Ski jumping at Buttermilk? |

Ski jumping at Buttermilk?

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN ” Call it old-school extreme.

The Aspen Skiing Co. has proposed a series of ski jumps at Buttermilk, already home to the new-school amplitude of the Winter X Games.

Three jumps are envisioned on the Tiehack side of the lower mountain, between the Racer’s Edge and Javelin runs, according to the proposal, now under review by the U.S. Forest Service.

The Forest Service is seeking public comment on the plan as part of its scoping process for several improvements at Buttermilk, including replacement of the Upper and Lower Tiehack lifts with a single, high-speed detachable quad ” the Tiehack Express.

Slight realignment of the new lift line would accommodate the landing and runout zone for ski jumpers, according to Jim Stark, winter sports coordinator for the White River National Forest.

Stark said he queried other Forest Service winter sports coordinators around the country during the agency’s preliminary consideration of the ski jump proposal.

“Kinda’ the gut reaction was, hey, it’s a ski area, ski jumping is an Olympic event, it’s probably appropriate,” he said.

The Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club (AVSC), which offers ski jumping as part of its nordic program, asked the Skico and the Forest Service to examine the potential for a jumping venue near the base of Tiehack, according to Stark.

The AVSC already uses a small jump, perhaps 10 meters, which it constructs out of snow near the club’s headquarters, next to the Aspen schools campus. For the past few years, it also has made use of Eagle Hill ” a 20-meter jump made of snow to skier’s left of the Lower Tiehack chair.

The proposed new ski jumps would measure 65 meters, 38 meters and 15 meters. Two seasonal, beginner jumps of five and 10 meters would be constructed of snow.

The jump measurement is the maximum distance from takeoff to landing, explained Craig Ward, nordic combined coach for the AVSC.

A jumping facility at Buttermilk could make Aspen something of a regional draw for budding ski jumpers. The closest other facility is Steamboat’s Howelson Hill, where the larger jumps measure 90 and 120 meters, according to John Callahan, AVSC nordic program director.

Aspen’s jumping squad made plenty of trips to Steamboat last winter, Callahan said.

“We haven’t had anyone hit the 120 ” they’re not quite there yet,” he said. Having a 65-meter jump at home will help further their skills, Callahan added.

Plenty of ski resorts used to have jumps, according to Stark, but many of them have disappeared. Callahan remembers when the Willoughby jumps still existed on Aspen Mountain, at the top of Mill Street, in the 1970s.

Longtime locals remember launching off the Willoughby jumps as something of a right of passage.

“There’s not a lot of communities that have jumps anymore,” Callahan said. “For a while, jumping kind of died off. It’s having a resurgence right now.”

Buttermilk is home to monster jumps of a different sort in its terrain park ” the venue for ESPN’s Winter X Games, which currently are scheduled to continue at the ski area through 2010.

“If they hadn’t already invented ski jumping, the X Games would probably invent it now,” Ward said.

While the proposed jumps at Buttermilk will further the AVSC’s program, the jumps wouldn’t be a venue solely for the club’s use, according to Stark. There might, however, be some controls on who’s using the jumps. Ski jumpers use specially designed skis for the discipline, and work their way up to 65-meter flights.

“If this thing went through, then one of the questions is, who will use it?” Stark said. “I think we would have to come up with some sort of protocol on who gets to use it.”

More information on the proposal can be found on the Web at

The Forest Service is accepting public com­ments through July 15 at White River Nation­al Forest; P.O. Box 948; Glenwood Springs, CO 81602-0948 or via e-mail at