Every good story begins with a blinding passion that mere mortals see as borderline obsession. At first glance individuals with such passion seem almost crazy and out of this world. But they are neither. Passion changes everything. It just does. The combination of joy, childlike enthusiasm, deft hands, a brilliant mind, sleepless nights and that special sense of excitement can create miracles. Rudi Finžgar was no stranger to these processes. He could do things others could not even dream of. He could see far into the future. And above all, he had no fear. He never stopped and never lost sight of the final goal. That is why he could overcome any obstacles in his way with ease. He knew nothing was impossible. Finžgar was a quintessential man from Gorenjska region; and embodiment of the characteristic Gorenjska hard headedness, persistence, diligence and resourcefulness.
Above all, he was in love with winter, snow, skiing, and especially ski jumping. He trained as a carpenter in his father’s workshop in order to make tables, chairs and other items of furniture, but his head was full of other ideas. He was interested in skis and how to bend wood. If you could make your own skis at the time, it was a big thing. You would be the coolest cat around. And as a very good ski jumper, Finžgar knew exactly what a good pair of skis was supposed to look like.
When he was certain of his diverse knowledge and skills, he borrowed three hundred Dinars to buy ash wood and started making skis that were true works of art. Everybody loved them and hardly a day went by that there wasn’t a ski enthusiast knocking on his door, wanting a pair of skis bearing Finžgar’s signature.
During the Second World War, Rudi Finžgar was drafted into the German army, but he escaped and joined the partisan fighters. In Cerkno, the centre of the free territory after the Italian capitulation, he established a workshop in the ground floor of the mountain Porezen boarding house and made skis for the partisan fighters. Skiing competitions were often held in a small town called Cerkno at the time and Finžgar himself often won the ski jumping events.
It was the experience he gained in Cerkno that led Finžgar - a true visionary and strategist - to think about establishing a real ski company. The great day came in September of 1945. That is when he uttered his legendary words: “Who can think of sleep, or money? The world is waiting for me and for Elan.” And thus the Elan sports equipment production cooperative was born.
Rudi Finžgar was a man who never stopped and never ceased developing new ideas. It is said that he once strolled through the fields surrounding Elan’s modest workshops and said, “In the year 2000, a mighty Elan factory will stand here, you’ll see”. In fact, the factory had opened its doors already in 1970.
Finžgar’s visionary influence is perhaps the greatest reason why the Begunje factory was never short on innovations. Elan’s development institute soon earned the reputation of a trendsetter in the ski industry as it released countless inventions that changed skiing for ever.
Around 1944 the Slovenian guerilla fighters saw that they could only match the German ski units with good quality skis. They issued an order to establish a ski workshop. Under the direction of Rudi Finžgar the workshop made 170 cm long and 9 cm wide skis they called partisans.
Red devil from Titoland
When Rudi Finžgar went to see a ski jumping competition on the Bloudek hill in Planica in 1936, he decided to dedicate himself to the sport with all his heart. He was a brave jumper and in 1940 he first earned a chance to try the biggest hill. He jumped 84 meters, which was the longest jump of any Slovenian jumper on that day. At the last event before the war in 1941 he set a new Slovenian record at 95 meters. He was also the first Slovenian jumper to pass the one hundred meter mark, but he touched the ground with his hand upon landing. After the war he first extended his record to 102 meters and later to 117 meters. The latter distance held for nine years. Even his ski jumping days were full of innovation. In order to achieve better aerodynamics during flight he got himself a red leather suit which earned him the nickname “Der Rote Teufel aus Titoland” (the Red Devil from Titoland).