Ski jumping is a part of New Hampshire's winter sport scene
They soar through the air on super-sized skis while wearing snug aerodynamic suits, looking like a flying V. The jumps can take them the length of a football field as they achieve speeds found on a highway. The landing is impressive too, smooth with bended knee.
Ski jumping is ingrained in New Hampshire’s winter sports lifeline, from its yesterdays to present-day competitions. Olympic trials and national championships have graced the Granite State. Though now crumbling, the North Country’s historic Nansen Ski Jump once saw the fearless flying on wooden skis from a staggering 171-foot-high tower. Today, a pair of Olympians — Nick Alexander and Nick Fairall — hail from there. (Editor's note: Just after this issue went to press we learned that Nick Fairall suffered a spine injury while training and will likely not return for the 2015 season. We wish him all the best and a speedy recovery.)
New Hampshire is special as the only state in the country with ski jumping as a high school sport, typically with Friday night flights under the lights. Prep schools and clubs take part too. Jumps are found in towns like Newport, Andover, Hanover and Lebanon. In Gilford, jumps are being restored while there’s even an active one hidden along the Kancamagus Highway near Conway that’s used by Kennett High School.
It’s a spectator-friendly sport with the New Hampshire State High School Ski Jumping Championships being held February 13 at the Roland Tremblay Ski Jump Complex in Newport.
Sunapee High School coach Ron Beaudet has been involved in ski jumping for more than a generation.
“The biggest misconception about ski jumping is the danger due to how high the jumps are,” he says. “The reality is that a jumper is not very high off the ground when jumping.”
According to Beaudet, the flight path of a jumper actually mirrors the profile of the landing hill. The jumper’s height is at the highest point at the beginning of the jump and, as they fly through the air, the jumper is getting closer and closer to the ground.
That’s why the telemark-style landing looks like a smooth glide.
Andover’s Nick Fairall has won the US Ski Jumping Championships twice.
Ski jumping gear isn’t something you’ll likely see in your favorite ski shop. USA Ski Jumping, the developmental arm of the sport, offers an “equipment pool” for teams to purchase equipment. Junior skis from Elan, depending on size, are between $230-$335 with adult skis at $495. Those colorful skin-tight junior suits are priced between $240-$350 from Slovenia’s Tepes family, making them since 1995. Germany’s top-rated Rass Boots range from $325-$535.
Expert Advice with Ron Beaudet
Newport’s Ron Beaudet has been involved with ski jumping for 40 years. His mentors in the early years were Roland Tremblay and Bob Rollins also from Newport. He moved to Newport to start his 38 years of teaching in Sunapee. Beaudet coaches the Sunapee High School Jump Team and was inducted into the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association’s Coaches Hall of Fame in 2010.
When does a young athlete start ski jumping?
In many cases a young skier can start jumping as soon as they can ski. For the high school athlete, it is often not until ninth grade. In the case of smaller schools like Sunapee, we are allowed to use middle school students.
What goes through the mind of a skier at the top of the jump?
It is different for very athlete, but most jumpers have a respectful fear as they progress to larger and larger hills.
Just how big do those skis get and how do you transport them?
Jump skis are usually longer and wider than an alpine ski and have no edges. To give you a basic idea, in most cases the ski is as long as the jumper is tall plus reaching up. The ski provides stability both in flight and landing.
What’s the deal with those suits?
They are similar to downhill race suits but made of a heavier material. At the higher levels of competition, suits are tested for air resistance. The skis are also regulated based on the jumper’s weight. Now these rules apply to club and high school athletes.
How hard is the impact on landing?
The impact at landing is not very hard. If the jump is profiled correctly, a skier glides into the landing.
How big a factor is wind?
Wind can be very dangerous, especially a crosswind. A slight breeze blowing up the hill is ideal for long jumps.
You were once a ski jumping judge. Can you tell me about the point system for competition?
Individuals are scored two ways, distance and style points. On large hills there is a distance table that converts distance to points, but in New Hampshire high school jumping, distance is one point per meter. Distances are measured to the nearest half meter. Style points are awarded by two to three certified judges. Each judge starts at 20 points and deducts points based on the flight position, landing and out-run stability. All points given get added to the distance points for the total score of each jump. At the higher levels, Junior Nationals, Nationals and International as well as the Olympics, five judges are used with the high and low judge point eliminated. There is a team score in NH that uses a team’s best four jumpers to determine the high school team winner.
Generally, what are the sizes of the jumps?
The beginning jumper will start on hills as small as 5 meters — take-off about one foot high —and progress to 10 meter, 20 meter, etc. Hills can be almost any size. In New Hampshire we usually start each season on a K18 meter and progress to a K 25 meter, K32 meter, K35 meter and even a K38 meter. The state meet is always held on a K30 meter or larger but not to exceed K38 meter.