ISHPEMING - One look at the ski hills at Suicide Bowl might make any adult wary of climbing to the top of the scaffolding, not to mention hurtling down them with a pair of skis strapped to their feet.
But for the dozen young athletes on the Ishpeming Ski Club team, flying through the air is the place to be.
"It's awesome," said team member Owen Morton, 8.
Team members, from left, Owen Morton, 8, Spencer Giroux, 10, and George Lasko, 9, wait outside the clubhouse to begin practice. (Journal photo by Johanna Boyle)
Jumpers Lauren Lasko, 14, left, and Anna Honkala, 13, lace up their boots before heading out onto the hills for some practice. (Journal photo by Johanna Boyle)
"Yeah, pretty much awesome," agreed Levi Giroux, 7.
Coach Oleg Glyvka and the Ishpeming Ski Club have been working to grow the local ski jumping program and now have a group of regular participants who are working to jump their way from the 13-meter hill up to the 20, 40, 60 and beyond.
New jumpers begin on the smallest 13-meter hill and increase their distances as their skill improves.
Next thing I knew, I was flying through the air."
- LAUREN?LASKO,14, ski jumper
"My brother was doing it and everyone wanted me to start," said Lauren Lasko, 14, who has been jumping for two years. She now makes jumps from the 40-meter hill.
Although the young skiers may seem fearless, the first time going off a bigger jump takes a lot of nerve.
"I was very, very nervous," Lasko said of her first time jumping the 40-meter hill. "I've always been kind of afraid of the hill. It took all my courage to go all the way up."
After a couple times climbing all the way to the top of the scaffolding only to not jump, Lasko said she finally decided to just do it.
"I was like, OK, I don't want to walk down those stupid stairs again," she said. "Next thing I knew, I was flying through the air."
Fellow jumper Anna Honkala, 13, agreed.
"It was nuts. I just did it," she said.
Team sessions allow the athletes to practice jumping, but not before warming up and working on strength and conditioning.
"The hardest part is in here," said Tom LaFave, 10, gesturing around the clubhouse where the team warms up.
After that part of the training, the jumpers move outside to whichever hill they happen to be working on. How many jumps they get in per practice depends on how they feel and how many stairs they have to climb.
A new focus of the Ishpeming Ski Club has been to encourage more young people to try out the sport. Participation in the club provides the athletes not only with the skis and safety equipment, but also professional coaching and the opportunity to compete in tournaments.
To find out more about the club, visit www.ishskiclub.com.
Johanna Boyle can be reached at 906-486-4401. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.