Big Air

Alpine ski jumpers—sticking Geländesprungs, cliff hucks and gap-jumps—have been sending it for more than a hundred years. By Jay Cowan

Jesper Tjader explains what he wants to try on a practice run for the 2014 Nine Knights terrain park competition in Livigno, Italy, and no one thinks it’s possible. But he casually skis onto the in-run anyway. He’s planning a transfer from one big ramp to another one about 50 meters (164 feet) away on a completely different course. Coming up short means a face-full of vertical ice and almost certain serious injury. Overshooting isn’t a consideration since nobody believes he’ll clear the massive gap to begin with. But 20-year old Tjader, without consciously knowing it, is riding a wave of Big Air heroics that will define the first two decades of alpine ski jumping in the 2000s. The Swede sticks the landing three times that day on a jump no one else is even thinking about, and the last time he throws a double back flip.  

When Skiing Big Air debuts at the 2022 Winter Olympics in China, it will be on the back of these kinds of attention-grabbing feats over the past twenty years. Candide Thovex making the first successful jump on 120-foot Chad’s Gap, near Alta, in 1999. Jamie Pierre dropping a 255-foot cliff huck in 2006 in the Grand Targhee, Wyoming, backcountry, only to have Fred Syversen up the ante to a bonkers, and accidental, 351 feet two years later filming in Norway. Rolf Wilson laid down a 374-foot-long alpine jump in 2011 during a competition off the 90-meter jump at Howelsen Hill, and David Wise popped 46 feet above a park jump in 2016 in Italy, upping the record by more than 10 feet. All of this was accomplished on regular alpine ski gear—and it all began with something called the Geländesprung...

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