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Alberta ski jumpers find new home after COP closure

WATCH ABOVE: Alberta ski jumpers have found a new home after being forced out of Canada Olympic Park. It comes just in time as young athletes prepare to compete at the Junior Olympics. Cami Kepke reports.

Alberta ski jumpers have found a new home after being forced out of Canada Olympic Park.

It’s a fresh start after a dark year for the sport in Alberta.

The Alberta Ski Jumping and Nordic Combined Association (ASJNCA) is clearing the bush and laying the groundwork for two new jumps at Canyon Ski Resort near Red Deer.

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They’ll use manufactured snow to form a 25-metre and 45-metre bump — a literal jumping-off point for their future plans.

“You can’t have ski jumping without ski jumps,” association chair Michael Bodnarchuk said. “Our goal is to build hardcore infrastructure there. Ultimately we want to have a 75-metre jump and a 45-metre jump.

“It’s vitally important we get the 75-metre jump built, because with the closing of the 65-metre hump in Calgary, there isn’t one in Canada.”

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Since shuttering part of the nordic facility last fall, WinSport has started demolition on some of the ski jumps made iconic by the 1988 Winter Olympics.

It’s been difficult for the jumpers to watch, but they’ve pressed on.

“They’re pretty bulletproof,” said ASJNCA vice-chair Guy Bolton, who is also a ski-jump parent. “Once you put a pair of jumping skis on a kid, they’ll move heaven and earth to jump.”

The group initially constructed a temporary jump in the spring as a Band-Aid solution.

Calgary ski jumpers find temporary home
Calgary ski jumpers find temporary home

This season, the smaller jumps at Canyon Ski Resort will be enough to keep beginners and elite athletes at the top of their game. But with three of their team members off to the Youth Olympic Games in Lausanne, Switzerland this winter, the move to Red Deer comes just in time.

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“The kids at that level need the transition jumps when they’re back here,” Bolton said. “They can’t train internationally all the time, unlike the senior athletes, because they have school commitments. They need to be with family and friends.”

It also allows the group to begin recruiting new athletes to keep the sport alive.

Canyon plans to start pumping out artificial snow to finish the jumps in the next two weeks.

Athletes will start taking off by mid-November.

“It’s wonderful to see a club such as them, with so much heart and gusto, coming out here with 20-40 volunteers every weekend, just to bring ski jumping to Canyon and keep it alive,” resort co-owner Robyn Martel said.

The resort has previously housed ski jumping for the Alberta Winter Games in the 1980s.

After another successful run hosting the 2019 Canada Winter Games, the resort felt bringing nordic sports back for good just made sense.

Return to WinSport likely off the table

Nordic sports groups say they will need to find a base in Calgary down the line to stay competitive, but it won’t be at COP.

“I think this is a lost cause here,” Bodnarchuk said. “WinSport has basically walked away from their legacy agreements. All of the winter sports from the ’88 games that were centred here: ski jumping, nordic combined, cross country, biathlon, and now the sliding sports — they’re all gone.”

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READ MORE: Canadian athletes concerned over what’s to come for Calgary sliding track

The nearest competitive ski-jumping facility is located roughly 45 minutes away from Whistler, B.C., in an area Bodnarchuk says is hard to access.

It’s a concern also voiced by sliding sport athletes that saw the track closed indefinitely for renovations earlier this week.