Jump at the opportunity to see Raw Air

Norway’s four-city ski-jumping tournament is a sight to behold and a terrific road trip

Raw Air - Robert Johansson

Photo: Don Larson
Robert Johansson led Norway’s sweep at Vikersund Raw Air event.

Don Larson
Eau Claire, Wis.

Raw Air is the most intense and extreme ski-jumping competition ever. In its second year, the event is a combination of four tournaments in four cities in Norway. Nothing of this kind had ever been done before. This year’s competitions started in Oslo on March 9 and ended in Vikersund on March 18. The competitions were held in Oslo, Lillehammer, Trondheim, and Vikersund. All the great jumpers were there, many of whom had just participated in the Olympics at Pyeongchang, South Korea.

They jumped at the Holmenkollen venue in Oslo from the 9th to the 11th. The 9th was qualification, on the 10th there was team jumping, and on the 11th was the individual tournament. Everything—TV cameras, sponsors, and of course the jumpers—was then packed up and then they headed north to Lillehammer (site of the 1994 Winter Olympics) to the next tournament there.

It was amazing to get there and see everything was set up and ready to go. The workers were amazing. You must understand that there aren’t any interstate highways in Norway, so the going is a bit slower. In Lillehammer, they had the qualification on the 12th and the tournament on the 13th. It was great to see the Olympic flame burning at the hill once again. There was a lot of snow in Norway this past winter, and in Lillehammer, I saw snow on rooftops that must have been 3 feet deep.

Then, when the tournament was over, it was time to head up the road to Trondheim. I traveled by train to each city, and that was a wonderful adventure also. When I got to the jump in Trondheim later that afternoon, on the 14th, well you guessed it. Everything was all set up and ready to roll and once again it all went off like clockwork. Most of the jumping was done at night and it’s just like daylight with all the lights on.

Finally they headed for Vikersund and the biggest ski jump in the world. I again took the train from Trondheim to Oslo, then transferred to the train to Drammen, where I stayed overnight. I took a bus to Vikersund the next day. I didn’t get there for the qualifications on the 16th, but I was at Vikersund for the ski flying on the 17th and 18th. The weather was great at all the tournaments.

I live in Eau Claire, Wis., and I have been involved in ski jumping for a good part of my life. I used to jump, but not very well. I was president of the ski club here for some years. Both of my grandfathers were born in Norway. It had always been my dream to go to Norway. I went six years ago to Vikersund. I went again last year and only went to two of the four Raw Air tournaments, Trondheim and Vikersund. So this year I said why not go to all four of the meets? I was afforded a media pass this year (it’s not what you know, but who you know) and I photographed the skiers at all the events. I got to meet all the medal winners from the Olympics and that was an honor, although some of them were young enough to be my grandkids.

Norway won 39 medals at the Olympics, and they continued their success in the Raw Air tournaments. In Oslo, the team of Robert Johansson, Johann Forfang, Andreas Stjernen, and Daniel-André Tande won the team jumping just as they did at the Olympics. Tande won the individual tournament in Oslo also. In Lillehammer and Trondheim, Kamil Stoch of Poland was the winner. The Norwegians won the team jumping at Vikersund with Johansson, Stjernen, and Tande taking first, second, and third. Last year, I photographed Stefan Kraft from Austria, on a world-record flight of 832 feet (253.5 meters). This year, no one went that far. The longest jump was 807 feet. Still, it’s unbelievable to see them fly down the giant hill.

If you want to have some fun and go on a great trip, go see the Raw Air tournaments next year. If you want a tour guide, I’m your guy!

This article originally appeared in the May 18, 2018, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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