About 15,000 attend Saturday competition

A crowd watches a ski jumper during the Bellin Health Pine Mountain Ski Jumps on Saturday, Feb. 10, 2018, in Iron Mountain, Mich. (Adam Niemi/Iron Mountain Daily News)

IRON MOUNTAIN — Upwards of 15,000 people attended the 2018 Pine Mountain Continental Cup ski jumping competition on Saturday in optimal weather.

The Saturday crowd was an approximate match to when the Kiwanis Ski Club hosted a World Cup competition in 2000, club member Susie Fox said.

Fox cautioned that the figure is a rough estimation because figures aren’t tallied until the days following competition.

The crowd saw quite a show over the weekend, too.

Halvor Egner Granerud, of Norway, repeated as the Sunday champion this year with a pair of impressive jumps, including a second jump of 143 meters (471 feet), a mere half-meter short of the record held by Stefan Thurnbichler, set in 2009.

Marius Lindvik, of Norway, makes a second jump of 135.5 meters (444.5 feet) during the Pine Mountain Continental Cup ski jumping competition on Saturday, Feb. 10, 2018, in Iron Mountain, Mich. Lindvik soared a record 144 meters (472 feet) on Sunday, but fell during the landing, which discounted the jump and a would-be new record. (Adam Niemi/Iron Mountain Daily News)

In the first round, Marius Lindvik, of Norway, narrowly surpassed Thurnbichler’s jump when he reached 144 meters (472 feet), but fell during the landing. The fall discounted the jump and also the record.

Lindvik was also the Saturday winner.

Granerud said the conditions during the weekend were conducive to record-breaking jumps.

“It’s been a different weekend in Iron Mountain. It’s the third time I’m here. It’s by far the best conditions I’ve ever tested,” he said. “The inrun is good and the landing is amazing. Big ups to the volunteers for the amazing job this year.”

Norway hung around the top of the leaderboard through the weekend. Lindvik’s 144-meter jump in the first round Sunday came after his strong hill debut on Saturday. He jumped 137 meters (449 feet) on his first and 135.5 meters (444 feet) on the second jump. At 19, it was Lindvik’s first time competing in the US.

Pine Mountain Continental Cup ski jumping winners are shown Sunday, Feb. 11, 2018, in Iron Mountain, Mich. Shown from left is Nejc Dezman, Andreas Wank, Anze Lanisek, Halvor Egner Granerud, Marius Lindvik and David Siegel. Granerud was Sunday's winner. (Adam Niemi/The Daily News)

“I jumped really good today. The wind was a bit unstable at the first round. It was fun to jump today,” Lindvik said Saturday. “The tracks were good and it’s kind of a special hill because it’s a bit different compared to other ski jumping hills. It’s kind of an older profile ski jumping hill and I love it.”

The US team didn’t fare well over the weekend. AJ Brown was the team’s top competitor with a 33rd-place finish on Saturday on one jump. He also jumped just once on Sunday and placed 36th.

The sun glowed through a cloudless sky all weekend, with temperatures comfortable enough for the crowd, yet cold enough for the hill conditions to hold up. On Sunday, the competition was moved up two hours in hopes of getting ahead of a brisk winds moving through Sunday afternoon.

“We haven’t had four great days of ski jumping in… it’s been a long day since I could recall that many good days,” said chief of competition Eric Hiatt. “We had to pull the schedule and make a slight change forward. As you can see right now it’s pretty windy. If we didn’t do that, we would’ve had our similar delays. At some point, experience tells you which decisions to make. I think it was the right one today.”

Granerud, 21, said Iron Mountain and the Pine Mountain hill has become one of his favorite places to compete.

A crowd looks on during the Pine Mountain Continental Cup ski jumping competition on Saturday, Feb. 10, 2018, in Iron Mountain, Mich. (Adam Niemi/Iron Mountain Daily News)

“It’s the people, it’s the hill, it’s everything. It’s Iron Mountain. Iron Mountain is not like anything else you experience during the season. It’s a nice break to kind of have a different hill where everything might not be perfect, but it’s perfect in the way that it’s special,” Granerud said. “In the Continental Cup it’s not often you get many people watching competitions. I think it’s really special for the guys that haven’t competed in the World Cup yet to come here and get the feeling of being superstars because here you are a star. It’s really fun and everyone is positive and picking up on the fact we are jumping on the hill but they don’t care how long we jump — we are stars anyway. It’s an amazing place and I really like it here.”

In more years than not, weather gets the best of competition for a day or two. Last year, Friday practices were nixed by snowfall and two competitions were held on Sunday. Hiatt, who said he isn’t sure how long he’s been chief of competition (“six, seven or eight years”), said the pace of competition all weekend without delays or cancellations was unlike anything he’s seen.

“When the wind is good up there and it seems fine here, we have a corridor of wind that you move it as fast as you possibly can. It seems like a rapid pace, but it’s more of a safety and fairness thing is what we’re trying to accomplish,” Hiatt said. “When we stall it’s because it seems unsafe or unfair. We did get a lot of good windows where we could go, go, go, go. I don’t know in my six, seven or eight years when we’ve had this many good days in a row. It’s always stressful, but this year was less stressful than usual. We’ll take this every time. Much, much easier to deal with the challenges.”

Granerud said the atmosphere of the crowd makes it fun and hopes the different feel of jumping at Pine Mountain can springboard him through the rest of the season.

“Even though I won today I’m still looking at things to improve because it wasn’t perfect,” Granerud said. “It’s a hill where you can let loose. You feel like you’re just a crazy guy jumping, not like competing. This is the most fun weekend during the year I think.”