Jumping like there’s-snow tomorrow

HEAT%2C+MEET+SNOW+MISER%E2%80%94Carefully+and+largely-built+bonfires+near+the+end+of+the+parking+lot+and+bottom+of+the+90-meter+hill+warm+up+attendees%2C+getting+a+good+view+of+the+tournament+while+outlasting+the+cold.+Photo+courtesy+of+PhotoYoop%2FCory+Genovese

HEAT, MEET SNOW MISER—Carefully and largely-built bonfires near the end of the parking lot and bottom of the 90-meter hill warm up attendees, getting a good view of the tournament while outlasting the cold. Photo courtesy of PhotoYoop/Cory Genovese

Jessica Parsons

The wind blew golden sparks like fireflies and ashes up and over into the air from the two bonfires, as if snowing fireballs were part of the forecast. But creamy hot chocolate never tasted better, each sip greeted with a nostalgic whiff of a crisp, winter campfire.

Blue round buttons were pinned on hats and coats of yoopers and attendees, sporting their support and entry into the Ishpeming Ski Club (ISC). In honor of Wilbert Rasmussen, the 133rd Annual Suicide Hill Ski Jumping Tournament was about to begin.

The stroke of 6 p.m. signaled the start of the International and United States jumpers trial. Competition rounds settled in around 7 p.m. 

In this sport, age is just a number, and though younger jumpers practice on the smaller jumps, they all prepare for the 90-meter hill that scoops up Negaunee’s sky. 

On an evening that suddenly grew windy, the jumpers were in no harm and remained able to perform like any other night.

“So far it’s going great. There’s more wind in the parking lot than there is on the hill,” ISC Head Coach Gary Rasmussen said. “The air up here has been perfect and we hadn’t had to hold anybody up because of the air.”

Between rounds and jumpers, a delay may be possible. So those are the common times attendees make their way inside the concession stand to warm up their legs, grab a pasty for fuel or make their way over to the beer tent to trust the bubbly to buy them more time in the U.P. brisk.

“It’s been all-systems go. The only delays we’ve had are with calculations to catch up and that happens periodically. So for the most part, everything is going pretty smoothly,” Rasmussen said.

After the second round of jumpers, the inspectors do what is called “reverse order,” meaning the jumper who came in last in each class would jump first next, and the person in first would go last, Rasmussen explained.

“We’re waiting for those calculations now and then we’ll start up the next round,” Rasmussen said.

Specifically last year, the event extended until 9 p.m. due to wind that had to be watched for every jumper.

“When you have variable wind, it can be safe to send skiers down, but is it fair? In other words, you want each jumper to have similar air,” Rasmussen said. “Last year we had to watch the ribbons on every single jumper to wait for the air to be just right.”

Dave Giddens, a local attendee, said this was his second year attending the tournament. What fascinates him the most is the large bonfires near the parking lot and bottom of the hill where many gather around to stay warm.

For many, getting the best picture and standing in the best spot is important. It’s a sacrifice to step away from the warmth, but to get a memorable photo of the jumpers is the goal.

“You have to do your timing,” Giddens said. “You hold your camera here like this and snap a picture, or you can get them when they [land] over there.”

The event continued on Jan. 22, the 10k Nordic Combined Ski Race began at 8 a.m. Traditionally, the ISC will continue to hold annual tournaments on their unique Suicide Hill Ski Bowl, a U.P. treasure just in the woods of our neighbors in Negaunee. 

To catch future events, visit www.ishskiclub.com.