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Flight School just getting off the ground

Program to build athletes for ski jumping, nordic combined



One of the legacies of the 2010 Games wasn't intended to be a legacy at all.

From the beginning, the ski jumps at Whistler Olympic Park were designed to be temporary, easy to remove and maybe set up somewhere else if there was a demand for them. Same with the on-site buildings and chairlift.

But during the Games it was determined that the facility was better than Calgary when it came to snow and shelter from the wind, and while there was no funding for practice jumps, the facility was better off remaining open to jumpers.

Talks are still underway regarding the construction of training jumps (whether to locate them in Squamish or Whistler Olympic Park), but either way it seems Whistler has a ski jump legacy that's here to stay.

The question now is, "How do we use it?"

The Callaghan Winter Sports Club, which was created to build programs around Whistler Olympic Park legacies, has taken on the role of building grass roots jumping programs in the community, and has launched Learn to Jump and Flight School programs aimed at introducing kids and adults to the sport. The most recent Flight School event was this past weekend, and there are classes this Sunday, Feb. 6 and on Feb. 20, and March 6.

To take part you have to be at least 10 years old, and show up with a set of alpine skis and a helmet. You also need to be an advanced to intermediate skier.

The jump in question was built out of snow and is rated at 25 to 30 metres, which is the distance you can travel if you hit the jump at full speed. By comparison, the two jumps at Whistler Olympic Park are rated at 106 metres and 140 metres.

"The jump is pretty nice," said John Heilig, the manager of sport at Whistler Olympic Park, a former Olympian in the sport of nordic combined, and the chief instructor for Flight School and Learn to Jump programs - the latter of which he says he does as a hobby.

"It's not terribly high. The way the jump is built the take-off is about a foot-and-a-half to two feet in the air. In nordic jumping you follow the contour of the landing hill quite closely. In aerials they build a kicker that puts you up in the air, where on these jumps the takeoff leans downwards - on this particular jump it's negative-eight degrees. The good thing is that you can jump one metre and be fine, or jump the 25 metres. It all depends on how much effort you put into the takeoff, how good your technique is and how much speed you can take."

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