AFTER THE WHISTLE

Admiring from afar the art of gelande jumping

If you have ever climbed to the top of the big hill at Howelsen, you would have an appreciation for what Rolf Wilson accomplished on Alpine skis.

You see, the Montana native holds the current world record after soaring 347 feet off the big jump. He didn't do it on the Nordic skis most of us in Steamboat are accustomed to seeing on the feet of athletes like Todd Lodwick, Johnny Spillane and Clint Jones.

Instead, he was on the thinner skis more common on the steep, icy slopes of a downhill course.

Wilson is a gelande jumper -- you know, one of those speed freaks that prefers to fly on Alpine skis instead of the Nordic ones more fitting for the job.

Wilson gets his blood flowing by racing down steep pitches at speeds most of us could only reach behind the wheel of an automobile.

But the real kicker is that at the end of the downhill journey, he launches himself, slicing through the air more than a length of a football field before landing at the bottom of the hill.

If I tried it, my heart would give out a few seconds after I ran out of in-run and the only blood flowing would be onto the snow after I crashed at the bottom of the hill.

The truth is that not all of us were cut out to throw ourselves off cliffs, hit jumps that send us spinning upside down, or gelande jump.

People like me, who prefer to stay out of emergency rooms, tend to watch extreme sports with a sense of amazement.

I mean, why do these guys do it?

Over the years, I've witnessed many different extreme sports, but very few of them come close to what gelande jumping has to offer in terms of stomach-turning thrills.

The truth is that I've never experienced the thrill that drives guys like Rolf Wilson and I can pretty much guarantee that I will never know the feeling -- I repeat, never.

You see, there is a better chance of catching me watching the home shopping channel or an episode of "The Bachelor" during a Broncos game than getting me to the top of Howelsen Hill with a pair of Alpine skis.

Yet some people are driven to the speed, sensation and danger that gelande has to offer.

I have no problem heading to Howelsen to watch them (it's better than stock-car racing, for sure), but I think I will stick to bowling for my adrenaline high.

For me, nothing could match the thrill of throwing 12 strikes in a row, and that way I don't have to worry about paying my insurance deductible -- I'll leave that to guys like Rolf Wilson.

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