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Ski Jumping in Canada

Canadian ski jumping originated with the Norwegians and quickly became popular in Western Canada when they emigrated here in the 1800’s. A popular winter sport that has seen its ups and downs throughout the years, it is now returning to its original glory.

History of Canadian Ski Jumping

The sport of ski jumping was developed in Norway in the mid-1800s as an off-shoot of Alpine skiing. In 1862, the first recorded ski jumping competition occurred in Trysil, Norway. Sondre Nordheim recorded the first officially measured ski jump of 30.5 meters in 1860.

When Scandinavians' began immigrating to Western Canada in the late 1800's, they introduced the sport of ski jumping to the area. The Rocky Mountains of Alberta and British Columbia, renowned for skiing in Canada, became a perfect environment for this fledgling sport.

With the arrival of ski jumping in Canada it wasn’t long before the newly arrived Scandinavians formed the first Canadian ski jumping club in Revelstoke, British Columbia. The first Canadian ski jumping champion was Olaus Jeldness, who captured the title at an 1898 competition in nearby Rossland, B.C.

For the next 25 years, it became a popular Canadian winter sport with large crowds gathering to watch the spectacular competitions. With the popularity of the sport growing, competitions were held across the country becoming a favorite winter activity in Canada. Whether the ski jumpers were speeding down the Rockies, Ottawa’s Rockcliffe Park, or Mont Royal in Montreal, crowds would gather in the thousands to watch. They even built wooden ski ramps in the Prairie Provinces due to its popularity.

The Cliffside Ski Club was formed in Ottawa in 1919 to compete with Ottawa Ski Club. This friendly rivalry added to the popularity of Ski jumping in Canada. Ski jumping soon rivaled Alpine skiing in Canada as one of the most popular of Canadian winter activities.

At Fairy Lake jump near Hull, Quebec an international field competed in front of 10,000 spectators. As an added attraction, acrobatic stunts were performed off the ski jump providing the seeds for freestyle skiing and snowboarding in Canada. Another competition in Ottawa drew 5,000 spectators to watch as the skiers finished their jump on the frozen Ottawa River.

Olympic Ski Jumping in Canada

As a prelude to Olympic ski jumping, Nels Nelson of the Revelstoke Ski Club set a world amateur jump record with a 68.3 meter leap in 1925. He went on to coach Bob Lymbourne who set a world record in 1933 for his jump of 87.5 meters.

The popularity of ski jumping in Canada took a backseat to Alpine skiing until Horst Bulau captured the world junior championship in 1979. Steve Collins quickly followed that up with a win at the world juniors in 1980. These two went on to win World Cup titles and put Canadian ski jumping back into the public’s awareness. Horst Bulau became the first Canadian to place in the top eight at the Calgary Olympic Winter Games in 1988.

We’ll have to wait and see if Canada’s Stefan Read can better this placing at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver.

Standard Hill Competitions

World Cup skiing has standardized 3 ski jumping hill competitions as follows:
  • Normal Hill competitions measure the calculation line at 80 to 100 meters allowing for jumps in the area of 110 meters.
  • Large Hill competitions measure the calculation line at 120 to 130 meters resulting in jumps of approximately 140 meters.
  • Sky-Flying competitions draw the calculation line at 185 meters with jump distances over 200 meters.
As you can see, ski jumping takes guts and skill to safely soar through the air and land with wide, 240 cm skis. Unlike cross-country skiing in Canada where your skis are firmly on the ground, ski jumping is performed mainly in the air.

Ski Jumping Scoring System

There are two components of the ski jumping scoring system. Points are awarded for the length of the jump as well as for style and control. The goal of the ski jumper is to land on or over the calculation line or K point. If the skier lands before or after the calculation line, 1.8 points is either deducted or added for every 3 meter variance. The longer the jump, the more points the jumper will receive.

Style and control are also important as 5 judges award 20 points for:
  • Ski control while in the air
  • Body control during flight
  • Landing
The lowest and highest scores are discarded leaving the three middle point totals being added to the distance point total. The ski jumper with highest two-jump point total is declared the winner of the event.

Ski Jumping Techniques

The techniques for ski jumping have evolved over the years resulting in a large increase in jumping distance. The evolution of ski jumping style is as follows:
  • The Kongsberger Technique involves the skier bending forward at the waist, holding their skis parallel to each other, and holding their arms in front of them. Developed after WWI by Sigmund Ruud and Jacob Thams, it extended the distances of jumps by over 50 meters.
  • An adaptation of the Kongsberger Technique was developed by Eric Windisch and Andreas Daescher producing the Windisch and Daescher Techniques in the 1950’s. They held their arms behind them producing a more aerodynamic lean.
  • The V-technique was developed by Jan Boklov in 1985 by forming a V with his skis while in the air. The style didn’t go over well with the judges initially; however, after winning the FIS World Cup other ski jumpers adopted his style.
Summer Jumping

Summer ski jumping is gaining in popularity as fans of the sport have adapted it for summer participation. Plastic landing surfaces and steel or porcelain ramps have developed for summer jumping. Canadian ski jumping is year round sport with a K90 jump located in Calgary Olympic Park.

Ski jumping in Canada has regained its popularity after many years on the sidelines. It is a legitimate winter sport alongside alpine skiing and snowboarding.
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