Ski Jumping Takes Student to New Heights
Jose Miguel Banda knows what it feels like to soar.
One of the 15 members of the Karl Eid Ski Jump Team participating in the third annual JumpFest competition at Hilltop Ski Area, he spent Saturday morning and afternoon trekking up the steep wooden steps to the 40-meter platform and then flying down the ramp and off the edge of the jump.
“You just need to watch the trees or something, because if you watch behind it’s kind of scary,” he said, struggling to find the words to describe it. “You feel like you’re flying.”
The sun glistened off the ramps and the sky over the hillside was clear and blue, and Banda paced the packed snow in front of the team clubhouse before his jumps. While JumpFest was a friendly competition between teammates, he was preparing for a bigger contest.
In less than a week, Banda will join three of his teammates and travel to Park City, Utah to represent the Karl Eid club at the Jr. National Ski Jump Championships. There, he will compete off the towering 64-meter jump, soaring ski-to-ski against some of the country’s most elite junior jumpers.
“I feel so excited and I really want to go,” said the 15-year-old West High School junior. “I know there are many people there that have many years of skiing, but I want to try.”
Banda said it had been a quick road to the championship: He had only begun to jump competitively several months ago. He remembered the first jump off the 15-meter ramp. “I fell a few times,” he said.
Karen Compton, mother of several of Banda’s teammates, also remembered his rookie jump.
“My heart was racing,” she said, smiling, standing near the edge of the crowd growing at the base of the hill. “I thought, oh no oh no oh no oh no.”
She said she had reason for concern. Banda, a Rotary International exchange student from Puebla, Mexico, had never even seen snow when he arrived in Anchorage last August.
When the snow began to pile up in October and Compton, his host mother, began taking her sons to the ski jumps, Banda’s curiosity grew.
“He said ‘I would like to try,’ and we said ‘Ok,’” Compton said. “I had my doubts that he would be able to go off a jump and land it safely, and I was completely wrong.”
Now, a week before he becomes one of the first Karl Eid jumpers to ever compete in the national-level event, Banda spends nearly every day at the hill, practicing his form and enjoying the rush of the cold wind on his face.
When he lands in Park City, he said he can’t wait to take off again.