Oslo’s Ski Jumps

A retrospective on the persistent development of ski-jumping hills in Oslo, why there were so many, and why there are so few remaining.

 

Ola Narr, Tøyen. Photo: Jac Brun, 1949

 

It would be fair to assume that because of the vast variation in topography—including steep hillsides, alpine mountain peaks, and rough plateaus—the conditions for ski jumping in Norway are ideal. This has been proven historically: within the Oslo-region there have been over 350 ski jumps.1 All 350 were constructed for the same purpose: to achieve the longest jump. Today, however, there are no more than 15 remaining ski jumpsleft in Oslo, most of which are seldom used. What defined the ski jumps in their golden era and what happened to cause the decline of them? This essay examines the ski jump typology and its relationship to the topography of Oslo.

 

Nydalsbakken, Oslo. Photo: Esther Langberg, 1926

 

Terminology

The uppermost part of the ski jump is called the in-run.2 This also defines the starting point for the jumper. In the first ski jumps, the in-run was a natural part of the existing terrain in steep hillsides, allowing the jumper to gain sufficient speed. The in-run has also been constructed as a scaffold construction, primarily of wood or steel, allowing greater heights and ultimately more speed for the jumper.

 

Typology with explanations

 

The lower part of the in-run is called the radius, which defines the equalization of the curvature before the jump. The jump is proportional to the size of the in-run—meaning, the larger the in-run, the larger the jump. Often, the construction of the jump is defined by the material of the in-run. On small hills, in-runs are made out of snow, resulting in the jump also being constructed out of snow. 

The knoll is the first part of the landing hill and located right under the jump. The terrain begins flat and then  follows the curvature of the landing slope.3 

The steepest part of the slope is called the construction point—essentially a line across the hill which indicates the angle of the slope. 

The out-run defines the flat end of the hill.

Regardless of size, shape, or material, these key components are always be present in ski jump constructions.

 

An overview of the demolished ski jumping hills in Oslo

 

Typology through history

The ski-jump era dates back to the 1860s, when the first ski jumping competitions took place in Oslo.4 The first noted competition took place in Iversløkka, close to Gamle Aker Kirke, in 1866. This competition included ski jumping, slalom, and cross country skiing, and was won by the semi-professional Elling Bækken from Soknedalen.5 In 1870, the warden of Nydalens Compagnie, hunting master of the court Otto Gjerdrum, established a ski jumping competition in the acclivity in Nydalen. Locally, the hill was referred to as ‘Solbakken’, but was soon named after the hunting master of the court and changed to “Mesterbakken.” . The length of the jump was 10-12 meters and so high that a man could easily fit under it. On one occasion, the king stoodunder the jump while Ludvig Haugerud from Blommegata made the jump. Sources are unclear on which king stood below the jump that day, but with reason we can assume it was King Oscar II. In 1900, the development of the railway Gjøvikbanen, which divided the hill in two, put a natural end to the use of mesterbakken, leading to the demolition of the jump.

 

Building of scaffold, Photo: Schrøder, 1949

 

Photo: Adolf Bech, 1939

 

In 1900, a new jump was constructed further north on a hill called Myrerberget. Three decares of land were bought by the owner of Myrer Farm, with support from Nydalens Compagnie. The ski hill was put up by a voluntary workforce. Due to the steep hill, jumpers were able to jump over 25 meters, so long as there was sufficient snow. Due to its remote location and inaccessibility, visitors had to use the train or horse and sleigh to visit. Despite the difficulty of getting to the hill, competitions would often draw around 6000 visitors. In 1912, a new school was built on the site and Myrerberget was demolished. This resulted in the development of a larger and steeper hill by Nydalsdammen, called Nydalsbakken.The Akerselva, which ran through the out-run, necessitated a bridge. Timber from the nearby forest were used for bridging the two sides of the Akerselva. In 1922, a temporary scaffold was built and in 1929 a permanent scaffold with a bridge of iron and tiber was constructed.  The use of timber and iron became increasingly popular, increasing the number of new wooden ski jumps constructed. Amongst these new constructions were Linderudkollen, built in 1931, Kollbakkene, built by Sigmund and Birger Ruud in 1930, and Bækkelagsbakkene, built in 1927 and 1929. 

During a competition for teenagers in 1960,6 one of the scaffolds collapsedwith fatal consequences. This resulted in the extensive demolition of wooden ski jumps, as well as standardized requirements for all future constructions. This may be one of the many reasons why today, there are only than 15 ski jumping hills left in Oslo. 

 

1. Kirkebøen, "Det har vært 350 hoppbakker i Oslo. Nå er det 15,"
2. Snowflake ski Club, "The jumping hill"
3. Kulturdepartementet, "Skianlegg - Hopp: planlegging, bygging og drift av hoppanlegg"
4. Geiran, "Nydalsrennene", 4
5. Geiran, "Nydalsrennene", 5
6. Gotaas, "Før og etter Wirkola: Norsk hoppsport fra 1940 til 1990"