A new, old-fashioned way to get down the hill

There are two types of people in this world – one looks at a jack jumper and says “wow, that looks fun as hell – where do I buy one?” Another looks at a jack jumper and thinks “dumb ways to die – hard no”. There’s not a ton of middle ground until you try it. Then all bets are off. Spoiler alert, most folks tend to be in the first category.


Jack JumpingJack Jumping #2


What the heck is it?

For those unfamiliar, a jack jumper is a single ski with a seat on top. And yes, it’s fun as heck. We’ve likened it to a levitating louge. Or in Vermont terms a real fast milking stool.

Legend has it some Vermont lumberjacks nailed a seat to a barrel stave to get down the hill faster at the end of the long day. Et voilà. A backwoods Vermonty sport was born. Laziness is, indeed, the mother of many inventions.

Nowadays, riders make them from modern skis and various materials for the seat. Some go for the 2-by-6 screwed to the ski with a pillow duct-taped to it for cushion. Some go for metal seat posts and upholstered seats. Some have CnC cut mechanisms with integral shocks and a seat belt to hold you in rather than handles. It runs the gamut.  

From the jack jumper genesis back in lord-knows-when, they have always been a DIY type affair. Efforts to manufacture early editions of them stuck for a while but no one’s been able to re-ignite that popularity. You can find them at yard sales around the region, but using a modern ski is much preferred, especially if you’re racing.


Jack Jumping #3Jack Jumper SkisNick Edwards

Where can I ride one?

Jack jumping is mostly an earn your turns type endeavor. Mt. Philo has a decent group of enthusiasts and Lincoln Gap is another place you can find folks on them. The key for riding a jack jumper is to have a steep enough pitch in deep snow or a groomed trail (snow mobiles are good for that) for lower pitch.

If you want lift serve, you can try Bolton or Jay Peak. Both resorts allow them in certain parts of the mountain. Be ready to answer questions about them from the inquiring public if you go. Little kids might as well think you’re an astronaut. Serious street cred with the youth.


I can’t ride this thing. Where can I see them in action first?

The Jack Jump World Championship in Mt. Snow has been going strong for almost 40 years. It’s a tight slolam run off Charlie’s Chase and riders can really get after it. Super fun to see.  You might not believe it but they can stop on a dime. It’s like riding a single hockey skate. Throw your weight into the edge and watch the ice fly.

The race is typically the first Sunday in March and a gaggle of about 30-60 participants make the trek every year.

There’s another race that just started in Lincoln this year as part of their Hill Country Holiday celebrations in early February. There was crowd of 40-50 riders so we’re hoping that race has staying power.


Jack Jumping #4Jack Jumping in Lincoln #5


Ok. You got me. How do I build one?

To be honest, it’s really not that hard to build one. Tools and materials needed: A few screws, a drill, an old ski (160-170cm is a good stable size for most) and some scrap wood.

The post should be about 12” off the deck or roughly the size of your shin. The higher they are, the tippier they are. And that seat post should be set about 12 degrees back so when you’re going downhill, you don’t slip off the front.

There are occasional workshops around to help you building one, they're impromptu but can be a great educational resource. 


Why aren’t these things more popular?

For all the efforts over the years to popularize them, no one has cracked the code. Myself included. I went through the Jumpstart program last year at Generator thinking I might find the secret sauce to get rich quick and be the next Jack Burton. Not so fast. A few hurdles yet. Happy to bore anyone over a beer if you want to give it a try.

Short answer is the Swiss and Austrians have been at this for a while and still seems like an off-beat sled.

They take it a bit more seriously in Europe with a sporting contraption called the "Skibock." Check out a Ski Bock Race here!   


Is there a central organizing body?

Not currently but this author is eager to build some community around this awesome local sport. Check out www.JackJumpCo.com for more info.