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Holmenkollen loses old-school style, but not spirit

A little bit of the pizzazz of the famed Holmenkollen ski jump will die this fall.
     It will be torn down in the coming months and Norway is putting close to NOK 1 billion (U.S. $186 million) into rebuilding a “new style” state-of-the-art jump for the 2011 Nordic World Championships. The original jump has been in place since 1892 and the present structure has been remodeled 18 times. Except another refurbishment wasn't enough to meet standards for the World Championships, so state and Oslo city officials are funding construction of a new jump. The new jump will provide wind protection and elevators—state-of-the-art everything.
     However, with the new profile, the hill will be safer but some of its personality will be lost. “I’m bummed that they are tearing it down because it’s one of the most unique jumps that any ski jumper will ever go on,” says U.S. Ski Team jumper Lindsey Van, who is one of the top jumpers in the world.
     It’s “old style” and that makes it unique, says Van’s teammate Jessica Jerome. “The profile of the hill is old-style so it’s way more high flying and a little bit gnarlier than a lot of the new-style hills which are a lot safer,” she says.
A little bit of the pizzazz of the famed Holmenkollen ski jump will die this fall.
     It will be torn down in the coming months and Norway is putting close to NOK 1 billion (U.S. $186 million) into rebuilding a “new style” state-of-the-art jump for the 2011 Nordic World Championships. The original jump has been in place since 1892 and the present structure has been remodeled 18 times. Except another refurbishment wasn't enough to meet standards for the World Championships, so state and Oslo city officials are funding construction of a new jump. The new jump will provide wind protection and elevators—state-of-the-art everything.
     However, with the new profile, the hill will be safer but some of its personality will be lost. “I’m bummed that they are tearing it down because it’s one of the most unique jumps that any ski jumper will ever go on,” says U.S. Ski Team jumper Lindsey Van, who is one of the top jumpers in the world.
     It’s “old style” and that makes it unique, says Van’s teammate Jessica Jerome. “The profile of the hill is old-style so it’s way more high flying and a little bit gnarlier than a lot of the new-style hills which are a lot safer,” she says.
     Nonetheless, the tradition of Oslo’s landmark jump—situated high on the hill, 417 meters above sea level—will remain. Holmenkollen Day in March is viewed as Norway’s second national day where tens of thousands of spectators gather to watch the nordic events including the national sport of ski jumping. The king and queen attend and the winners get to meet them.
     “The first time I ever went there I was 13 and jumped in front of 100,000 people,” says Van. “It’s like the Super Bowl of ski jumping, but I didn’t really understand why people wanted to watch ski jumping. I’m from the U.S.”
     In Norway, however, Van and Jerome are celebrities. To jump at the Holmenkollen is one of the nation’s highest honors and for the women it was by invitation only on “Kollen” Day. “The Holmenkollen is the ski jump that everyone knows about,” Jerome says. In 2000, the women’s good friend Anette Sagen of Norway jumped 116 meters and still holds the women’s hill record. But after 2005, women were no longer able to compete there for a reason that boils down to poor performance in windy conditions. Jerome says if men were forced to fly that night like the women, they wouldn’t have shown well either. Nonetheless, the experience the women had was priceless.
     One of their fondest memories is of the waffles. The city’s best waffles can be found at the Hoppcafeen, where the same “waffle ladies” make waffles year after year. “The waffle ladies are legendary!” says Jerome. “Whenever we went to Holmenkollen, we would always look for the waffle ladies. They get fatter and fatter every year.”
     Though the spectacle of Holmenkollen will remain, the jump will be much different. For Norway to hold the prestigious Worlds, it had to make an upgrade to the rickety old jump where athletes had to walk up many stairs to reach the top of the in-run and then forced to fly in Oslo’s windy, foggy conditions. The process of rebuilding has caused a controversy in Norway. The new jump is a revised version of the winning architectural design that was considered much too pricey for Oslo, especially when the state refused to pitch in enough money. The current design has had mixed reviews, some thinking it will be “brilliant” while others think more must be invested in order for it to be capable of using year-round. Regardless, it will be torn down and it must be rebuilt by 2010 for the championships trials. There will be no World Cup competitions till then.
     Not to worry, says Jerome: “The tradition will still be there, the people will still be there, the waffle ladies will still be there, but the profile of the hill will be different.”

In May, Ski Racing features editor Vanessa Pierce took a tour of the jump, and won’t ever see it this way again. These pictures are what she saw …

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