Techniques of the Winter Games Part 2: The Evolution of the Ski Jump

Ski Jumper Sarah Hendrickson Takes Flight on the Sleeping Giant
Ski Jumper Sarah Hendrickson Takes Flight on the Sleeping Giant

To the untrained eye, ski jumping is essentially finding the courage to go screaming down a mountain on skis at 90 kilometers per hour with winter winds whipping your face, staring down the possibility of a crash of cataclysmic proportions. Think the opening of ABC’s Wide World of Sports program, and Jim McKay’s famous line “agony of defeat.”

To the trained eye, the ability to control your anxiety, launch into the air explosively, manipulate your body and skis into the most efficient aerodynamic form possible and maintain it, and of course, sticking the landing requires considerable preparation and training. The slightest variation to the optimal flying technique, and the wind will throw your body out of form with sometimes ugly ramifications.

Wikipedia was kind enough to map out the differences in ski jump technique over the years. To understand them visually, I identified video that represents that technique as closely as possible.

Kongsberger Technique: Named after the town – Kongsberg, Norway – in which this technique was created, “the technique was characterized by the athlete’s upper body being bent at the hip, with arms extended out front past the head and skis held parallel to each other. Sometimes the arms would be waved or ‘flapped’ around vigorously in a bird-like manner.” As you can see in the video below of ski jumping from the 1930s, there was definitely a lot of flapping of arms.

 

 

Windisch / Dascher Techniques: These two seem quite similar to me, at least the way they are described. The biggest distinction between them and the Kongsberger is that the arms and hands are no longer out front and moving, but instead are extended back towards the hips, and held still. In this video of ski jumping in the 1950s, you can see the ski jumpers are making the transition from Kongsberger to Windisch: half have their arms extended out front like Superman, which is the Kongsberger technique, with the other half with their hands back near their hips.

 

V-Style Technique: This is the style you see today, the skis no longer parallel. The ski tips, instead, or spread out in a “V” shape, creating more aerodynamic lift.

 

You can actually see the difference the V-Style technique makes in this mock up at the Sapporo Winter Sports Museum.