Steamboat Springs' Gelandesprung Posse
● By Dan Greeson
“If you can stand up on skis, I can get you off a jump,” says Pat Arnone, the unofficial godfather of gelande at the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club. Pat is the president of Alpine Ski Jumping, a nonprofit out of Montana that promotes the sport officially known as gelandesprung.
Gelandesprung, or gelande, began in the 1960s in Alta, Utah. The first recorded contest held at Alta was started by ski jumper Alf Engen in 1964. Gelande refers to jumping with alpine gear and fixed heel. Unlike Nordic jumpers, gelande jumpers rely on speed at take off and can hinge only from their hips, making them less aerodynamic.
Pat is the heart and soul of the gelandesprung posse on Wednesday nights at Howelsen Hill. A staple crew of six guys including Greg Rudolph, Marsh Gooding and Tim Magill soar through the air strapped to lengthy alpine skis of 223 cm-plus, taking off at average speeds of 60 miles per hour.
“I deal in adrenaline,” says Pat, who has been making it a mission to get more people jumping at Howelsen. “Wednesday nights are jump nights for anyone to come and try for a small fee and a lift ticket,” he says. “Start on the small hill and work your way up. It’s all about trying something new, going at your own pace and seeing how far you want to fly.”
Alpine Ski Jumping hosts four events a year, with two held in Steamboat at the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club Winter Carnival in February and SSWSC Jumpin’ Jammin’ on July 4. Pat and co. relish Sunday’s professional finals during Winter Carnival on Howelsen’s “big hill,” where Rolf Wilson of Missoula, Montana, set the world record of 374 feet in 2011. He’d captured the earlier record of 359 feet in 2005 – seconds after Pat landed at 351 feet. “I was the record-holder for minutes,” Pat quips.
Every now and then even this hardcore gelande crew will see something that makes them wince. “We’ve had a tele skier try the HS75 for the first time, sitting down on his skis on the in-run and landing on his back. Remarkably he got up unscathed. Then we had a 63-year-old visitor enter the amateur contest at the Winter Carnival with no time to train. He crashed three times out of four on the HS75. Now that was a little crazy,” Pat says, while shaking his head.
“I’d encourage anyone to come and try it on Wednesday nights. We’re all about safety, and it’s a great time for families to do something different. Like I said, if you can stand on skis, I can get you off a jump.”