|DREAMS OF SKI JUMPERS FLYING THROUGH HIS HEAD. Landis Arnold recalls the Christmas vacations of his childhood in when days upon days were all about ski jumping.|
Winter Park Ski Club, 1984 Olympics
Ski Sport and the Holidays
As we head into the holidays, I look out on a yard full of snow. There is some ice on the road here where we live outside Boulder, CO. It’s marginal ski jumping country here, but you could, if we had a hill, ski this week. Our good snow is in the mountains above. I grew up as a “student” in the Winter Park Jump School. Winter Park was a Saturday-Sunday program through most of the season, but the holiday week was always one of the highlights of our year. We got a whole week of skiing, and sometimes two weeks of skiing around the holidays. What fun was that!?
Holiday week would normally snow a lot. We would pack, and pack and pack. Our interface to the jumps then was made by packing steps into the snow, carrying our skis, everyone following the lead, generally deliberating about our upcoming jump, but also trying not to step off the “packed” path and fall through into the sugar snow or worse. Luckily we jumped in “sensible clothes”: Wool and nylon stretch pants, wool sweaters, low top leather boots, beanie caps and foggy goggles.
If there were not such crowds on the alpine hills and lifts, we would sometimes take the leisure of riding the Gemini Lift up to the top of Parkway then schuss like Robert Redford in Downhill Racer down to the jumps. We skied the 20, 35 and 50 meter hills with some “rocket lift” help from time to time. But normally we hiked. Coaches got to talk to us this way. We got to look at the hill. We got to imagine the jumps again and again.
And then sometimes, the snow and overdose on jumps would conspire and we would grab our shovels and start building our “snow castle” in the starts. Our 35 meter hill was a wonderful jump with a pitifully flat in run. Where we started it was even flatter. But with our shovels we could fill everything in and build a series of carve-in starts, and even make a gelandesprung path from the “attic”. That was fun. Co-conspirator Craig Gaskill took his skills in snow carving and applied it to a career in Civil Engineering and has lead some incredible highway up fits – including the Valley Highway through the south side of Denver. That was fun, but the snow project was really fun. On my side, this early carving helped me in later years when I was shaping kayaks. White plaster, white snow.
Over the years one mantra I took to my skiing I realize grew from these experiences. “Ski the hill” I would say. “Ski the hill” was a way to keep from focusing too much on “the takeoff.” In other ways it gave me a pathway to “enter the present” when I was finished with my imagery. Ultimately though, it gave me a path for “absorbing the greater experience.” Being a ski jumper is a gateway to the world that is incomparable in its experience. Physics of flight. Athletic challenge. Danger. Beauty. Travel. Foreign immersion. Variable snow. Great friends. Caring coaches. Amazing communities. Hard work. Unbelievable fun.
Ski the hill. See the jump you are about to take. Believe it. Then see your hand, your feet. Put your skis down. Enjoy putting your bindings on. Be in the moment. You don’t get to carve your way into the track these days, but you can still ski the hill. Get over your center and into your tuck. Love that transition and keep that center forward. And through the tunnel the movement like no other. Into the air and gathering. Climbing on the arc, climb as high as you can. When it all goes well it pulls you and the glide… Wow. If it was up to me I would change the skis and bindings so you can put in a great telemark again, and maybe carve a bit once you land. Ski the hill. Ski the hill and have fun every day.
Happy Holidays to everyone.
|FROM DREAMS to REALITY. Landis Arnold with perfect form in 1983 at Holmenkollen in Oslo, Norway.
EDITOR’S NOTE- To see the Downhill Racer trailer- CLICK HERE