Breck local wins Gelandesprung competition
summit daily news
Summit County, Colorado
Jeff Hitz’s training leading up to the Amateur Ski Flying (Gelandesprung) Competition in Steamboat Springs a couple weeks back wasn’t exactly ideal.
Sure, pulling an all-nighter for a test in school can sometimes get a student by, but cramming a winter’s worth of jumping into two days?
“Yeah, it’s tough,” Hitz, a 41-year-old Breckenridge resident, said with a laugh. “I get up (to Steamboat) on Thursday, then practice Thursday and Friday before competing. I get about 40 jumps in in two days.”
The strategy worked.
Hitz flew 49 meters (or 162 feet) off the 68-meter jump on Howelsen Hill to take home the top prize by only a half meter.
The annual event was part of the Steamboat Springs Winter Carnival on Feb. 6. But unlike the more common Nordic style of ski jumping ” in which athletes use an open-heel binding ” the carnival’s Gelandesprung competition consists of using regular alpine skis, boots and bindings.
“It’s a little more difficult, because you can’t get as far forward as the Nordic guys,” Hitz said.
It’s a sport that Hitz picked up more than two decades ago, when he moved to the jumping-crazed town of Steamboat. He competed regularly ” some 10 events per season ” throughout the 1980s, but pretty much gave up the sport when he moved to Summit County.
Then, four years ago, Hitz was listening to a radio advertisement for the carnival’s Gelandesprung competition and decided to give the sport another try after a 20-year break.
It wasn’t exactly easy to jump right back into, though, Hitz said.
“There’s just nowhere to train for it,” he said, noting that his home hill lacks a prominent jump. “The only place I can do it is in Steamboat.”
So, Hitz used his two-day training regiment each of the past three years, finishing sixth, fifth, then third, respectively.
This year, Hitz improved again, though he said he didn’t do anything too different in his preparation.
He used an old pair of 323 skis, which he referred to as “old-school downhill boards,” in the competition and credited his sponsor, Pup’s Glide Shop in Breck, for getting them ready. “He made them go fast, and I made them go far,” he joked.
It all added up to his winning jump.
“It was great to win,” Hitz said. ” … When you only do it once a year, it’s hard to be at your best out there.”
Despite the win, Hitz isn’t sure if he’ll go back and defend his title next year.
“I’m getting up there in age,” he said, “and I have to go back to work on Monday,”
Bryce Evans can be reached at (970) 668-4634 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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