‘They fly through the air as if on wings’

Zak Hammil in the air over Suicide Hill. (Photo courtesy of Jim Sodergren)

By Michael Murray

Leaning over a burn barrel at the bottom of a ski-jumping hill, tracking young European daredevils as they defy the very idea of gravity, you might find yourself contemplating the existential questions of winter: Could I do that? What would it take for me to strap on a pair of skis and launch myself into the cold, gray sky? Who in the name of Odin thought this was a good idea? And why can’t I feel my toes?

Olympic Review magazine declares with an impressive degree of certainty that the oldest written description of ski jumping dates back to 1673, when a Swedish author named Johannes Schefferus published a book titled Lapponia, which detailed daily life and customs in northern Scandinavia.

Around 100 years later, a Norwegian named Rikard Berge wrote a song describing this new sport, the latest point in the evolution of skiing from cross-country to downhill to jumping. His lyrics, translated: “And in winter they ski down the steepest slopes. The hill is so high and the field so steep, they fly through the air as if on wings. With jumps some six yards, that is how they while away their hours. And as they hover in the air, the spectators gaze in amazement.”…

To read the full story, please pick up a copy of this months Marquette Monthly at one of our distribution outlets.

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