Silver Mine Invitational kicks off 128th annual event

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- The Silver Mine Invitational got its official start on Friday night.

The jumpers took off around 7:00 p.m. in front of fans, some of them crossing the Atlantic Ocean to get here.

The Silver Mine Invitational can draw hundreds of people to a ski hill on a cold winter's night. It is powerful visuals, people showing off years of hard work and practice.

"I started jumping when I was about six so that was about 30 years ago," said Espen who is a competitor from Norway.

And those jumpers who climb those daring steps to the top of the platform are not just coming from the Chippewa Valley, Wisconsin or the United States -- Espen's group from Norway just arrived in the U.S. on Thursday.

But just like all the athletes at the event, they are taking on the same challenge. Espen, who is part of the group, says it is all about focusing on the takeoff.

"That's the main focus for everyone," he said. "If the takeoff is good it makes it good."

The heights, the speed, nothing phases him. In fact he says they feed on it.

"It's not scary it's a bit of tension; the heart is pumping and that's why we are doing it, we want that feeling," he said.

In addition to Norway, teams from places like Canada and Finland are also competing.

"Quite a few years ago we started what was called the 5 Hills Tour so we were really trying to get the us to be a little more notarized in the world of ski jumping," said Zach Jastrow, Chief of Hill. "It used to be but then it kind of dwindled out."

And there is no shortage of people who want to see all the athletes and action up close. They are relying on a large warm fire hoping it helps them forget about the frigid temperatures.

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