Taking off hill at heights of more than 300 feet requires more than just a pair of skis and a fearless attitude for the participants at the Silver Mine Invitational. For many skiers, their preparation begins months before competition.
"It is a year-round sport, but just every year, you have benchmarks," said Central Division Ski Team coach Chris Broz. "This is our benchmark for the year to see where the training has got you leading into the winter."
Back in December, aspiring and current ski jumpers would test their abilities at UW-Eau Claire with a fitness combine. Athletes' speed, balance and strength are all measured, helping to give skiers an idea of what lies ahead in the coming months.
"We pretty much try to get all areas of physical things that are important for ski jumping," said Eau Claire Flying Eagles Ski Club member Adam Loomis. "Then we can just see how our training is helping us improve or where we need to improve on."
Over the past six years, hosting the combine has also been a way for members of the UW-Eau Claire faculty to help skiers achieve new heights.
"They're kids that are enthusiastic about it, and our idea was to try to help them reach some goals from a fitness point of view to ultimately be better ski jumpers," said UW-Eau Claire Kinesiology professor Don Bredle.
Friday and Saturday, all the time and effort put in for the Silver Mine Invitational comes down to a handful of runs off the hill. After measuring their skill sets, both athletes and coaches know they're ready for the jump up in competition.
"It's part of a super tour, like the elite level, like the World Cup-level American ski jumps," Broz said. "We've got people here today that are testing to make sure they're at the highest level to be able to compete against these Olympic-caliber athletes in an Olympic year."
Even more exciting for members of the Eau Claire ski scene is another chance at jumping the city's premiere hill.
"It's great, especially since it happens once a year, so it's kind of a big deal to me," Loomis said. "It's always fun, there's a lot of fans and I feel like the hometown hero."
Tournament organizers expect about 40 skiers to compete in the 124th Silver Mine ski jumping tournament. Competition begins on Friday at 7:00 p.m. and at noon on Saturday. Tickets are $6.00 if purchased in advance, or $10.00 at the gate. Children ages 12 and younger will be admitted for free.