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| | |-+  Jan. 26, 2008, Ski jumping at Leavenworth
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Author Topic: Jan. 26, 2008, Ski jumping at Leavenworth  (Read 5021 times)

Posts: 2088

Jan. 26, 2008, Ski jumping at Leavenworth
« on: 01/27/08, 10:26 PM »

Starting down the in-run.  Jumpers are free to use any kind of skis (including alpine boards).  The only requirement is that each jumper wear a helmet and jump in the traditional Nordic style (i.e. without poles). 

Over the past few years, a group of Leavenworth volunteers led by Kjell Bakke has been working to re-establish Nordic ski jumping at Leavenworth.  They refurbished the old "D" hill, creating a 27m training jump, and have started teaching skiers young and old how to fly again.  Four years ago they held a practice tournament that my brother Gordy attended.  The tournament and Bakke's quest to revive Leavenworth ski jumping were described in a Seattle Times story by Ron Judd.

Last week Gordy sent me an e-mail saying there was to be another tournament at Leavenworth on Saturday, January 26.  I was free that day and my heart told me I should go.  When I was a kid in the early 1960s, I used to go to tournaments at Leavenworth to watch my father, Dick, and uncle, Jim, ski jump.  In those days, I thought Dad and Jim were sort of duffers, since they jumped on the "B" or "C" hills in the Veterans class.  Like any kid, I idolized the young "Class A" heroes flying off the big 90-meter hill.

As I've grown older, I've come to appreciate that Dad was not such a duffer after all.  A couple of his trophies sit near my computer at home.  In my historical research, I found a note saying that Jim and Dick finished 3rd and 4th, respectively, in the Veterans class at the PNSA Championships at Leavenworth in 1968.  Dad was 47 then.  To be jumping competitively in your late forties is no small thing, and he was still winning trophies.  My dad died suddenly of a heart attack in 1977 at age 56.

Gordy used to ski jump when he was in grade school.  We have home movies of him jumping at Crystal Mountain in the early 1960s.  I never took up the sport myself.  By the time I was old enough, our family had drifted away from ski jumping and was focused entirely on alpine skiing.  But I've always thought it would be fun to try Nordic jumping.

Left: Gordy rides the in-run on alpine skis. Right: A jumper lands on Nordic jumping skis.

When I arrived at the Leavenworth ski hill on Saturday, I found Kjell Bakke and a young skier preparing the jump.  Kjell is in his seventies now and he no longer jumps.  But he remembers the glory days of the 1950s and 1960s better than anyone.  His father, Magnus, and uncle, Hermod, first-generation immigrants from Norway, arrived in central Washington the 1930s and helped build the big jumps that put Leavenworth on the national winter sports map.

Kjell explained that we would be holding an informal "practice tournament" that day.  He'd been unable to drum up enough volunteers to hold a more formal event.  About a dozen jumpers gradually showed up, varying in age from five to over fifty.  Kjell happily offered tips for the more experienced jumpers and starting advice for the beginners.

I started out on the beginner jump, which has a takeoff only about a foot high.  Yet even on this tiny jump I had to face the fact that once you start down the in-run, you're committed to the takeoff.  There's no snowplowing or speed checking allowed here, unlike the freestyle takeoffs I used to jump in high school.

After a handful of jumps on the little hill, I felt ready for the larger one.  A rope tow hauls you up the hill, where you remove skis and climb the launching tower, just like the big boys.  At the top you look down and try to quell butterflies as you imagine accelerating toward the takeoff and soaring over the landing slope, which is invisible beyond the knoll.  My first jump was a rush of near panic followed by a mushy takeoff as I absorbed the lip with my knees.  I tried again and again and gradually started to get the hang of it.

Gordy posted the longest jumps of the day, just over 80 feet.  We tried to adopt proper jumping style, but with alpine skis and boots it was a crude imitation.  Your goal is to reach out over your skis with your upper body, with your ski tips spread in a "V" and your hands near your hips feeling the air like feathers.  For most of my jumps, my skis assumed an "A" position reminiscent of a lawn dart and I had the darnedest time hitting the split-second timing of the takeoff.  But my last two jumps of the afternoon felt really good, and I decided to quit while I was ahead.

