Ski jumpers to compete at Utah Olympic Park
Starting next week, the best ski jumpers from across the United States will come to Park City and the Utah Olympic Park for the 17th-annual Springer Tournee. The weeklong event features top jumpers from youth levels all the way up to U.S. National Team athletes.
Preparations for next week’s action are underway, according to U.S. Coach Alan Alborn. He said the Park City Nordic Ski Club staff members and the Utah Olympic Park are readying themselves for an exciting week.
"We’re making sure all the jumps are up and running to our expectations and gearing up to see about 150 athletes show up in Park City for a week," he said. "It’s a pretty fun week for us because we get to see the best from around the country and Canada. From juniors up to national athletes, they all mix it up together for a week."
Alborn said the Springer Tournee is gaining magnitude every year. In addition to giving the young jumpers a chance to work with the top athletes in the sport, the competitions at the end of the week also serve as the U.S. National Championships.
"It’s a great week for the entire community because it’s the only time all year the athletes, young to old, can get together," he said. "It’s been growing every year as far as numbers. In ski jumping and Nordic combined, it’s becoming quite a tradition."
Early in the week, the young athletes will get a chance to work side-by-side with the U.S. National Team athletes, something Alborn said is beneficial for both parties.
"We’ve made it more of an education week rather than just competition," he said. "It’s about long-term athlete development and having kids understand more about the sport and meet their heroes and rub shoulders with them. This is the third year we’ve been doing that now, and [the National Team athletes] are looking forward to it. They have a sense of what it means to give back and they also get to see what it means to those kids. They get to see who is coming up behind them, too. I think it’s a good feeling for them to know there are kids coming up behind them wanting to be them. Everybody leaves more inspired at the end of the week."
When competitions start on Thursday morning on the small hill, Alborn said the Springer Tournee becomes spectator-friendly.
"Thursday, pretty much all day, they’ll be jumping on the 60-meter hill," he said. "On any of the jumps, a spectator can get really close to the athletes and see what it’s like. Friday morning is our HS-100 — the normal-sized Olympic hill. Saturday will be the HS-134 competition, the Olympic large hill. People can come and check those out — it’ll be some of the best ski jumpers in the world competing."
The weekend of competitions concludes Saturday night, when the Nordic combined athletes take to the track at Soldier Hollow for running and roller-skiing contests.
The ski jumping portions of the competitions held at the UOP will be held on the same jumps athletes use during the winter. Though it is unusual to see ski jumpers landing on artificial grass instead of snow, Alborn said the difference is negligible to the athletes.
"The biggest difference is dealing with the heat and friction," he said. "The in-run is all porcelain and sprinkled with water, so it really does simulate an ice-packed jump. We have to wet the [landing area] down quite a bit so, when they land, it reduces the friction. When it’s wet, it really does simulate well-groomed snow. It’s a little bit less forgiving when you fall on it, but it’s about as close as you can get to jumping on snow."
Alborn said the event will be a lot of fun for those involved and spectators who attend the competitions, but added that the UOP and the Park City Nordic Ski Club couldn’t host the tournaments without a lot of help.
"We have a fantastic group of volunteers," he said. "Without them, we wouldn’t be able to pull this off."
Springer Tournee Competition Schedule
Thursday, July 30
Friday, July 31
Saturday, Aug. 1
Steele DeWald has his life in Park City down to a routine. After some strange encounters in his 20s, he’s OK with the mundane.