Skip to content

The Super Bowl of ski jumping

Jan 8, 2013, 6:32 PM EDT

Andreas Reichart/GEPA via USA TODAY Sports Andreas Reichart/GEPA via USA TODAY Sports

BISCHOFSHOFEN, AUSTRIA – With the Super Bowl less than a month away, it’s nearly that time of year when the nation shifts its focus to the NFL’s championship game on that unofficial holiday. Few sporting events can compare, of course, so when I was told I would be attending the “Super Bowl of ski jumping” – the Four Hills tournament – I was a bit skeptical of this bold proclamation.

But, as someone who has now attended both sporting events, I can attest that it’s not far off.

Since 1952, the world’s best ski jumpers have competed in the Four Hills, officially the Vierschanzentournee, descending upon four cities in Germany and Austria every year for this eight-day competition in hopes of being crowned champion of this prestigious event. I hadn’t been in Germany for more than a few hours when I began seeing evidence of the Four Hills’ popularity. Posters in the Munich airport, billboards along the streets, pictures in the newspapers and on TV – this is a big deal, especially for the two host countries whose rivalry is filled with centuries of history.

Always donning their countries’ colors, the crowds came in astonishing numbers – over 100,000 throughout the competition – packing into these small venues for a chance to see their nation’s finest take off at over 55 miles per hour, traveling nearly the length of a football field-and-a-half. The skiing-mad Austrians would go wild when one of their athletes soared through the air. Waving Austrian flags created a sea of red and white in the Innsbruck and Bischofshofen stadiums and everyone shouted “ZZZ,” which I was told is supposed to be the sound a ski jumper’s flight makes.

Luckily for the Austrians, they have the best ski jumper in the world in Gregor Schlierenzauer, a 23-year-old phenom who’s already considered among the sport’s all-time greats. With a nearly flawless performance throughout the tournament, “Schlieri” clinched his second straight Four Hills title, sending the fans and local press into a frenzy. After his final jump in Bischofshofen, the young Austrian star basked in the moment at the bottom of the hill, pumping his skis toward the sky. When he finally lifted the Four Hills trophy above his head, the crowd erupted one final time, as fireworks lit up the night sky.

The Super Bowl metaphor certainly has its holes, but the Four Hills Tournament lived up to its billing.

Latest Posts
  1. Yuna Kim named Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic honorary ambassador

    Oct 30, 2014, 8:37 AM EDT

    Yuna Kim Getty Images

    Figure skating champion joins MLB outfielder, ballerina.

  2. Matt Anderson taking break from volleyball due to depression

    Oct 29, 2014, 4:36 PM EDT

    Matt Anderson

    Anderson is the two-time reigning USA Volleyball Player of the Year.

  3. Caroline Wozniacki nervous for New York City Marathon, even in her dreams

    Oct 29, 2014, 2:20 PM EDT

    Caroline Wozniacki Getty Images

    Tennis player flew from Singapore to Denmark to New York this week.

  4. Fire inside London Olympic Stadium (photos)

    Oct 29, 2014, 10:04 AM EDT

    Olympic Stadium

    Rising black smoke caused brief panic, but the fire was quickly put out.

  5. Shani Davis leads U.S. speed skating team for fall World Cups

    Oct 29, 2014, 9:35 AM EDT

    Shani Davis Getty Images

    One of the U.S.’ strongest skaters from last season is not on the team.

  6. Paralympic skier Josh Sundquist a foosball player for Halloween

    Oct 28, 2014, 1:58 PM EDT

    Josh Sundquist

    Sundquist was a partially eaten gingerbread man, a leg lamp and a flamingo in recent years.

  7. Germany will bid for 2024 Olympics

    Oct 28, 2014, 1:31 PM EDT

    Germany flag Getty Images

    Either Berlin or Hamburg will be chosen in March.

  8. Boston 2024 unveils new website, promo video

    Oct 28, 2014, 9:24 AM EDT

    Boston 2024

    Those against Boston hosting an Olympics sent a letter to the USOC.

  9. Rio Olympic golf course given deadline to decide on moving 3 holes

    Oct 28, 2014, 9:03 AM EDT

    Rio Olympic golf course AP

    Judge rules in lawsuit over environmental concerns.

  10. Dilma Rousseff re-elected as Brazil president; Olympic impact

    Oct 27, 2014, 9:58 AM EDT

    Dilma Rousseff Getty Images

    Rousseff could join a short list of women to declare open an Olympics in two years.

  11. Oldest Olympic relay torchbearer dies at 102

    Oct 27, 2014, 9:20 AM EDT

    Alexander Kaptarenko AP

    Alexander Kaptarenko carried a Sochi Olympic torch for 200 meters in December.

  12. Prosecutors to appeal Oscar Pistorius verdict, sentence

    Oct 27, 2014, 9:00 AM EDT

    Oscar Pistorius Getty Images

    Pistorius was sentenced to no more than five years behind prison last week.

  13. Russian triumphs at Skate America; Gracie Gold third (video)

    Oct 26, 2014, 8:47 PM EDT

    Elena Radionova Getty Images

    Russian who was too young for Sochi Olympics takes title.

  14. Ted Ligety struggles in first race of season (video)

    Oct 26, 2014, 1:04 PM EDT

    Ted Ligety Getty Images

    Olympic champion’s worst-ever result in Soelden.

  15. Japan’s Machida routs U.S. men at Skate America; ice dancers make history

    Oct 25, 2014, 11:44 PM EDT

    Tatsuki Machida Getty Images

    Machida breaks record for winning margin; U.S. matches its longest drought.

Featured video

Yogging a hit at Youth Olympic Games