I have always known ski jumping participants were gutsy competitors with nerves of steel, athletes willing to dare human flights from death-defying heights to complete crowd-pleasing jumps in search of ever-longer leaps. Every four years I watch ski jumpers as part of the Winter Olympics and am impressed at their daring natures. But viewing the event on TV doesn’t do it justice. Until I wrote about the Silver Mine Invitational ski-jumping competition in Eau Claire recently,
Spectators come to Silver Mine Hill on tournament weekend and see a sparkling ski hill illuminated brilliantly under the lights. Most don’t even think about what it takes to display such a scene — one that allows jumpers to soar great distances through the night air. What it takes is a dedicated handful of volunteers — who somehow wave a magic wand and all is ready. In reality, it takes about a month to put it all together for a successful show. And there is one other vital
They gathered in groups at a site just west of Eau Claire Friday night, clustered around warm orange fires, eating and drinking and talking as upbeat music sounded through speakers nearby. But whether they were longtime attendees of the Silver Mine Invitational or those at the event for the first time, all eyes invariably looked up at the tiny white lights high in the sky, the starting point for contestants in the 132nd ski jumping competition that attracted competitors from across the U.
While three of the Flying Eagles’ best are still in Europe seeking berths in the Olympics, Eau Claire will still be well represented in weekend ski jumping at Silver Mine Hill. Scheduled to be jumping are two of the nation’s top juniors — 19-year-old Nate Mattoon and 16-year-old Andrew Urlaub. They will be joined by youngsters Landon and Carter Lee and Stewart and Logan Gundry. The Flying Eagles’ 132nd anniversary tournaments begin under the lights at 6 p.m. Friday