A Brief Introduction to Masters Ski Jumping
Imagine this scene — you approach a complex of ski jumps, half a dozen or more jumping hills of different sizes, the sparkling snow carefully groomed, decorated with flags and banners. Old Boys at Steamboat Scores of athletes in one piece jump suits brighter than the banners trudge up through the snow and stand in groups of two or three, conversing, stretching, and waiting for their moment to zip down the track and launch into the air. As you come up close, you notice that these skiers are not teenagers, many are a little gray around the temples or bald on the top, and they converse in a half dozen different languages. This is the annual International Masters Championships in Ski Jumping (IMC) and the lean, fit athletes range from youngsters in their thirties to octogenarians.
Zakopane jumping hillsMasters ski jumping is not a new idea, but these championships reflect a new level of organization. The first Championships were held in Lake Placid NY in February of 1990. Subsequent editions of the IMC visited Odnes NOR, Swanstein SWE, Kuopio FIN, Hurdal NOR, Zakopane POL (photo at right), Steamboat Springs USA, Sundsvall SWE, Perm RUS, Otepaa EST, Rognan NOR and Rovaniemi FIN. To establish a presence in central Europe, IMC came to Harrachov CZE, returned to Zakopane, then visited Reit im Winkl GER, Villach, AUT and Kranj SLO .
MurphyBakke The IMC was the brainchild of Earle Murphy (left) of Lake Placid and Guttorm Bakke (right) of Jessheim, Norway, who also established an international committee for Masters ski jumping to coordinate IMC and other activities. This Committee has representatives from the U. S., Canada, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Germany, Estonia, Russia, Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Austria and Australia, and seeks interest from all ski jumping nations.
Many ski jumping competitions around the world, including several national championships, recognize a Masters class. In addition, several nations hold separate age group national championships, usually on smaller hills. The Duluth Ski Club’s annual Souvenir Booklet lists U.S. National Masters (formerly Veterans) champions starting in 1935. Norway is the cradle of ski jumping and has led the way in Masters jumping. In 1905 for the first time, the old timers had their own class in Holmenkollen, for those over thirty; that year, the oldest competitor was 70 years old. In 1997, the Norwegian Veteran Club celebrated its fiftieth anniversary.
Masters Ski Jumpers — Other Times and Other Names
Age group competition goes back to the earliest days of ski jumping, and through the decades many different terms have been used in the U.S. to refer to the oldest class of competitors. The Senior class was replaced with Veterans, then the present euphemism, Masters. Any of these is more dignified than Geritol class, and surely preferable to survivors. Perhaps the most appealing is the Norwegian term Gamle Gutter, literally Old Boys. It reminds us that ski jumpers at any age must be playful and young at heart.