NEGAUNEE - While veteran ski jumpers are preparing for Wednesday's 125th annual Ski Jumping Tournament at Suicide Bowl in Negaunee, younger members of the Ishpeming Ski Club are hard at work on their own training, hoping to one day jump the big hill.
"One of my goals is to maybe get into the Olympics," said 9-year-old Owen Morton. "I think it would be sort of fun. On the other hand, it would be big competition."
A fourth-grader at Ishpeming's Birchview Elementary School, Morton began ski jumping two years ago.
Young ski jumpers are
carrying on the tradition for the Ishpeming Ski Club. Here 9-year-old Owen Morton of Ishpeming jumps the 13-meter hill at Suicide Bowl. (Journal photo by Johanna Boyle)
"My friend started convincing me to do it," he said.
Like most young ski jumpers, Morton regularly jumps the 13-meter hill at Suicide Bowl, and has moved up to jumping the 25-meter hill. He is currently working to be able to jump the 40-meter hill, having skied the landing.
"You go up there, get your skis on and you just go," Morton said.
The Ishpeming Ski Club offers free equipment and coaching for young people who are interested in jumping, giving younger kids a chance to carry on one of Ishpeming's long-standing traditions.
The team practices Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings, with additional practices on Saturdays, under the direction of new coach Zak Hammill.
Although he tackles the smaller hills with no problem now, Morton said the first time going off the 13-meter hill was a challenge.
"The first time it was pretty scary, I guess," he said. "I crashed right in the middle of the outrun."
That feeling of fear, however, didn't last long.
"When I came back (to the next practice), I felt convinced I wouldn't crash and I didn't," he said.
Practices usually involve the team getting in runs on the various jumps, trying for 10 jumps per practice. It usually takes 100 jumps to be able to get to jump the next higher hill.
The team also travels to a couple tournaments each season, this weekend attending a tournament in Iola, Wis., which gives the team a chance to jump different hills and see how different teams operate.
Even though starting a new hill can be intimidating, Morton said the occasional crash isn't that bad.
"Your face is covered in snow and it cools you off," he said.
For Morton's father, Dave Morton, ski jumping is a positive activity.
"It was something I always wanted to do myself," Dave Morton said. "There's a discipline of him taking care of his own stuff. It's a good confidence booster."
But for Owen Morton and the other kids on the team, ski jumping is all about the fun.
"I would say it's really fun. You should try it sometime," he said.
For more information on the club's program, visit www.ishskiclub.com.
Johanna Boyle can be reached at 906-486-4401. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.