14-year-old ski jumper follows in grandfather’s footsteps

Finn Gessner will compete in the Snowflake Ski Jump Tournament in Westby

It’s a bit of a family affair at the Snowflake Ski Jump Tournament in Westby this weekend as a 14-year-old boy follows in his grandfather’s footsteps.

Sig Malvik is 82 years old and has spent most of his life on the slopes. He competed in the Snowflake Ski Jump Tournament in 1950 and actually won his event. Now he gets to share his experience and passion for the sport with his grandson, as he prepares for his chance to win on Saturday.

Finn Gessner is just 14 years old, but he already has more than 10 years of experience on the slopes.

“We all start on this really little hill, so at first I hated it. Then I got to the point where I actually got to go off the bigger jumps and I started loving it,” said Gessner.

You could say Gessner takes after Malvik.  After all, he is the one who got him started on the slopes.

“He was about 4 years old and I came to Madison. It was in the summertime and they had plastic on the ski hills there,” said Malvik.


“He ran up to the guy running the show and said ‘Hey, get this kid some skis’ and he slapped them on and just started,” said Nate Gessner, Finn’s dad.

Since he started, Finn hasn’t looked back.

“About the time he was 7, it really kicked in and that is all he wanted to do,” said Nate Gessner.

Malvik also started young and  finally put away his skies at 65.

“I actually skied in the ’30s, the ’40s, the ’50s, the ’60s, the ’70s, the ’80s, the ’90s and in 2000 I had my last jump in Iola, Wis.,” said Malvik.

Malvik came to America in 1949 and will cheer on his grandson as he prepares to compete on Saturday in a sport that has definitely changed over the years.

“It’s a safer sport because we used to come in a lot higher and then kind of drop down. That was a lot more dangerous. Now they are flying closer to the hill,” said Malvik.

“They would usually just shoot themselves up as high as they could go and see how far they could get,” said Gessner.

Even though the sport has changed a bit, they both say the feeling just can’t be beat.

“You get the feeling you are free and you are airborne,” said Malvik.

“It’s great, I don’t know how to explain it,” said Gessner.

The hill that the competitors will be ski jumping off of is an Olympic-size hill.

If you plan on attending the event, here is a list of ticket prices.

Standard Button: $20 at the gate

Gold Button: $50

Children 12 and Under: Free

Current and Former Military Personnel: Free