If this is the year you plan on taking your ski technique to the next level, why not try one of the most exciting winter sports on offer? Ski jumping! Before you glaze over and think “no thanks, not for me” – I’m not talking about getting into serious training for the Olympics. You may be surprised to know that, these days, ski jumping is actually a highly accessible sport for amateur skiers as well.
Ski jumping entails skiing down a specially constructed ramp (very fast) and launching off the end, to free fly through the air and land as far down the hill as possible. And if it sounds familiar, it’s the sport Eddie the Eagle did more for in 1988 than any other winter sports person had since it first appeared on the bill of the Winter Olympics.
Ski jumping can be traced back to well before the Olympics, though, to 1809, when a Norwegian soldier skied off the roof of a church in order to impress his men. His bold (or crazy) act set off a chain of attempts to ‘fly’ further and further, and improve on technique and style. The first competitive event was held in 1862, and it was one of eight winter sports included in the very first Winter Olympics, in 1924.
Ski Jumping for Amateurs
Today there are plenty of opportunities for regular skiers to take the leap, so to speak. Although, as with any winter sports, it doesn’t come without its risks, if you’ve got good balance, core strength, flexibility and a steady nerve, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to give it a go. There are four stages involved in the jump:
The in-run: The skier pushes off in a crouching position from the start bar. The aim is to keep arms at the sides and skis as flat and aligned as possible on the surface – no easy feat at speeds of up to 60mph! The flatter the skis are to the surface, the longer the ensuing jump will be.
Take-off: At the point of take-off (the bottom of the run), the skier must push off into the air. In the lead up to pushing off, they use their speed, body weight and gravity to create the angle and arc of the jump.
In the air: This is the fun bit – flying! But there’s plenty of work to be done in order to execute a stylish jump. Arms need to be slightly away from the body and skis in a v position, so surface area is maximised, and the skier also needs to use the wind to their advantage to help them achieve a longer jump. Even though the skier is airborne, at this stage they’re no more than 15 feet from the ground.
Landing: This is where traditional skiing skills come into play, as the landing needs to be executed with one foot (ski) in front of the other, in the classic ‘telemark’ position. The skier needs to adjust arm position, knees (slightly bent), weight and balance in order to achieve a perfectly smooth landing.
All in all, the entire jump is over within about 10 seconds – but I can guarantee they’ll be 10 of the most invigorating seconds of your life!
Jump to it!
While there isn’t anywhere in the UK to participate in the sport (surely Eddie the Eagle is missing a trick there!), there are plenty of resorts in France, Austria, Italy, Spain and Switzerland where beginners can try their hand at this most exciting of winter sports – starting with five metre hills and going all the way up to 70 and 90 metre hills. The 120 metre hills are usually reserved for experts, but you never know… Eddie didn’t get to the Olympics by thinking small!
Patrick Chong is the Managing Director of InsureMore, an award-winning team of specialists in global single trip, family and annual travel insurance including winter sports policies. Besides offering great deals on travel insurance, Patrick also collects and shares the best free travel competitions to help his clients get the most out of their holidays.
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