Sports Federation (SVUL), the owner of Huippupaikat, racked up a debt burden of hundreds of millions of marks, and Huippupaikat had to seek corporate reorganization. As a result of this, 80 per cent of the company went to creditors, and the director of the company’s slope operations Ilkka Suutarinen bought the remaining shares through his company Eisu Oy.
“My father went on to buy the banks’ shares in Huippupaikat Oy in 2006 and its operations have continued under the name SkiOne Group since 2017,” says the company’s current CEO Lauri Suutarinen.
SkiOne Group is the parent company that manages the ski resorts of Vuokatti, Tahko Mountain and Kasurila through its subsidiary Huippupaikat Oy.
During his time as an entrepreneur, Ilkka Suutarinen saw both good times and challenges and has shared his lessons with the younger generation that now continues their father’s work. Lauri’s sister Liisa Salminen is also involved in the company’s strategy and development work and owns shares in the company.
“The company has faced many hardships over the years, but thanks to our good support network and light administration, challenges have always been overcome. Hats off to our father for getting the company is such good shape and for building networks that we can rely on,” says Lauri Suutarinen gratefully.
Huippupaikat has several investment plans and projects underway, but everything cannot be done at the same time when there are three ski resorts. Business planning is also made more difficult by the poor predictability of downhill ski seasons, which depend on the dates of holidays and the weather during holiday seasons. World events also add their own twist: COVID and the absence of Russian customers have caused some difficulties for the resorts in recent years.
“Sometimes you need to make tough decisions in business that everyone will not like. We had to make them especially during the pandemic, but since the company has a strong foundation, we were able to overcome those hardships as well. The peak season after COVID gave us faith in the future. Domestic travel picked up and outdoor recreation brought families to the slopes,” says Suutarinen.
The well-being and motivation of personnel have been the keys to success for Huippupaikat. The company has the same message for its personnel as for its customers: live the rush. Work is done in a relaxed, but inspiring atmosphere.
In addition to some fresh faces, there are members of the staff who have served the company for over 40 years and possess solid expertise in the industry. In addition to the growth of the business itself, you can find some wonderful stories of growth within the company. This has been made possible by a culture based on dialogue and the spirit of doing things together. Suutarinen also welcomes business development ideas coming from the employees.
“I’m the person who ultimately has to make the final, big decisions, but we have an open, honest environment where everyone is heard. And even if we face difficulties along the way, we stay positive and only try to change what we can,” Suutarinen promises.
Partnerships are important for Huippupaikat Oy. Following in his father’s footsteps, CEO and majority owner Lauri Suutarinen is involved in Kuopio-Tahko Marketing Ltd, for example. The joint marketing organization was founded in December 2013 as the result of cooperation between the City of Kuopio and Tahko Holiday Resort.
“The various enterprises in Tahko are all headed in the same direction. Although we each focus on our own business, we don’t do business separately from the others. If we can get more people in a big parking space, there will also be more people coming in the parking spaces of each business. The same can also be said about the whole region. We do and plan things together,” says Suutarinen.
Text: Minna Akiola