Luis on Ski Jumping Hill Tournament: at the World Cup Final 2016 in Planica, Part I
The season 2015/2016 has come to an end, also for our columnist Luis Holuch. Due to his studies, which are almost finished, Luis had to cut down the number of his travellings, but nevertheless, he took the chance to be part of the World Cup Final in Planica. Just, as you are used to it, he tells about his experiences and adventures on skijumpinghills.com. Read here the first of two episodes and enjoy!
Luis on Ski Jumping Hill TournamentBy Ski Jumping Hill Archive author and photographer Luis Holuch
That was it, again! My personal Planica hat trick is complete and also a third, nostalgic, „good bye, ski jumping!” It feels always strange to be back at home and to realise there is a break coming up. And this time it was even more strange, because this was my only ski jumping trip during the winter 2015/2016. But I enjoyed it even more, although it surely has been one of the most turbulent weekends in the history of Planica.
On Wednesday, or arriving day, everything was quite calm. At least on the roads. The action on the flying hill was already immense. While we passed the Chiemsee, Brian and I got the news about the test flights: 239 by Andraž Klinec, 246 by Ernest Prišlič and – on top – the crash of Tilen Bartol at 252 meters...I really can tell you we were kind of horny after getting these news. It was definitely a good decision to have a stop at the Paul-Außerleitner-Schanze in Bischofshofen. Nevertheless, we had a good trip to Kranjska Gora and moved in our holiday apartment. I shortly went to the race office for picking up my accreditation. In contrast to the last two years, the race office was not in one of the underground floors at Hotel Kompas, but next to the entrée and clearly visible. After a pizza in Pizzerija Napoli, we met with our other German friends for a relaxed evening.
Normally, the Thursday is always the calmest day of the weekend, but already while we were waiting for a shuttle bus, I noticed, “okay, that is not the same as last year”. The crowd was impatiently waiting for the bus and I lost my company on the way inside the bus. Regarding the difficult ticket situation, we planned to stay together at least on this day in the standings area. Brian had all our tickets and he and Marc arrived at the hill way before I did. So, I had to call them, so one of them could give me my ticket. But even this small accident was not stopping us from speculating: are the 250 meters possible? How about the world record? The slope and the weather promised a lot! It looked a bit steeper than the year before and the wind forecast was almost perfect.
Another question, which was very interesting for us, was also about the performance of the German jumpers. Would they be able to get better results than last year? Moreover, will Severin Freund find his inner peace with this flying hill? The answer on this last question after the first round was “yes, he will”, because he was in the lead. Then, in the second round, Robert Kranjec had marvelous conditions and flew 241.5 meters. The flight itself was not even good, but it was Planica, head wind and it was Kranjec – a combination, which always worked very well. And the Slovene became second behind Peter Prevc, Freund became unlucky fourth. Brian, the biggest Robi Kranjec fan, was very happy, but also said “well…if Sevi is able to start like this and if he is going to have his typical Sevi-development in his jumps, he could also win here”. This Thursday was not relaxed! Although the jury was very defensive with choosing the gate, the action was already Planica like and 20,500 people were watching it with a lot of fun.
We spent the afternoon with playing some skat, eating some snacks and drinks. And we also had a visit of the second flat in the house where the other people of our community were staying. A lonely harmonica musician was very happy to see us and gave a beer to each of us. He also asked if there is someone who also would like to play harmonica. I immediately told him that I would love too; finally, I had this chance. His instrument did not seem very heavy, but you guys know that eyes do not always tell the whole truth. I had to carry a lot of weight and it took some time until I got used to everything. “You would have to play every single day”, the owner, Slavko, said. Nevertheless, I enjoyed playing and after a while it did not sound that horrible anymore. At a certain point, the first chords worked, but of course I was still far away from the melodies of Slavko Avsenik. BUT: I was able to impress the Slovenes all over the weekend with my knowledge about this awesome guy and his ensemble.
