March 21, 2018
Another ski jumping World Cup season is coming to an end with the traditional last flying competition taking place in Planica, Slovenia, this weekend.
The competition will begin with the qualifiers this Thursday morning, the first individual competition on Friday afternoon, team competition on Saturday morning and the final individual competition on Sunday, when the World Cup winner will be declared. The Crystal Globe trophy will this year go to the Polish jumper Kamil Stoch, who is already leading by 343 points (the winner of each World Cup competition is awarded 100 points). Click here for the detailed schedule.
The competition takes place in Planica Alpine valley off the road connecting Kranjska Gora (SLO) and Tarvisio (ITA). During the flying competition there are free shuttle buses circulating between Planica and Kranjska Gora, allowing the spectators to park their cars in downtown Kranjska Gora and preventing bottlenecks and overcrowding of Planica's small parking area.
The valley runs north-south, and the hill we’re interested in here is the biggest, that is Letalnica bratov Gorišek, built into the valley's western wall, the slope of Mount Ponca. Hence, Planica is sometimes called Under the Poncas Valley (Dolina pod Poncami).
This geography matters quite a lot for those attending the event. For example, if you have bought the cheapest 15 EUR ticket for the stands, most of which are located south and east from the jumping hill, you will have the sun mostly behind your back apart from the Friday afternoon match, when the sun will be slowly setting behind Mount Ponca and pretty much everyone will have it in their face while watching the competition. We are not complaining about the sun here, Planica is beautiful in the sun, just telling you why it is good to bring a pair of good sunglasses and some sun screen.
Spectators on tribune B during the Friday (afternoon) competition in 2016
Also, large parts of the standing area are covered in snow. Snow is a good isolator, preventing long wave radiation from the ground heating your feet, so bring a piece of wood or at least some cardboard to stand on if planning to stand in one spot for a longer period of time. Little chairs that fit in your backpack could come handy as well. And a snack to make a break happier, perhaps. Also, if you’ve decided to visit then expect a little oompah music; or a lot, and all the time.
Picnic in the standing area, 2016
Alcohol is not served in the spectators’ area and people are not allowed to bring it in either. To get a beer you will have to move into the designated area, away from the best spots to observe the competition. As this area is a bit further away from the jumping hill, you might want to bring your binoculars as well.
Frozen puddle comedy in the drinking area
If you want to get the best view of the event and not get cold feet at the same time, go for the tribunes. Ticket prices, however, are higher for these seats, since they are more comfortable too: 50 EUR (per day) is the cost of one ticket for tribune B, 60 EUR for a seat on tribune A and 75 EUR for the tribune Kavka, where you will not only have the best view of the landing area, but also of the big screen, set up across the hill, next to the tribune A.
A view from Kavka tribune: guessing the flight lengths in 2016 Saturday's team competition. Across the out run: tribune A and the big screen.
Excitement over long flights on the side of the spectators (and the jumpers themselves) is usually accompanied with the fear of flights being too long, although mostly on the side of the organizers and coaches, who, while hoping for long flights as well, also have the responsibility to prevent jumpers flying parachute free into the bottom ground of the valley and ending the day in hospital, or worse.
Picture: Arsenikk, Wikipedia CC BY-3.0
Picture: Jumping hills construction standards
Planica’s grand hill is set at 240 metres. This is the distance from the point of take off to the L point (end of the landing area), which marks the beginning of the parabola curved transition area into the hill's out run. K point (the critical point, construction point or just K point) marks the steepest point of the hill, and therefore the point where the hill begins flattening as well as the “par” point for distance scoring. The K point in Planica is 200 metres, and is marked by the first red line. Landing lower than that would bring additional points, landing higher reduces the points. Although the goal is to fly as far as possible, safety is a major concern here, which is why the take-off speeds and winds in the flying area are constantly measured during the competition, and the in-run length is adjusted if needed.
Peter Prevc 248.5 metres in 2015
Stefan Kraft 251 in 2017
Tilen Bartol 252 trial jump during the 2016 qualifiers: Bartol shortened his flight by straightening up and forcing the landing to avoid an even more serious crash
Janne Ahonen 240 world record with a fall in 2005
Since the 1930s Planica has been the place of the longest ski flights in the world and therefore the venue where the final of the World Cup competitions takes place. Although currently the hill holding the last 253.5 world records is located in Vikersund, Norway, Planica remains the place where the largest psychological marks in ski jumping have been broken, including the 100 metre mark in 1936, and 200 metres in 1994. Planica was, by the size of its hills, the largest in the world in the years between 1934 and 1949, 1969 and 1973 and between 1987 and 2011.