The History of Ski Jumping

Ski Jumping has been part of the winter Olympic Games Longer than slalom and downhill. It was first introduced in 1924, with the first world championship starting the following year in 1925. The first jumping competitions were recorded to have taken place in Norway in 1805 and Olaf Rye won with a jump of just over 9.5 meters. Since this event the Nordic countries has seen the competition as their very own and the sport is followed with greater passion in these nations that the other skiing events. In 1913 Ragnar Omtvedt became the first jumper to get over 50 meters and in 1936 the Austrian Sepp Bradl became the first jumper to clear 100 meters. As time passed the hills became steeper and the runs became longer. Fliers were also developing styles that enabled them to hang in the air for longer periods of time. Firstly the Kongsberger technique was used from the 1920s, with both hands pointing down the hill. This was overtaken by the Dascher technique in the 1950s with both hands back and the skis parallel.

The Kongsberger technique

The most commonly used technique today is the V-style which was perfected by the Swedish Jumper Jan Boklov in the 1990s, and involves the skis being splayed outwards at the front. It has been estimated that this technique enables the jumpers to go 10% further than those with parallel skis. There is great technique involved with the jump. The jumper starts by going to the top of the man-made hill. This maybe a temporary or permanent structure. The skier then sits on a bar and waits for the instruction to start.

The length of the hill depends on the event and varies in distance from small hilly up to 45 meters. Then comes the Medium Hill up to 75 meters which is followed by the Normal Hill which stretches up to 100 meters. The Large Hill then ravels for any distance up to 170 meters and beyond that the jumpers are into the Ski Flying Hill. At the end of the hill the skiers have to time their jump which gets them into position to glide in the air for as long as possible. The timing is quite difficult as the jumpers are travelling at around 60 km per hour when they reach the end of the take-off point.

Peter Prevc in total control

The skiers then glide down to the bottom of the mountain landing on the landing slope. This slope is constructed with the same degree of angle as the take-off hill. This insures that the jumper is never any higher than 20ft above the ground although it appears a lot more. However due to the speeds that the jumpers are travelling they can clear great distances. In 1994 the Fin Toni Nieminen became the first man to clear 200 meters and in 2015 Peter Prevc travelled over 250 meters.

The jumpers and their manufacturers are conscious about everything being streamlined so that the odd meter can be found on an important jump. The material of the suits, and the shape of the helmets are two particular areas that have been looked at, and re designed, over the years. The event is made even more complicated by the fact that it is not only the distance covered that counts, as there are a group of judges who mark the jumpers on the style and control of the jump. The judges in particular look at balance, steady skis, optimal body position and landing position.

Most skiers opt to land in the ‘telemark position’ and this is vital as it always important to end the jump before the landing slope comes to its abrupt end. Ski Jumpers are treated as the king of the mountains in the Nordic countries, as the event is seen as the most important alpine event. The courage it takes to travel down a mountain at 60kmph before leaping into the air for over 150 metres cannot be understated.