The essential for a good night out is, of course, good food. So we went to our standard restaurant Bor, which is in front of Hotel Kompas. Afterwards, we went to the well-known Vopa Pub & Club. The terrace was equipped with heating spots, so it was not that cold, although it were only two degrees Celsius outside. The atmosphere was great all over the place and it was not even difficult, to get new drinks during the evening. I got to know a couple, which was standing next to us. She is half-Polish and half-German and he is a former Slovenian youth ski jumper. We got a first good touch and directly found some things we had in common. This is also a special thing about Planica: you meet new people everywhere, have good conversation and a good time together. This scenario was sort of a running gag during the weekend. Shortly after that, I met three men from the Black Forest. One of them is from Schönwald and is a colleague of the former German ski jumper Christof “Duffi” Dufner. Also we both found a lot of topics to discuss, mainly because we there are a lot of people we both know and I have some good knowledge about his hometown.
As I already told, the Thursday is still the calmest of the three main evenings in Kranjska Gora and, of course in the Vopa. AND: the entrance in the Vopa Club is for free. On Fridays and Saturdays, you have to pay 10 Euros, including wardrobe. No matter, if this is just during the sport event weekends (cross-country world cup in Planica, Alpine skiing world cup in Podkoren or ski jumping and flying in Planica), I do not have a problem with spending this money. Those who want pay this prize and those who do not, do not pay it or stay at other places. It is a total normal thing that a ski and tourism resort town as Kranjska Gora, with only 1,500 inhabitants, has to earn its money. And it would earn even less without these sport events, of course. My friend and Vopa musician Anzhe told me on Sunday evening that the hotels will be closed for almost two months after the ski lifts closed. And if there is someone who knows about that, it is him, because he lives in Kranjska Gora all his life long.
Switching the topic, back to the club: it is not a big thing to have a long night out on Thursday, because Friday’s competition is always taking place in the afternoon. And it is even less a big thing to meet jumpers there. I had an appointment with my Polish friend Maciej at eleven pm and we entered the club at quarter past eleven. Although the club doors were open for only 15 minutes, the dancefloor was crowded. Another running gag on those weekends are the remarkable happenings on and from the DJ booth. Last year, there was a dude DJing completely drunk on two nights by just playing videos from YouTube. Especially because of this, Maciej and I were very curious what was happening this time. It could also be caused by the fact, he and I are probably the only persons in this world, who would exchange a dancing night with playing a live set there. We both love electronic dance music and are DJing hobby wise. This time, the DJ was a dude in his middle 20’s with glasses, a cool controller, but a strange feeling for music and mixing. Just one example to give you an impression of this: there is probably only one DJ in the world who first plays the famous “Trompetenecho” by Slavko Avsenik und seinen original Oberkrainern and then “Animals” by Martin Garrix. This DJ can be found in the Vopa. But whatever, the atmosphere was great, the dancefloor always crowded and we were just happy to be there again.
Although it was late when I went to bed, I did not woke up late the next morning. Sunshine and good mood were the main signs of this morning. After a short power breakfast, we played a couple of skat rounds. Marc and Brian made their way to Planica already at noon, because they were aiming for the best spots in their areas. I took a bit more relaxed ways and walked through Kranjska Gora to the house where Maciej and his friends stayed. He welcomed me after a shower, his friends Michał, Mikołaj, Pawel und Artur still were on the road, as he said. He also said he just woke up, so he does not know where exactly they were, but there was no need to worry. We sat down in front of the living room window with a beautiful view and watched some classic ski jumping videos and scurrile result lists.
It became more and more clear that the other boys would not come back in time and in the end they did not came to the apartment at all, so Maciej and I went to Hotel Kompas and took the press shuttle. It was still warm outside, but we brought our winter jackets with us, because it was supposed to get cold after four pm as soon as the sun has wandered behind the mountains. As we arrived at the hill, a great chaos was expecting us. There were still thousands of people standing in front of the entrance check and were waiting impatiently for getting into the area. In addition to that, the signs did not show a special entrance for press, so we had to be part of the big crowd, although we did not want too. The view on the hill was quite good and I was able to understand what came from the speakers of the stadium. Even more surprisingly, the qualification was preponed half an hour. Looking at the clock, we hoped to arrive just in time for it at our spots, but life chose a different option. But, I honestly have to say it could have been worse than waiting for entrance and watching the qualification from this spot.
