Bringing the Mount To Manhattan
Edelweiss on the Hudson? A 90-foot-high ski jump recreates the Austrian Alps
NEW YORK CITY
WELCOME to the future site of Mt. Manhattan, a majestic parking lot in the shadow of the World Trade Center.
Even in a city that thinks nothing of hosting a Pocahontas movie premier for 200,000, a strip of blacktop in Lower Manhattan strikes some locals as an audacious location for snow skiing, let alone ski jumping.
On one side is the Hudson River, where even water skiing is a chancy business. On the other side is Wall Street, where the biggest leap most people take involves a plunge into the stock market.
Nevertheless, this Friday, New York's first ski jump will rise about 90 feet above the Big Apple hot-dog vendors.
Of course you can't fool New Yorkers even with a snow job like this one. Someone must be selling something.
Indeed, the steel hill will be built courtesy of the Austrian government, which wants to publicize the February Skiflying World Championships in Tauplitz/Bad Mittendorf, Austria. They have visions of skiers floating over Manhattan with the World Trade Center and the Empire State Building in the background.
Just constructing the ski jump will be something of an engineering feat. It must be built overnight so that uninvited New Yorkers on Rollerblades, skateboards, and mountain bikes will have little opportunity to pretest the incline for themselves. City officials made quick construction a condition of the building permit - it wouldn't be wise to tempt people who routinely skate down Madison Avenue by hanging onto the bumpers of speeding vans.
Making it snow overnight, regardless of the climactic conditions, has also been taken care of. It will be trucked down from Lake Placid, where temperatures are already below freezing.
Junketing journalists from Europe are expected to come and will undoubtedly provide play-by-play commentary. ''Well Klaus, how do you think this jump compares with the Hairaisen in the Alps?'' ''Well, Matti, it's not bad but there are too many people looking down on the event.''
The invited jumpers, according to Austrian officials, are ''all class acts in the ski world.''
''Acts'' is the operative word here. What ski-jumping event would be complete without Eddie ''the Eagle'' Edwards? Eddie will be leading the English team. The same Eddie who entertained the world, but frightened the officials, during the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, Alberta. Eddie, as you may recall, placed 58th out of 58 jumpers.
The Austrians are also flying in some Finns. Other invited ''class acts'' include teams from such ski-jumping nations as Mexico and Senegal. While few fans from those countries are expected to make the trip, the skiers may draw cheers from local admirers, some of whom sell watches along Fifth Avenue.
A few parting words of advice for these masters of the air. Don't worry about the jaywalkers scurrying across your landing zone. These are skilled urban professionals who are adept at feints, stutter steps, and short sprints. They will eventually get out of your way. Most have years of experience dodging New York cabbies.
Oh, and if a tall, gap-toothed guy comes up to you with a camera crew in tow asking about silly pet tricks, don't indulge him.
And, finally, please don't look as if you're having too much fun. We don't want to encourage Donald. If this thing goes over too big, Mr. Trump may decide to build the ''world's largest, most expensive'' ski jump on one of his vacant lots. There are many things that New York needs, but a commercial ski jump is not one of them.