After being grounded for 14 years, the National Gelande Championships got airborne again Saturday.
A field of 120 amateurs began jumping off the "old mine dump" on Saturday. Professionals will begin jumping today at 10 a.m.The last time skiers jumped off the small hill at the base of the Little Cottonwood ski resorts, put there by miners back when silver - and not skiing - was the major resource, was in 1974. The jumping event was brought back as part of Alta's 50th anniversary celebration.
Gelande jumping was started back in 1964. It differs from ski jumping in that skiers must be in a tuck with the ski tips down as opposed to leaning out over skis that are turned up. The last event was held 14 years ago. Early events used to attract up to 300 competitors and several thousand spectators.
On good jumps Saturday, skiers hit the raised lip of the jump, went into a comfortable tuck, then reached out and touched down on the backside of the hill. On bad jumps they usually fell and skidded to the base of the hill.
According to Alf Engen, director of the Alta ski school and writer of the original rules on gelande jumping, this was a special day for many of the Alta employees.
"Many of the people who put this together today were the same ones who worked on the event 14 years ago. It was exciting, both for the people who put this on and those who jumped," he said.
Bjorn Nilsson, making his first jumps off the bump, likened it to riding a roller coaster . . . "The first time was scary. You're going down and suddenly you're off the tracks and in the air. It's quite a rush."
Winning the amateur 18-24 division was Troy Kearier, who made three jumps of 60 feet and a high score of 48 of 670 on form for 215.6 points. Second was Rolf Sandberg with 212.2 and third was Richard Lee with 190.9.
Robbie Huntoon won the 25-31 class with jumps of 51.9, 60 and 60 feet and a high score in form of 52 for 220 points. Second was Jack Connolly with 215.1 and third was Arne Hultquist with 203.3.
Jack Johnson won the 32-39 class with jumps of 58.7, 54.9 and 60 feet and a high form score of 49 for 208.9. Second was Kim Deleeum with 204.9 and third was Lew Moore III with 199.9
A field of 70 professionals will be jumping today for prize money. The winner will get $1,500, runner-up $750 and third place $500. The jumping hill is near the lower base area at Atla. There is no charge to spectators.
Skiers are given up to 60 points for overall distance off the jump and 60 points for form. Each skier is allowed three jumps and the total from all three is the final score.