After more than 20 minutes, we finally went through the entrance check. We directly went to the media guest area, not far away from the fall line. The wind was blowing stronger from time to time, especially downside the K-point, so there were a few breaks and the competition started with a delay of 15 minutes. In the meantime, Mikołaj was the first from the other boys to arrive, Pawel und Michał came shortly after him, Artur was unlucky and did not have a ticket or accreditation for the weekend days and watched the competitions in Kranjska Gora. We started a cool conversation, especially because the boys all knew me. I gave Mikołaj an interview for his blog and met Maciej and him last year in the Vopa for the first time. Pawel und Michał knew me from this website, but so far, I did not know them. But also this kind of meeting is a special aspect about Planica: you always meet people you know from somewhere, you always meet people who know you from somewhere or new friendships develop. Because the wind changed its direction at the K-point from head to tail wind, none of the ski flyers passed the hillsize. Simon Ammann caused the only shock moment as he crashed in the first round at 201 meters. He just fell on his upper body, but luckily did not hurt himself. “It had to happen this season”, Michał said and he was right.
The point gaps between the jumpers were very small; there was no one who had a big advantage against the others. So it happened that Robert Kranjec became the well-deserved winner with his second flight and 224.5 meters (daily best) and turned around Thursday’s result. The celebrating crowd made it almost impossible to find my roommates, so I decided to go to the press center together with the Polish boys. That was a good opportunity to warm up ourselves, to get something to drink and to have a look on the result lists. There was still no doubt for me that only the Norwegian team will win the team competition on Saturday. Just as the Polish boys, I was sceptic about the result of my compatriots’ team. “There will be a battle between our teams for the fifth place”, I said. Maciej was not sure about it: “it depends on what Austria and Japan will do. But Germany will stay ahead of Poland, Severin Freund is doing way too good for the opposite”. He became fourth and sixth in the individuals so far with a higher meters average than last year, where he became fourth and seventh.
One and a half hours after the competition, I received a text message from Brian, who was waiting for me in front of the entrance. So I said “see you later, boys”, because I was sure we would meet later in the Vopa and left the press center. As I met Brian outside, he was standing alone there. “Where is Marc?”, I asked him. “Uff, I have no idea. Actually, we wanted to meet here, but I have not seen him since 12…wait here, I will look for him”, he answered. “Yes, sure”, I said and he made his way. He did not even left for one minute as he came back together with Marc. So we went to the shuttle spots. Thousand people were standing there and not even half a dozen of busses. “Oh gosh, I was not afraid for no reason”, I said. “You could build a complete house before you get spot in a bus”, Brian added. “So, what are we going to do now?”, Marc asked. “I think the only option is to walk home”, I said. “Anyway: you are not a real Planica visitor, if you have not walked home at least once”, I added and smiled. “Well, okay…then let’s go!”, Brian said and we started walking.
It must have looked like a migration what was going on right then, but we only had the wish to be at our apartment as soon as possible. It was wide path, but sometimes very icy. Many people had issues to keep their balance, not only caused by alcohol. After a short period, we came to a glade, where the path was even wider, but where even more people were. Many people used this glade to overtake a couple of people, but even that was not without any dangers. From time to time, people stuck in the snow; also we three boys had to notice that the snow at this lonely ski lift, which looked firm, was not firm. A few minutes later, the path split in two paths. One got closer to the valley street and the other was sort of a straight way to Podkoren and Kranjska Gora. The picture stayed the same: people jam from time to time, sometimes snow balls were flying into the crowd, a Slovene blowing in his horn and always keep focused on your balance! After one hour, we passed Rateče and we finally arrived at an asphalt street another half an hour later.
From now on, a new kind of fun started. Repeatedly, parking cars tried to leave their spots and pass the crowd. Music was played at several places and sometimes signal horns came in between. Meanwhile, it became dark and also cold. I try to warm up my head with wearing my hat as long as my head did not start itching. We passed the world cup slope Podkoren II, which is looking even more spectacular than on TV. We became wishful as we arrived at a small winter village next to a small ski lift shortly before Kranjska Gora. They sold beer and hot wine and made a big barbecue. After a small hill, lights were coming up. “Is that our village?”, Brian asked dizzy. “Yes, we made it soon”, I whispered. After all in all two hours of walking we arrived in our apartment. We changed dresses very tired and had dinner. Actually, we wanted to go out this night again, but our jury meeting decided to cancel that. After two beers and slow rounds of skat, we quit living for this Friday and fell in our beds.
That is also the end for this episode, to be continued!
Ski Jumps:Planica (Letalnica)