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Published:November 15th, 2006 12:27 EST
Through a Ski Jumper's Eyes

Through a Ski Jumper's Eyes

By Colleen Wright

It's a well known fact that the city that played host to the winter Olympics twice has a working ski jump, however, Innsbruck, Austria, takes it one step further.

Spectators accustomed to seeing ski runs from the ground are offered a different perspective at Innsbruck’s Bergisel Ski Jump. They can venture out one of the doors of the restaurant that sits on top of the jump and stand on a metal grating suspended right above the ramp, a stomach-churning 130 feet off the ground.

The panorama of the city below is the same one seen by ski jumpers when they fly off the track. A broader 360-degree view of the city below and the surrounding Alps can be seen from an outside viewing deck and through the glass walls of the restaurant “Café im Turm,” or “Café in the Tower.” From there, the Triumphal Arch and familiar line of roof peaks near the City Center are among the landmarks visible.

The restaurant and viewing terrace were among the changes made to the tower about 20 years after Austrian ski jumper Karl Schnabl soared down the incline to win the 1976 gold medal. Skiers were jumping farther than they had when the ramp was built, the aged jump no longer met international regulations, and so Innsbruck reworked the jump in order to retain the reputation as a top venue for ski jumping. The changes that followed were much more than updates that would conform to code, however.

The Bergisel Ski Jump re-opened in 2002 with a new restaurant and new look. Its slim tower rose from the mountain and expanded into a rectangular restaurant on top. The shape that it formed was covered in metal sheets and reminiscent of a mechanical cobra rising from the trees. The powerful image continues to draw eyes from points all over the city. At night it remains visible as both the ramp and café are lit by a strip of light that constantly changes color.

While it hasn’t yet seen a third Olympic competition, Bergisel Ski Jump is currently used for two major events. It is a stop for the summer grand prix dry jumping tour in August, and the international Four-Hills Ski Jumping competition, which will take place from January 3-4, 2007.

The Olympic rings still stand at the edge of a bowl of seats at the bottom of the jump. Visitors can tour the venue year-round. A two-minute ride up a glass funicular places visitors at the entrance to the tower, where an elevator carries them the rest of the way to the restaurant on top. The funicular is included in the entrance fee of 8.30 euro for adults and 4 euro for children. It is open from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. November 2 through June 16, and from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. June 16 through November 2.