Flying Eagles Invitational: Youth jumpers prepare for future

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- One of the largest ski jumping events in the world will be taking place right here in Eau Claire in less than two weeks at Silver Mine Hill, but Saturday, young ski jumpers took to Mt. Washington to showcase their skills. WEAU’s Neil Hebert reports.

“About 133 years, we’ve been (ski) jumping in Eau Claire, Wisconsin,” Dan Mattoon, a Flying Eagle Ski Club Hall of Famer, said about the sport he’s been around his entire life.

The 130-year-old club hosted their Flying Eagles Invitational on the smaller ski hill in Eau Claire Saturday; Silver Mine is the ultimate goal for these young Flying Eagles, but Mt. Washington is where it all starts.

“A lot of these kids here today won’t be jumping at Silver Mine, but in a few years from now, maybe they will,” Dan said.

And they have a lot to look up to with Eau Claire’s rich history of skiers.

“I know it was when I was a young junior and looking up to some of the athletes that were Olympians, past Olympians, and think that, ‘Man, right out of Eau Claire, right out of the Flying Eagles Ski Club, I might find myself in the Olympic Games.” It’s pretty special, this sport, for Eau Claire,” Dan said.

“You just watch them mature through the whole process, it’s absolutely awesome,” Nick Mattoon, a former member, now a coach of the club, said. “One of our jumpers I used to coach here, Andrew Urlaub, is now on the U.S. Ski Team. How cool is that? You get to coach them as a little kid, and now they’re on the U.S. Ski Team. That’s pretty rad.”

The sport of ski jumping goes much farther than just the competitions.

“It’s a crazy experience. Who thinks of jumping off, like, a building? It’s absolutely wild,” Nick said. “It gives kids a ton of confidence once they get older. You don’t need to keep skiing, but you get confidence in life and other sports and it gives you good life skills.”

The Silver Mine Invitational is on January 18th and 19th, and you can be sure you’ll see some huge air from some of the best skiers in the world.