What does it feel like to ski jump? Fit City gives it a go

Pam LeBlanc learned the basics of ski jumping today. Olympian Todd Wilson had her start on this tiny jump at Howelsen Hill in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Chris LeBlanc photo

Holy flying squirrels, that was nuts!

I enlisted the help of two-time Olympian Todd Wilson to coach me over a ski jump at Howelsen Hill here in Steamboat Springs, Colorado.

In a nutshell: Boy, those Olympic-sized jumps make the Super Slides I loved when I was a kid look like toddler’s slide at the neighborhood park. Thankfully, I didn’t go off one of those.

Todd Wilson points out the ski jump at Howelsen Hill in Steamboat Springs. Chris LeBlanc photo


Ski jumping is all about progression, and I started on the tiniest of jumps, one that stood maybe a foot high on a gently sloping hill.

Even that looked a little threatening from my vantage point, though. (Try standing at the top of a hill and looking down at a jump when you can’t see the landing.) But Wilson walked me through the procedure – assume the tuck position skiing up to the jump, lock knees and ankles when you’re airborne, and absorb the shock when you land.


Pam LeBlanc practices her tuck position. Chris LeBlanc photo


A bunch of kids were riding a moving sidewalk up the hill, watching me sweat out the moments leading up to my first attempt.

“Are you going off that jump?” one of them asked.

“Yep, I’m trying,” I told the 5-year-old.

“Well, we’re doing that big jump over there,” he told me. “And we’re only in second grade.”

Point taken.

Once you start down the runway, you’re committed, as Pam LeBlanc learned. Chris LeBlanc photo

We did the tiniest hill six or seven times, then moved up a step, to the not-quite-as-tiny jump. That frayed my nerves a bit, but I conquered it too, with Wilson’s help.

“Ski jumping is like hitting a golf ball off a flatbed truck going 60 mph, and you have to hit the ball when you pass a sign on the side of the road. And if you miss, something throws you off the truck,” he told me.

Todd Wilson coaches Pam LeBlanc in ski jumping at Howelsen Hill. Chris LeBlanc photo

It’s all about commitment. Once you start down the in-run, the chute leading to the jump, you can’t snow plow, try to slow down or turn off. You’re doing it.

And I did. I screamed, freaked out a little inside my head, and did it.

And it was awesome.

Story coming soon.

Author: Pam LeBlanc

Pam LeBlanc writes about fitness and travel for the Austin American-Statesman. She has worked for the Statesman since 1998 and written her weekly fitness column, Fit City, since 2004.

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