Ski jumpers take to the air at Alpine Ski Flying Championships | SteamboatToday.com

Ski jumpers take to the air at Alpine Ski Flying Championships

Luke Graham

— Everything had set up well for Rolf Wilson.

The current world record holder at in Gelande jumping, Wilson knew Sunday’s Alpine Ski Flying Championships at Howelsen Hill would be a perfect opportunity to break the 111.5 meters he jumped three years ago in Steamboat Springs.

After jumps of 107, 110 and 108 meters Sunday, Wilson had one more chance.

On his final jump, Wilson flew through the air and landed exactly at 111.5 meters, tying his world record and sending him back to Bozeman, Mont., in first place.

“I was definitely thinking about it, and it was looking really close,” Wilson said. “In fact, I thought I landed on the actual record. It felt a lot stronger this year than the actual year I set the record.”

Wilson’s brother, Eric, finished second with a jump of 108.5 meters. Bruce Stott and Steamboat’s Pat Arnone tied for third with jumps of 101 meters.

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On an almost pristine day for jumping, Wilson said he had a feeling this might be the day he eclipsed his own record.

Because of the recent snow, jumpers didn’t get a look at the K-90 jump with the extension until 1 p.m. Saturday.

Still, the day – with the sun making a rare appearance – proved to be perfect.

“The snow temperature was perfect and the conditions were perfect,” said Wilson, who began jumping in 1996. “Waking up this morning, (I) was hoping for no snow.”

The event included 12 jumpers flying off the K-90 jump at Howelsen at speeds between 60 and 65 mph. All competitors used traditional Alpine skis where the heel doesn’t leave the ski, as well as ski poles.

Although it might seem crazy, Arnone, the event organizer, said the event blends elements every skier loves.

“It’s fun to be in the air, and this is the epitome of it,” Arnone said. “It’s that expression of loving the skiing and loving being in the air.”

Arnone said putting on the event can be stressful, especially with all the snowstorms that have blanketed Steamboat Springs recently.

But days like Sunday are why Arnone does it.

“It’s worth it,” he said. “Every year, about three days before the event, I start wondering why I’m doing it because I haven’t slept, I’m shoveling snow and haven’t seen my wife in three days. Get out here and have a day like (Sunday) and it’s all worth it. Every year it’s worth it.”

– To reach Luke Graham, call 871-4229

or e-mail lgraham@steamboatpilot.com