I was excited to learn that three Jackson Hole Ski & Snowboard Club student-athletes are competing in international competitions. What an extraordinary feat for these individuals to qualify for world-level Nordic events! As I read the Jackson Hole News & Guide article Nordic Stars Glide to Europe, detailing their successes and excitement about the races, I was thrilled to see one of the destinations where two of the skiers are competing this next week: Planica, Slovenia. Lucas Wilmot and Elijah Weening will race there in the 2024 Nordic Junior & U23 World Championships, February 5th to 11th, accompanied by JHSC Nordic Program Director and coach Will Wicherski.
I didn’t have to search the internet to learn more about the alpine valley of Planica and its Nordic Center. My husband and I cycled there from the nearby alpine resort of Kranjska Gora while on a bicycle trip in Slovenia in September 2022. We spent a few hours at the skiing complex that includes eight jumping hills, cross-country trails, and a central building with a viewing platform, museum, wind tunnel, and a jump simulator.
The history and tradition of skiing and ski jumping are a source of national pride and are deeply rooted in Slovenia’s identity. This is apparent when touring the museum at Planica, which gives a thorough overview of the development of ski jumping and provides a chronology of world record achievements.
Slovenians are also passionate about the environment. The country has a reputation for being clean and litter-free with an impressive recycling rate. While at Planica, we saw for ourselves a unique and impressive recycle/reuse practice that allows Nordic athletes to train year-round.
Our Slovenian cycling guide, Ervin Crnovic, explained that, like many winter recreation areas, parking isn’t in high demand during the summer like it is in the winter, so Planica’s underground parking garage isn’t critical for accommodating off-season visitation to the site. Rather than let the garage sit empty for months, the Planica venue moves snow into the 3-floor parking garage in May, turning it into a training facility that takes advantage of the uphills, downhills, and turns. The air temperature is maintained at roughly 28°F to simulate winter conditions and preserve the snow. Skiers on classic or skate skis can travel around the groomed track on one level, follow the ramp up to the next parking tier, and continue winding their way through the makeshift course. A short YouTube video gives you a feel for the thrilling experience.
When fall settles in and winter is on the horizon, the snow is hauled outside where it can melt or become part of the snow base. The parking garage reverts to its original use, and athletes and recreationists head back outdoors to enjoy their sport. Absolutely brilliant!
Planica made an impression on me, and Slovenia holds a special place in my heart. No doubt our Jackson athletes, too, will have some wonderful experiences. Here’s to wishing them safe travels, the best of luck, and the opportunity to make some remarkable memories of their own.
Jackson Hole resident Lori Iverson enjoys both cycling and Nordic skiing among other adventures and occasionally volunteers for the JH Nordic Alliance.