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Kirby: Landing on snow is anything but fluffy

Published February 6, 2013 12:09 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Robert Kirby has the day off. This is a reprint of an earlier column.

In a long career of stupid moves, I have made but one ski jump. My memory of the event is fragmented thanks to a bad landing. I still remember enough to understand that one was enough.

Actually, it wasn't a ski jump. It was more of a sled jump. But it took place on a ski run. In the middle of the night, two friends and I dragged some sleds as high as we dared on a run at Sundance.

It was cold, clear, high and inviting. We flopped down on our sleds and cast off, moving from zero to Mach 2 in a span of seconds. Midway down the run I encountered a ski jump, or what professionals refer to as "a small bump."

The sled took off, came down, blew up and bulleted the rest of the way to the bottom wrapped around my half-dressed carcass. Upon recovering my wits, boots, gloves, pants and glasses, I swore off ski slopes forever.

Today, I am a proud member of a large majority, specifically one that finds it distressing to have a large unsupported gap between itself and the ground. We equate such a condition to an even more alarming one known as falling.

The wrong conclusion here is that a jumper lands in snow, so how bad could it really hurt? Snow is soft and fluffy. Why not jump into it?

Morons think this way. The snow on most ski runs is the consistency of zirconium. You stand a better chance of avoiding injury by diving into a parking lot.

But there are people who do it on purpose, lunatics mostly, but nevertheless people who get paid to leap great distances clad in little more than skis and barely sufficient health insurance.

Ski jumping has become an Olympic sport, one in which athletes are revered for their ability to do something that doesn't make sense to most people after a six pack.

Here's how it works: Put on a pair of Lycra long johns, clamp a pair of skis to your feet, crouch inside a small hut at the top of a very long log flume. Wait until all reason vanishes and then hurl yourself down the flume and over a cliff.

The point — generously assuming that there is one — is to see just how far the flume will shoot you. The skier who covers the greatest distance wins.

Exactly what application this sport has in the real world is a bit of a mystery. Other winter Olympic sports are based on behavior once held necessary for survival: fast skating, good shooting and even curling (pushing a frozen pig across the ice).

Even the snowboard half-pipe can be argued as a necessary survival skill. In the years to come, one never knows when one might have to surf through a frozen metropolitan sewer.

But no one knows how ski jumping worked its way into a winter sport. It may have had something to do with early Scandinavian attempts at flight, or simply a way of ending it all during the long, bitter winters of the far north.

Consider this a call for new common-sense winter Olympic sports: fire building, tire chains and ski lodge lounging.

Robert Kirby can be reached at rkirby@sltrib.com or facebook.com/stillnotpatbagley.