[SMALL BATCH] Forre and the art of riding the streets

Published on

[SMALL BATCH] Forre and the art of riding the streets

WORDS — Conor Smith

They build ‘em different in Finland. Maybe it’s the short days, the bitter winters, the icy conditions or the flat, barren landscape—whatever it may be, skiers raised in the far reaches of Scandinavia aren’t a normal breed.  The nighttime park-riding paradise of Ruka Ski Resort has become a breeding ground for technical and stylish riding, with the scene headlined by hot-lappers like Antti Ollila, Anttu Oikkonen, Joona Kangas and Lauri Kivari. These skiers put Ruka on the map, but there are some fresh faces making big waves outta Ruka lately. An assemblage of Finnish youth, who call themselves “Forre,” are about to drop their fourth urban skiing video—and they’re psycho freakoids of the highest order.

Like most Fins, the boys of Forre are soft-spoken and quiet. They let their skiing do the talking. Nevertheless, through a few phone calls and a couple email threads, I got a bit of a feel for the origins of these rising stars… The members of Forre met near Helsinki at the nearby resort of Talma, a small locale with loads of flavor. Life carried them north near Ruka, the North Star of park skiing in Scandinavia, where the group truly coalesced while attending the ski academy Kuusamo. Core members Tuukka Pöri, Harald Hellström, Joona Sipola, Elias Syrjä, Teemu Tirkkonen, Matias Suomi, Leevi Tyllinen—try saying that list out loud—and a few others met there, bonding under the luminous glow of Ruka’s night-skiing stadium lights.  

SKIER: Lauri Kvari
PHOTO: Arttu Heikkinen

Forre first put their collective skills to the test in the streets of Helsinki in winter 2016-17 and the following season the fellas shot their first film under the Forre moniker, a reference to a secret smoke-shack that they built near Talma. Their first two films were rough around the edges by the standards of their current work, but impressive for a crew just finding their feet and largely filming themselves. Released in fall 2018, the Forre Movie foreshadowed where the crew was headed—the talent of the group was immediately evident. It might take years for even the most adept freestyle skiers to adapt their game to the streets—building features from scratch, avoiding the cops and adjusting technique to match the quirky rails, walls and other features in a city setting is no easy feat. Forre was ahead of schedule… by a long-shot. 

The following year saw a prodigious rise in the level of both the skiing and filming—Forre’s Fall 2019 offering “Forreal?” graced us with a tasty soundtrack and another upgrade in the spot selection. Teemu Tirkkonen’s opening segment starts and ends with a memorable bang, with a massive long (and flat) challenge rail, and an awning-to-awning-to-awning quadruple gap combo straight out of a video game. Forre truly arrived with this video and, although it didn’t garner huge viewership, those who follow the street skiing scene had their eyebrows raised high. Some similarities remained from Forre’s first couple movies—high-consequence rails, big drops, unbelievable transfers—but everything had been supersized.  Haralds’ ender to the movie, in particular, is a masterful clip for its simplicity and style, scary as hell but with zero spinning involved. As Forre made huge leaps with each subsequent project, expectations kept rising. A payday and sponsor recognition had to be imminent.

SKIER: Joona Sipola
PHOTO: Arttu Heikkinen

Unfortunately, year four brought calamity in the form of global pandemic and an unseasonably warm, dry Finnish winter.  A dearth of clips left only a few options: Hold ‘em back for the next year’s vid, or put out a shorter four-minute video. Forre opted for the latter, and while the quality of the skiing had jumped again—Tuukka’s three-swap of the infamous Quebecois Red Ledge is forever emblazoned in my brain—the shortened video was undeniably a bummer, but only because it left me wanting more.

Forre’s most recent production “Forrmula” is nothing short of a masterpiece—a flawless exhibition of urban skiing at its most death-defying and jaw-dropping. A common trend among those who ski the streets has been leaving behind mechanical winches and other methods of generating speed in favor of au naturale flavor. While this style certainly has its merits, there’s also a magic to incorporating both—the winch-ying and the natural speed-yang. Forre sticks a giant middle finger right in the faces of those who would accuse them of overusing the winch, and the result is a no-holds-barred, five-course street skiing meal.  

With primary camera op Tuukka taking a year off to focus on school, Forrmula marks the addition of a dedicated lensman for the first time. Arttu Heikkinen’s move from part-time photographer to full-time director also made a huge difference. While Tuukka had been holding it down hard as primary filmer/editor for the crew, it’s never easy making magic both in front and behind the lens. Coming from an experienced background in the skate world, Arttu also deserves a world of credit for how he brought the skiing of the crew to life.  His artful mix of static tripod imagery, wide-angle fisheye and handheld zooms is timeless, perfectly highlighting the style of a trick or the danger of a spot. His keen visual eye completes Forre’s outrageous abilities, and deserves specific attention and praise. 

Below are Forre’s recent mind-melting films: Cast (2022), Forrmula (2021).

I won’t spoil any individual shots, but “Forrmula” represents a crew of skiers in true harmony. Everyone has a unique style, complementing each other like dishes at a Michelin-rated restaurant. Joona brings old-school big-rail tech to the table; new additions Maino Ormio, Lauri Kivari and Eemil Aro mix it up with WTF-level butter tricks and wizard taps, Harald Hellström jumps off every single building in sight, and, the filmer, Arttu captures it all magnificently. It’s a self-funded symphony, more Rachmaninoff than Beethoven, thundering to a raucous, joyous finish and it will undoubtedly challenge “ZOOTSPACE” for Ski Movie of the Year. But, even so, deciding between the two could be likened to a choice between the most expensive caviar and raw Columbian cocaine—I’ll let you figure out which is which.

Like all of the crews featured in the Small Batch series this year, I can’t encourage you enough to go watch it.  It represents some of the best of what our sport can be, high-flying and inspirational. It’s almost ridiculous to expect them to top it again—yet Forre has outdone themselves at every single turn so far. Can they herd a few wandering sheep lost to the real world (namely mainstays Teemu Tirkkonen, Elias Syrjä, and Tuukka Pöri) back to the flock?  Can they evade crappy weather patterns if Mother Nature frowns on the Fins again? When “Forrmula” enters the world expectations will rise and the gaze of the culture will intensify – we’ll have to wait until Fall 2022 to see if Forre can clear the lofty bar they’ve set for themselves. 

This story originally appeared in FREESKIER Volume 25, Issue 02.
To subscribe to skiing’s independent magazine, click here.