$1,300 to $3,000 (2nd year – new gear)
Every four years, the Winter Olympic athletes show us the very best in skiing, skating, bobsled, luge, and more. But one of the most awe inspiring sports has got to be ski jumping. Wearing impossibly long and wide jumping skis, perched high on towering structures that have one and only one purpose, they streak toward the earth, launch themselves into the air – and then fly. The current world record for longest ski jump is 239 meters (784 feet), set in 2005 in Planica, Slovenia by Norwegian jumper Bjorn Einar Romoren. Putting it in terms that we in the States can understand, that’s over two football fields in length.
Ski jumping was born in 1809, when Norwegian soldier, Olaf Rye, jumped 9.5 meters before an appreciative audience of fellow soldiers. But the true founder of the sport was the “father of modern skiing,” Sondre Norheim. Norheim grew up in a tiny cottage in the district of Telemark, in southern Norway. His father made him a pair of pine skis when he was very young, and Sondre lived and breathed skiing until his death in 1897, at the age of 71. He invented curved skis, heel bindings, the Telemark turn, and the Christiana turn – key Nordic skiing techniques. He was instrumental in presenting skiing as a recreational sport, rather than simply a means of transportation, and he had an artistic and daring skiing style. One of his impressive ski jumps as a child was over the rooftop of his family’s home. In 1866, he won the first ski jumping competition ever held when he jumped 30 meters using a large rock as a take-off point. Over the years, ski jumping became wildly popular, and the sport has been part of the Winter Olympic Games since their inception in 1924.
However, only men are allowed to compete in ski jumping at the Olympics. Women compete internationally in the Continental Cup, and for the first time, will be allowed to compete in the 2009 World Championships in Liberec, Czech Republic; but they continue to be closed out of the Olympic Games. The hard-working American women’s team, as well as women’s teams all over the world, are actively petitioning the Olympic Committee to open the sport to women for the 2010 Winter Games.
Thanks to technologies invented in Europe, ski jumping is now a year-round sport. In the winter, athletes train and compete on snow-covered structures, but in the summer, many jumpers continue to train, speeding down special tracks (the inrun) lined with steel or porcelain ball bearings. They soar through the air and land on hills covered with long strands of plastic that are sprayed with water to keep them slick. [Not all ski jumping facilities are set up for summer training.]
How To Get Started
In the United States, you can find ski jumping facilities in at least thirteen states from Alaska to Maine, including Olympic facilities in Lake Placid, New York and Park City, Utah. Here in the States, ski jumping is mostly a club-based sport, although there are also a number of high schools and prep schools with ski jumping teams.
Ski Jumping Locations:
- North East: Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, and Connecticut.
- Midwest: Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Michigan.
- West: Colorado, Utah, Washington, and Alaska.
If you want to try ski jumping, your best bet is to find a club close to where you live, purchase a club membership, and show up for their training sessions. Most clubs will happily welcome any physically fit skier, child or adult, who is enthusiastic and ready to learn.