Four Anchorage kids and one Mexican exchange student are traveling to Utah to compete in the Ski Jumping and Nordic Combined Junior Nationals. The competition started yesterday and runs through Wednesday. The strong Alaska delegation is a sign of renewed interest in the sport.
There’s no chair lift on the northern side of Hilltop Ski Area, so the kids tramp up with their skis held over their heads.
The jumps stand at the height of 15, 40, and 60 meters. The junior competitors used the 40 meter jump, launching themselves into the air with nothing but skis and momentum.
Program coordinator Karen Compton says ski jumping requires personal willpower.
“It’s really the only sport I can think of, besides perhaps platform diving, where you have to have courage as well as athleticism. If you’re too afraid to go off the jump, you can’t be a ski jumper.”
One of the kids traveling to Utah is twelve-year-old Ryan Brubaker. This is his second year in the program, and he’s more focused on fun than fear.
“I don’t know. I like big air, I like jumps. So, it’s about the same as alpine skiing.”
There are three other Anchorage kids on the A-K Ski Jumping team: nine-year-old Jasper Rygh, ten-year-old Alex Murray, and thirteen-year-old Jack Consenstein. The oldest member of the team is fifteen-year-old Jose Miguel Banda, an exchange student from Puebla, Mexico. Though he had never seen snow before this fall, Banda has put in a lot of practice to excel at the sport.
“When you are in the air, you can feel like you’re flying. I don’t know, even when you’re landing it’s pretty cool. You are, like ‘Yeah, I made it!'”
Assistant Coach Trevor Taylor learned to jump under the direction of the program’s founder, Karl Eid. He says Banda has been very dedicated to learning how to jump.
“You know, he’s really motivated and does really well. You’d never guess that he’d never been on skis before. It’s good, and it’s kind of almost comical that he’s doing so well, considering this is his first year on skis.
The program has grown from just a few kids last winter to around thirty jumpers this year. Karen Compton hopes the increased popularity of the sport will get people more familiar with ski jumping.
“It’s such a unique sport and it’s such a great opportunity for these kids to live in a city that actually has ski jumps. There are so few places on Earth where you could even do the sport because ski jumps simply don’t exist in very many places.”
The Junior Nationals competition runs from March 2nd through the 6th.