From the first time he strapped on a pair of Alpine skis, Steamboat Springs' Pat Arnone knew he loved to fly.
While he spent most of his days racing through a series of gates on giant slalom courses, one of the biggest thrills he got was catching air off a speed bump at full speed in a downhill. Arnone loved the feeling of having his skis lifted off the snow and feeling like he had defied the laws of gravity.
"I've always loved to fly," Arnone said.
On Sunday in Steamboat Springs, the long-time Gelande jumper proved that he knew how to fly by soaring more than 300 feet on all four of his jumps off of Steamboat's K-114 en route to finishing second in the 2004 Alpine Ski Flying Championships at Howelsen Hill. It was a great day for Arnone, who not only competes, but is also the driving force behind Steamboat's only professional Gelande jumping competition. The event features skiers with Alpine skis and bindings launching off ski jumps that were built for their Nordic counterparts.
"We had a lot of snow, which set us back a bit, but we got a window on Sunday that was close to perfect," Arnone said. "The sun came out, there was a slight breeze coming up the hill and a lot of the guys had the rides of their lives."
Perennial favorite Rolf Wilson set the bar high by breaking his own world record with a jump of 359.45 feet in the finals. He finished with a total of 709.06 points to run away with the competition for the second year in a row.
Arnone, one of four jumpers from Steamboat, said he had one of his best days since winning the event in 1998. He collected 682.81 points and jumped farther than 100 meters on all four of his jumps for the day. Jumpers competed in two, two-jump rounds. The longest jump from each round was counted in the jumper's final score.
Arnone's longest jump of the day came on his second effort when he covered a distance of 343.05 feet.
Rolf's brother, Eric, was third, Lynn Wenzel was fourth and Brent Wilson fifth.
Steamboat's Ron Norton was sixth. Greg Rudolph was eighth, and Tim Magill was 13th.
Arnone said this is one of three Gelande events in the United States this year. The same jumpers will head to Missoula, Mont. on Feb. 29th, for the second event of the season. The final event will take place in Snowbird in March.