Ski jumping in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany

New Year’s Day is one of those typical days of the year. A bit groggy from the night before, you slowly wake up. At some point you visit the neighbors and they visit you in order to exchange the formalities. To be honest, those are not the most exciting times. One thing that comes back every year, and strangely became part of Dutch tradition, is watching the ski jumping competition in Garmisch-Partenkirchen on television. You can guess it by now, I had to change this tradition and watch it live!

The ski jumping in Garmisch-Partenkirchen is the second competition of the so-called 4 hills tournament. The first competition is held in Oberstdorf and the third and fourth in Innsbruck and Bischofshofen respectively. For all of you who paid close attention at topography it’s probably clear by now that the first two competitions take place in Germany while the latter two take place in Austria. All of the competitions are probably quite similar except the one in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Why? The fact it’s on New Year’s Day adds something special.

First I took the train to Munich and checked out the Bavarian capital. After a nice day of exploring I noticed a big screen with El Classico in the sports of darts (Barney – Taylor) and went inside what is probably the most dodgy bar in all of Munich. The owner could easily be a sympathizer of the new empire ruled by men with beards. That probably explains why his beer almost killed me…

After two days in bed (thanks to the terrorist attack the other night in the bar…), I somehow had to make my way to Grainau early morning on New Year’s Day…

the beautifully located village of Grainau was my home during the ski jumping…

After a decent stroll with my 50+ kilos of luggage to the train station, I could finally relax in the train. Apparently the train was full with people going to the same event. Although everybody was getting off in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, I continued to Untergrainau where, after another 30 minutes walk, I finally arrived at my hotel to drop off my luggage. Some hitchhiking finally got me at my destination of the day, the ski jumping hill. In your memories this event might look like a typical picture postcard winter scene where everything is covered in snow. Thanks to climate change things look different in 2017. Some artificial snow and more importantly freezing temperatures were the only reminder of it being winter. Time to enter the stadium and enjoy the warm up jumps…

global warming is definitely visible during the competition in Garmisch-Partenkirchen…

Even though the mountains weren’t covered in snow, it was still terribly cold so a nice bowl of chili warmed me up. No ridiculous prices were a nice welcome during such an event. The highly caffeinated Fritz Kola (2.5 times as much as regular coke) gave me just enough energy to survive the day. Inside the stadium the atmosphere was lively and, of course, well organized and very well behaved. After all, this is still Germany…

All ages and a variety of countries were represented in the stands. In front of me was an older lady dressed in a Japanese outift. She was proudly waving her Japanese flag with signatures of the jumpers. Each time the infamous Noriaki Kasai got ready to jump, she stood up and started making some noise. Since most jumpers start slowing down in the second half of their twenties, Kasai deserves every bit of support when he jumps into the big hole below him at roughly 90 km per hour at his respected age of only 44…

the Japanese jumpers stole many hearts over the years…

The 4 hills tournament is not just a ski jumping competition. Over the years it has become a competition of nations as well. As I mentioned in the beginning the 4 competitions take place in Germany and Austria and both countries has had their fair share of winners of the overall tournament. The Austrians have winners in the likes of Gregor Schlierenzauer and Thomas Morgenstern whereas the Germans have Sven Hannawald and Jens Weißflog. The rivalry between both countries is stimulated by the speaker. Every time a German jumper was about to go, he pumped up the audience and the many German flags were in the air together with loud music. They had their hopes high this time since Markus Eisenbichler had won the qualifications. Unfortunately for ‘ze Zjermens’ the competition went slightly different…

Ski jumping consists of two runs. The first run contains the 50 qualifiers from the day before. They are teamed up in pairs of two where number 1 faces number 50, number 2 faces number 49 etc. The 25 winners of each pair are joined by the five best losers in the final. The 30 finalists will then jump in descending order to increase the excitement. The usual suspects all did pretty well in the first run. Surprisingly though the best jump however was done by Norwegian Daniel Andre Tande who flew an alarming 138 meters. He was closely followed by Piotr Zyla from Poland, Stefan Kraft from Austria, Markus Eisenbichler from Germany and Domen Prevc from Slovenia.

Domen Prevc, with his 17 years the youngest of the three Prevc brothers, during his impressive flight…

After the first run the slope gets prepared (or repaired) for the final run. A group of roughly 30 skiers step up the slope on skies until they reach the 100 meter sign and then ski down. A funny sight and even though I have no idea how to do it in a better way, it doesn’t look the most professional…

During the break the crowd is pumped up by the dj with some party songs in order not to freeze. Even the Germans started to sing and dance a little bit. Some poor artists even had to perform in the cold. After roughly half an hour of partying the competition continued with the second part. As mentioned earlier only 30 men were left and jumped from the hill in descending order based on their rank from the first run. No matter how impressive all the jumps are, things are only getting interesting when the final 10 men are about to jump. People around me in the stands were all trying to figure out the formula to calculate the number of points a ski jumper receives for his jump. Distance, style, wind and starting position on the hill all play their part in this black box. You’d say no matter what the one who jumps the furthest should win but this is ski jumping in 2017…

award ceremony in Garmisch-Partenkirchen on New Year’s Day 2017

Not much changed in the top of the standings after the second run. Kamil Stoch had an amazing jump with 143 meters and climbed to second position while his countryman Piotr Zyla lost a few positions. The overall leader however remained the same, Tande from Norway. Once the second run was completed, time had come for the concluding award ceremony. Many Germans left the stadium immediately, disappointed that their hopes were not about to lift the trophy…

In 2006 I really wanted to visit the ski jumping event during the Olympics in Torino. Since I was the only one of the group with that interest, it didn’t happen. The traditional event in Garmisch-Partenkirchen seemed to be a great alternative to enjoy ski jumping up close. Logistics were quite complicated and the landscape was not really a winter wonderland but the event was still a lot of fun to witness. It’s impressive to see the jumps live and I’d highly recommend a seat on the stand near the hill. Otherwise you’re far in the back where you won’t see a thing. If you go once, why not spend a couple euros more and have a good view. It was a nice experience, but I’m not sure if I’d go again…

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