This episode is about how to fly. Ski fly, that is. The sports of ski jumping and ski flying are hugely popular in Slovenia and throughout mountainous Europe, but not as well-known elsewhere. To learn more about this dramatic sport, Dr. Noah Charney spoke to Olympian Jernej Damjan. Jernej was a bronze medalist at the 2005 World Ski Championships and represented Slovenia over a career that spanned more than a decade, including four Olympic appearances. He is now a color commentator for Eurosport as well as a man active in the business and administration worlds, helping fellow athletes and his sport to develop.
The closest that a human can get to flying without any protective devices, like parachutes or gliders, is probably ski jumping or, when said human launches him or herself from an even greater height, ski flying. The joke is that ski jumping is “falling with style” but there’s so much more to it. And Jernej Damjan explains it in detail.
There’s no better place to enjoy ski jumping than at Planica in Slovenia. First established in 1930, this is a cathedral for the sport, the first place on Earth to introduce a higher hill, completed in 1934, which gave rise to ski flying. The first ever ski jump of over 100 meters (330 feet) was made here in 1936. Ski jumping is the term for the lower hills, while ski flying is for the big ones, those that enable jumps that are up to 66% longer than in ski jumping hills. Every March, the main tournament at Planica draws tens of thousands. It’s an informal national holiday in Slovenia, and has been called the Super Bowl of winter sports.
The best way to experience ski flying is to come to Slovenia yourself, and visit Planica. Planica is fascinating during the winter season, of course, and at its best when there’s a competition in progress, but it is also lovely in the summer, where you can enjoy a museum and climb to the top of the hill and imagine what it’s like to stand before tens of thousands of cheering fans, and prepare for takeoff.
Feel Slovenia the Podcast is brought to you by the Slovenian Tourist Board and hosted by Dr Noah Charney.
Sound Production: Urska Charney