Olympic Ski Jumping Hills

From 1924-60 there was one ski jumping event held at the Winter Olympics, termed the normal hill event. In 1964 a second competition on the large hill was added. In 1988 a team event on the large event became the third Olympic ski jumping event. Women will compete in ski jumping at the Olympics for the first time at Sochi in 2014, jumping off the normal hill.

But “normal” hill and “large” hill are not fixed definitions. The hills have varied significantly over the years and the hills have continued to get larger over time. The design of a ski jumping hill is complex with numerous tables and charts defining the mathematical analysis available in multiple sources.

Ski jumping hills are often defined by what is known as the K-point (for K/critical, or construction, point). Currently, a normal hill has a K-point of about 90 metres, while a large hill K-point is usually about 120 metres. But as you can see below, the last two Winter Olympics, and Sochi, have had slightly larger hills, at 95 and 125 metres, respectively.

The K-point defines the average point on the landing hill where the jumpers are expected to land, for maximum safety. It can actually be defined as the inflection point where the landing hill curvature changes from convex to concave.

There are also larger hills used, but not at the Olympics. These are termed ski flying hills, in which the K-point is at 180-185 metres, usually, although the largest hill is at Vikersund, Norway, with a K-point of 195 metres. Ski flyers often jump over 200 metres, with the current world best 246.5 metres (809 feet), set by Norwegian Johan Evensen on the Vikersund hill in February 2011.

In addition to the K-point, jumping hills used to be measured by Table Point, but this was usually within a few metres of the K-point and K-point was used more frequently. Table Point was introduced at the Olympics in 1972, but in 1984 Table Point and K-point became synonymous and Table Point is no longer used.

Another measurement now seen is called the Hill Size, which is larger than the K-point or Table Point. Hill Size is measured to the end of the landing area, or L-point, which is beyond the K-point. Another measurement that may be seen is called the Norm Point, which measures the distance to the P-point, or the beginning of the landing area, which is just above the K-point, usually approximately 80% of the distance to the K-point. The area between the P-point and the L-point, which includes the K-point, is basically the flat part of the landing area, where it is safe for the jumpers to land. See the accompanying diagram from the FIS rules, which also shows the complexity of the design of a ski jumping hill:

 

SkiJumpHills

 

There are occasions in ski jumping where the jumpers will start “out-jumping the hill.” This is when, because of ideal conditions of wind, snow, or ice, the jumpers start landing well-below the K-point, and especially below the L-point. If that happens, it can be dangerous for the jumpers because they are not coming down in the landing area, and the officials may stop the competition, and re-start it with a lower start on the jumping hill in-run.

The Fédération Internationale de Ski (FIS) uses Hill Size to define which events must be held at the Olympics and World Championships. “OWG [Olympic Winter Games] and WSC [World Ski Championships] jumping competitions shall be held on hills of two different sizes. A World or Olympic champion will be selected for each hill size. The smaller hill should have a Hill Size (HS) of at least 100 [m]. The difference between the hill sizes must be at least 25 m.” (see http://www.fis-ski.com/inside-fis/document-library/ski-jumping/, under link Ski Jumping, and then International Competition Rules, p. 66)

The FIS actually defines hills by Hill Size, with the current specifications as follows: 1) Small hill – up to 49 m; 2) Medium hill – 50-84 m; 3) Normal hill – 85-109 m; 4) Large hill – 110 m and larger (presumably up to 184 m); 5) Flying hill – 185 m and larger.

Below are the measurements of all the Olympic ski jumping hills since 1924:

Olympic Ski Jump Hills Specifications

Normal Hill

Year              K-Point      Table Point            Hill Size

1924              71.0 m                    —                     —

1928              66.0 m                    —                     —

1932              61.0 m                    —                     —

1936              80.0 m                    —                     —

1948              68.0 m                    —                     —

1952              72.0 m                    —                     —

1956              72.0 m                    —                     —

1960              80.5 m                    —                     —

1964              78.0 m                    —                     —

1968              70.0 m                    —                     —

1972              86.0 m             78.0 m                     —

1976              82.0 m             77.0 m                     —

1980              86.0 m             78.0 m              94.0 m

1984              90.0 m             90.0 m                     —

1988              89.0 m                    —                  95.0 m

1992              90.0 m                    —                  96.0 m

1994              90.0 m                    —               100.0 m

1998              90.0 m                    —                  98.0 m

2002              90.0 m                    —               100.0 m

2006              95.0 m                    —               106.0 m

2010              95.0 m                    —               106.0 m

2014              95.0 m                    —               106.0 m

Large Hill

Year              K-Point      Table Point            Hill Size

1964              81.0 m                    —                     —

1968              90.0 m                    —                     —

1972             110.0 m           100.0 m                     —

1976             104.0 m             95.0 m                     —

1980             114.0 m           102.0 m            125.0 m

1984             112.0 m           112.0 m                     —

1988             114.0 m                    —                122.0 m

1992             120.0 m                    —                132.0 m

1994             123.0 m                    —                138.0 m

1998             120.0 m                    —                131.0 m

2002             120.0 m                    —                134.0 m

2006             125.0 m                    —                140.0 m

2010             125.0 m                    —                140.0 m

2014             125.0 m                    —                140.0 m

One thing to note is that the hills for Torino (2006), Vancouver (2010), and Sochi (2014) are exactly the same size, both in terms of K-point and Hill Size. The other thing of interest is that until 2006, both the normal hill and large hill tended to get bigger at each Olympics.

Finally, note that the normal hill used at the 2002-10 Winter Olympics, at a hill size of 106.0 m, is approaching the maximum for a normal hill (109.0 m), as defined by FIS regulations. The large hills, however, remain well below ski flying specifications and could theoretically be made larger at future Olympics.

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