Looking at it from the shoreline, the ski ramp looks like a harmless, gentle incline. But approaching it on a pair of skis, it looks more like a wall. You swallow hard, because once you hit it…you know anything can happen.
The faster you go, the farther you fly. Maximum boat speeds are set for each age division, up to 35.6 MPH for men, and 33.6 MPH for women. But the key to distance is the speed the skier travels, not the boat. The harder the skier cuts to the ramp, the more speed is generated for the skier. Then the higher and farther they travel. Many South Central Region skiers are members of the Century Club, which means they’ve recorded a jump of at least 100 feet in competition. TRY, TRY AGAIN Each jumper gets three attempts to go the distance. If things don’t look or feel just right, the skier can choose to pass instead of going over the ramp, but this counts as one jump. The best distance, landed and successfully skied away from, scores for placement.
Distances are measured by a video mapping system which records the flight of the jumper, from video cameras fixed above and to the side of the landing area. Then officials replay the video, freeze and mark the landing spot, and feed it to a computer that instantly and accurately measures the distance jumped. MAKING THE CUT Beginning jumpers will simply “plop” over the ramp, without cutting from the boat wake for extra speed. Next comes “single cutting”, or cutting from the boat wake to the ramp, to generate a little more speed than the boat is travelling. Advanced jumpers pull out to the far side of the boat, and “double cut” over both boat wakes, generating much more speed. The top jumpers perform a series of side to side cuts as they approach the ramp, and can generate up to twice the speed of the boat, before hitting the ramp.
Once on the ramp, a perfectly timed “pop”, or quick straightening of the legs helps propel the jumper skyward, much like a diver pushes off for maximum height. Popping too early or late may have no effect. And popping off-balance may result in the worst possible type of fall – what skiers call O.T.F. or “out the front.” Such crashes can be quites spectacular, and keep the safety and rescue officials on their toes.