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Omaha once hosted ski jumping

For many of us, we see so many Winter Olympians jumping and sailing and flying through great heights. From snowboardi...

Posted: Feb 19, 2018 9:26 PM
Updated: Feb 19, 2018 9:26 PM

For many of us, we see so many Winter Olympians jumping and sailing and flying through great heights. From snowboarding to ski jumping – the athletes make jumping off a building into snow seem effortless.

"I've been here for 48-years, and I'm 75," said Wendell Harden.

Wendell Harden knows Ponco Hills. "I hunted these hills for mushrooms," he said.

But even he didn't know about a piece of Omaha history – hidden among the trees until he stumbled upon the idea years ago.

"I came across the pillars and inquired what they were. I was told it was part of a ski jump," Harden told 6 News.

Decades ago – a path had been carved for a ski jump – and the Nebraska State Historical Society has film in its collection to prove it. The year was 1930. Ski jumping had made its Olympic debut just a few years earlier in France. They built a ski jump from scratch which looks like an engineering marvel.

Organizers came with snow, too.

"They brought it [the snow] in from Wyoming in railroad cars," he said.

After watching the film from years ago, figuring out how the jumpers would stop seems like an afterthought.

"There's that video of the guy crashing into a tree. You don't have much steering that high up," said Wendell.

A pile of straw was supposed to stop the athletes. Each ski jumper approached it differently.

Reporter: Did you ever ski jump?

Wendell: "No. I rode bulls for a living and that ain't as bad as jumping off of one of them."

So as we watch the Winter Games and see how far we've come, remember the ski jumpers who once showed off their skills in middle America. For perspective – the winning jump of these Olympic games traveled 150-yards in the air.

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