Jumpers like planned ski jump improvements

Olympian Bill Demong (AP photo — John Minchillo)

LAKE PLACID — The Olympic Jumping Complex recently got approval from the state Adirondack Park Agency for a whole mess of renovations. While a zip-line attraction and snow tubing hill are expected to be fun for the casual visitor, the actual jumps hold plenty of opportunities for the future of ski jumping in Lake Placid.

The complex will see the installment of ice tracks, re-profiling of the outruns for the 120 and 90-meter jumps and a new 70-meter jump. The 48- and 18-meter jumps will be replaced by new 40- and 18-meter ones, according to Rebecca Dayton, assistant manager of the Olympic Jumping Complex for the state Olympic Regional Development Authority.

Homegrown jumper, Olympic gold medal winner and USA Nordic Executive Director Bill Demong said these projects are much-needed improvements.

“The [90-meter] jump was resurfaced in 1994,” he said, “and that was the last time anything of consequence was really done to the larger hills. By the early 2000s, the jumps were not comparing to international standards, so [the complex] was not as good of a training tool for the last decade or more. What’s been envisioned now is a return to a state-of-the-art facility.”

In the U.S., most training and competitions for nordic combined and ski jumping are done out west, specifically Steamboat Springs, Colorado, and Park City, Utah, where USA Nordic is headquartered.

“We’ve been trying to support Lake Placid by at least coming to the Flaming Leaves each year,” Demong said. The Flaming Leaves Festival is a yearly celebration in the fall, featuring local food and drink vendors, musical acts and ski jumping competitions without snow.

“With these improvements, we’d be returning to the highest level of competition,” Demong said, “be it [the International Ski Federation] Summer Grand Prix or the World Cup. We’ll have the potential to build a very robust schedule of both domestic and international events.”

Demong noted ice tracks as an important feature. Ice tracks allow for athletes to ski down jumps pretty much whenever without having to worry about environmental setbacks.

“On a snow track, if it becomes 50 degrees overnight or it rains,” Demong said, “all that snow will melt. Ice tracks create a much more friction-free surface at a variety of temperatures, and there aren’t as many varying snows or bumps.”

Colin Delaney is the ski jumping and nordic combined coach at the New York Ski Educational Foundation, which is based in Wilmington. He said, “with the ski towers being so exposed to the elements, any time where it reaches 30 degrees it would shut down the towers for a few days. Ice tracks require a lot less time and work to prepare for a season.”

Another addition Delaney said will greatly impact the sport is the new 70-meter ski jump.

“That jump is key for the whole northeastern region,” he said. “We don’t have an intermediate-sized jump.”

Olympian and NYSEF Youth Jumping Coach Jay Rand said the 70-meter hill is going to be a really good stepping stone for young jumpers. Now kids won’t go immediately from a 37-meter jump to a 90-meter jump.

“It’ll make the transitions easier for the kids and build their confidence,” he said. “I think we lose some kids because of that. Some don’t want to make that big of a transition, and the ones who do are in survival mode.”

Rand noted how there are some good youth hills facilities at the Harris Hill Ski Jump in Brattleboro, Vermont, but those, too, are subject to fluctuating weather.

Demong, Delaney and Rand agreed that the updates will prepare the complex for decades of high-level training and competition.

“We’ll definitely have the most modern venue in North America by end of this project,” Delaney said.