Tom Ross: As many as 30 girls ski jumping with Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club this winter
February 7, 2014
Steamboat Springs — Ask girls ages 5 to 7 who ski jump if they are following the historic experiences of the U.S. women ski jumping team at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, and you're certain to get a blank look. But ask them why they love the sport, and it's another matter entirely.
Consider Mattie Welch, 6, who answered, "It's fun because there's more than two kids. Sometimes, I put on my pretend wings and jump off my bed."
Mattie was among dozens of boys and girls taking part in Friday afternoon’s Ski Jumping Jamboree on the HS20 jump at Howelsen HIll, part of the 101st Steamboat Springs Winter Carnival. It's not the smallest ski jump at Howelsen Hill. The landing hill is steep enough to be a little intimidating.
When I pointed to the top of the adult ski jumps at Howelsen and asked Mattie if she might launch off one of those towering hills someday, she replied, "I would probably do that."
Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club Nordic Program Director Todd Wilson predicted that more and more girls in Steamboat might begin thinking that way now that U.S. Olympians Sarah Hendrickson, Lindsey Van and Jessica Jerome are blazing the trail in Sochi in pursuit of the first Olympic medals ever to be awarded to women for ski jumping.
"I absolutely think it will make a difference," Wilson said.
Boys and girls Mattie's age begin their Nordic skiing careers at the Winter Sports Club participating in cross-country skiing and ski jumping in the Little Vikings program. If they stick with it, they can try Nordic combined skiing, which involves both sports. Of 110 kids in the Nordic combined program right now, about a third are girls, Wilson said Friday.
Wilson thinks it won't be too long before women's Nordic combined is added to the Olympics. It's unlikely for South Korea in 2018, but don't be surprised if it happens in 2022, he said.
Tess Arnone, 10, who enjoys Nordic ski jumping and gelande jumping on her Alpine skis, is old enough to pay attention to the U.S. Olympic team, but it's not about hero worship for Tess, who already has jumped the larger HS45 ski jump.
Asked if she was inspired by the first Olympic women ski jumpers, she replied, "It's inspiring just to see what their jump is like. You can learn from watching them. They keep their backs very flat on the in-run."
With about 30 girls already honing their ski jumping skills in the Winter Sports Club's Nordic combined program, it seems inevitable that one of the little girls at play Friday on Howelsen Hill somedaywill find a special place in Steamboat's Olympic history.
I'm looking forward to it. Because women ski jumpers rock.
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