|Nancy’s view from the top of Holmenkollen in the summer of 1977.
Note the bowl is filled with water and a dock/stage positioned at the end.
STORY No. 32
La Crosse, Wisconsin
I’m not a ski jumper, but I’ve wondered what it takes to be one since a morning in 1977 when I climbed to the top of Oslo’s Holmenkollen.
That summer I’d finished studying in England and went to live with a friend in Oslo and Hamar for a couple of months. She worked at the Norsk Folkemuseum, could knit while talking non-stop and never looking, and was a rabid speed skating fan. The previous winter we’d shopped in Trondheim’s outdoor Christmas market, traveled snowy backways on her kicksled, and walked Oslo streets while fireworks crackled over the harbor on New Year’s Eve. We camped, hiked above Lake Mjosa, and stood at the edge of Geiranger fjord. But there was something about a quiet early morning visit to Holmenkollen, with nobody else around, that captured my imagination and stayed with me in a way that other things did not.
We left the apartment that morning before dawn, drove through the city, piled out of the car below the jump, and in unison our heads turned up. The jump was massive! I stood taking it in, wondering how anyone got to the point where they wanted to fly off the end of that run.
The winter before, on a drive through the mountains near Oslo with my friend’s grandma, I’d heard stories about great uncles training for ski competitions in dark woods after long days of work, oil headlights casting shadows on hilly trails. Twilight images of rocky slopes and strong young men dressed in wool came to mind, and I wondered why they cared enough to train in those conditions, and what racing and jumping had given them—something of their own, a goal, excitement, friends, I thought.
We climbed the hill, then flights and flights of stairs. I wonder now if it’s possible we really stood at the platform, but I remember being at the top, looking down the run, hardly breathing. In my mind’s eye I moved down and off into thin air, city lights beyond, fans cheering below. The height was so imposing, the view so broad, the idea of it so amazing that I had butterflies.
We watched the sun rise over the city, then climbed down and went back to our usual view.
I’ve lived most of my life in the Midwest, driving now and then past the Bloomington and Westby jumps and in recent years, hearing about jumps that used to be—Red Wing, MN (10!), Washburn, WI, Lanesboro, MN, St. Olaf College—all places where Norwegians made their homes. When I see the jumps still in use, I look up and wonder again what it feels like, what inspires a beginner, and what it takes.
So ski jumpers, how did you get started? What does it feel like up there? What goes through your mind when you’re ready to “fly?”
Editor’s note- If you go to the blog where these stories are archived http://usasjstoryproject.blogspot.com/ you can leave comments… or in this case, ski jumpers can answer Nancy’s questions, above.