My introduction to ski jumping helped me understand why Gordy, my dad, and veterans like Kjell Bakke fell in love with the sport years ago.  I can think of few other activities in which you get such instant feedback when you do it right.  As soon as you leave the takeoff, you know.  It's addicting.  There's a wonderful camaraderie as you climb the launch tower and talk with your companions about your last jump and contemplate the next one.  Ski jumping used to be huge in the Northwest, but now the Leavenworth program is the only one active in the region.  I hope it continues and grows, and I encourage interested skiers to check it out.

More jumping events are planned at Leavenworth this winter. See the Leavenworth Winter Sports Club website. For more about Leavenworth ski jumping, see this January 29, 2004 story by Ron Judd.

L-R: Lowell, Kjell Bakke, and Gordy at the Leavenworth jump hill.

« Last Edit: 01/28/08, 01:48 PM by Lowell_Skoog » Logged
Eric Lindahl

Posts: 170

Re: January 26, 2008, Ski jumping at Leavenworth
« Reply #1 on: 01/27/08, 10:45 PM »

Looking mighty snappy there boys.  Now that my schedule is freer I just might be able to join you.  Good luck in your quest for glory.  Grin

It pays to be avid

Posts: 2434

Re: Jan. 26, 2008, Ski jumping at Leavenworth
« Reply #2 on: 01/28/08, 11:08 AM »

Great stuff Lowell -- makes me want to head over there and check it out.

Posts: 159

Re: Jan. 26, 2008, Ski jumping at Leavenworth
« Reply #3 on: 01/28/08, 11:59 AM »

Nordic jumping has always been interesting to me.  Growing up in Connecticut my father would talk about going to the ski jump competitions in the quiant town of Salisbury.  By the time I was old enough to be interested, the competitions had stopped and as far as I know the jumps had gone into disrepair.  They were only a fleeting sight far up on a hill, on the way to my Grandparents house.  Since then, nordic jumping has been a favorite Olympic event to watch.  Its good to know this is going on in Leavenworth, it would be fun to go check it out.

Reading your story, Lowell, I couldn't help wonder what it feels like to land in alpine gear.  It seems like the flexibility in the nordic bindings and boots would make for a much smoother landing.  Did landings hurt? 

Posts: 2088

Re: Jan. 26, 2008, Ski jumping at Leavenworth
« Reply #4 on: 01/28/08, 12:15 PM »

Reading your story, Lowell, I couldn't help wonder what it feels like to land in alpine gear.  It seems like the flexibility in the nordic bindings and boots would make for a much smoother landing.  Did landings hurt? 

No, not at all. On a 27-meter hill, the distance from the takeoff to the transition point on the landing hill (where it starts to flatten out) is about 88 feet. As long as you land short of that, it's generally a soft landing. None of us were able to make it that far. In the big-time events, when hill records are set, the top jumpers land beyond the transition point and that can result in hard landings and sometimes bad crashes and injuries. The big jump (called "Bakke Hill") at Leavenworth is a 90-meter (295-ft) hill. There's a clipping on the wall in the clubhouse that says Toraf Engan set a world record of 324 feet on that hill in 1965. That must have hurt.

I found that my hips were a little sore on Sunday, but I think it was from springing off the takeoff, not landing.
« Last Edit: 01/28/08, 12:20 PM by Lowell_Skoog » Logged

Posts: 108

Re: Jan. 26, 2008, Ski jumping at Leavenworth
« Reply #5 on: 01/29/08, 07:54 AM »

This is brilliant! Reading these wonderful accounts harkins me back to the olympics in calgary in '88. I was a groomer on the 70 and 90m jumps (decked with a fancy rake and crampons). Us "slugs" as we called ourselves were also allowed to use the facilities at will (at least up to the 50m jump) if we dared. There was a few of us who did (using alpine gear), and we actually built a bit of a kicker on the 50m jump with the help of one of the norwegian olympic jumpers. He later showed us the intricacies of doing spread eagles and daffies with jumping skis on.

I would love to jump again, and will be checking out your comps via the web. Probably can't make it this year, however I will make a road trip your way next year (need to check out your BC with Scotsman anyway). Bloody awesome that you guys got this going on! Keep it up and fly far!
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