CURATOR’S NOTE- Jasper Meyer is a senior at Hanover High School and one of the captains of its 2017-18 ski jumping team. Yes, NH is the only state in the nation that offers sanctioned high school ski jumping and most competitors, like Jasper, arrive as freshmen having never jumped before. The energy around these high school practices and competitions is exhilarating and infectious (as Jasper captures so well in this story). And best of all, the team that wins states is effectively the NATIONAL CHAMPION! An honor that last year went to Kennett High School (North Conway, NH). Hanover was second… watch the video here
Hanover High School Ski Jumping Team
I crave this high. I sit atop the towering jump. Music blares over the crowd. My eyes scan across the horizon, pausing at the soft light of Baker Tower. This view has become one of my favorites. I reach back and hammer my bindings into place for the third time — a reflexive habit. I dig my edges into the tightly melded track. For a second, I feel the nervous ghosts of all my past tumbles try to force themselves into my head. I gently push back, feigning poise in my posture. The official waves me off, and I take five deep breathes, expelling all thoughts of the icy sheet I will land on in seconds.
My mind drifts away from my body like I’m nervous during a speech. I watch myself, as I have so many times on the iPad, zooming down the jump on my skis. Keeping a tight tuck to achieve minimal air resistance. Hands back. Body forward. I see my padded lycra suit stretching at the seams as I enter a deeper squat. My name tag pokes out of its neck. Jasper Meyer 2015-16 it says, but the M and 0 have almost completely faded into the winters’ air. The suit has smacked the snow many times since Coach dragged that Sharpie over the tag, christening its seams to protect me for a year, identifying its green fabric as my second skin for the winter. My helmet rides atop the suit. An obvious hand-me-down. Three visible name tags peek out from below mine. Three other names who understand the distinct sensations I feel now. Off the back of the helmet, right next to the Marker logo, a green ribbon streams away — it was attached last year to commemorate an ill coach. I don’t know him, but it doesn’t matter. He knows this.
My slide is coming to an end. I’m reaching the critical point: the takeoff. The pine boughs stuck into the snow tell me when to push. I load my power up, ready for launch. Suddenly, my knees lurch upwards, straightening my legs. My entire body stiffens as if shocked without warning. I got it. The wind catches my suit, hitting me with the force of my speed all at once. Like a hand angled up outside the car window, I begin to rise. I see nothing. I pull my chin forward over my skis and reach for distance. The boards strapped to my feet begin to cut through the air, spreading into a V as naturally as a flock of migrating geese. Time seems to slow, but my thoughts are few.
The landing is the most treacherous part. At such high speeds, one slip leads to a steep hospital bill. The snow acts like concrete, and a fall means a forty mile per hour blow to it. I’m totally unaware of these truths in my descent. I let myself glide out as far as possible before setting my skis on the ground beneath me and letting gravity apply pressure. My senses snap back into focus. All of a sudden, I can hear my the crowd’s clap and feel the nippy night blowing against my face. I landed it. I turn around to look at the jump above me and don’t have time to react before my nose batters into the crusty earth. Embarrassed by my rookie mistake, I pull myself up and apply snow to my leaky face. Although I hear Coach’s laughing, I still feel the high — the flying high. I feel the rush I yearn for every second of the day. Nothing makes me smile easier than this rush: the adrenaline pumping through my veins; the sense of accomplishment; the wrangling of fear; the joy of doing something insane. I crave this high. I wish all the people who ask me why could feel the high I do right now.