Winter sports-Ski Jumping – photo by Morgan GoodwinCredit: photo by Morgan Goodwin

Ski jumping is relatively unwatched outside the Olympic Winter Games.  Athletes are small; but the air is huge, sending the jumper on the ride of a lifetime.  In 1860 Norway, Sondre Norheim, considered the Father of Ski Jumping, jumped without poles over a rock and landed 30 meters (almost 115 feet) down the hill. Thus ski jumping was born. Two years later, the first competition was organized in Trysil, Norway. 

The Equipment for Ski Jumping is Strictly Regulated

As with any sport, ski jumping has evolved over the years and the rules and regulations for international competition is guided by the International Ski Federation (ISF).  In a sport where body weight effects the flight time of the jumper; the governing body made every effort to eliminate extreme weight programs.   To do this effectively, the ISF regulates the ski length by tying it to the body weight and height of the jumper. The ski cannot be longer than 146% of the jumper’s total body height and the jumper cannot have less than a body mass index (BMI) of 20.

Additionally skis used for jumping have numerous requirements regarding width, contours of the tops and tails, running surface, shape and flexibility, mass, construction and durability. Bindings are also regulated in regards to size, construction and mounting on the ski. 

Attire Rules for Internationally Competitive Ski Jumper

The ski boots used in international competition must meet the rules of the ISF; fitting the jumper without reshaping. The sole cannot exceed 45 millimeters (less than 2 inches). The suit worn is regulated as to size, fabric, openings, length of legs and arms, collars, thickness of layers, hems, and seams. Even the underwear is regulated!  To complete the outfit, crash helmets, ski gloves and goggles must all adhere to strict guidelines of the ISF.  

After Passing Inspection, it’s Time to Fly

Once the equipment and attire have passed the ISF test; it’s time to go up the ski slope, get into position at the top of the jump and mentally prepare for the launch.  In competitive jumping, there are two hills from which the jump is taken. The normal hill has a K-poinSmall and Large Hill Ski Jumps - Photo by Jeff M for ShortCredit: Photo by Jeff M for Shortt between 75 and 99 meters and the large hill has a K-point greater than 100 meters. Much like a par in golf, the K-point is the calculation point or target distance for the jumper. In competition, the jumper is scored on whether he reaches the K-point (indicated by a K-line), with more points awarded for going further and less points if the line isn’t reached.  Usually the K-line is found at approximately 80-100m on normal hills and at 120-130m on the large hills.

When conditions are at the optimum, jumpers take off and with arms back towards their hips and their upper bodies bent at the hip in a wide forward lean; they move their skis into a v-style technique, invented in 1980 by Swedish skier, Jan Boklov, and ride the air as far as possible.

Interestingly, height is not even a consideration in ski jumping. It is all about distance and technique. However, everything that goes up, must come down. When the ski jumUp the Mountain- View from the Top of the Ski Jump – Photo by Eckhard PecherCredit: Photo by Eckhard Pecherpers touch down; they must do so in the Telemark landing style or style points are reduced. This involves the jumper landing with one foot in front of the other.

While some winter sports gain popularity; ski jumping seems to be relegated to a smaller viewing audience.  Jumpers such as Simon Ammann, the Harry Potter look alike from Switzerland who set the hill on fire with his fourth gold medal worthy jump in the 2010 Vancouver games, are bringing more viewers on board. Until then, the only jumper most remembered was Vinko Bogatiji who will forever be connected to the Agony of Defeat footage ABC’s Wide World of Sports used in their title sequence.

Just how long is the air ride on skis? Oh, approximately a whopping six seconds.  But oh boy what a ride.



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Edition 2009/10 (valid as from the season 2009/10) Nordic Competition Equipment.” (Accessed 2-21-2010).


The copyright of the article “Ski Jumping Sends Athletes into the Skies Without a Parachute” is owned by Cheryl Weldon and permission to republish in print or online must be granted by the author in writing.