When Did Ski Jumping Start Using Tracks? Real Snow Vs. Icy Ceramic

Ski jumping is a winter sport that involves jumping from a ramp or hill and gliding through the air before landing on a slope. It’s an exhilarating sport that requires skill, technique, and courage. But when did ski jumping start using tracks? And what is the difference between real snow and icy ceramic tracks?

Real and ceramic snow have their benefits and disadvantages. It depends on the type of skier you are and your personal preference to judge the two tracks. 

In this article, we’ll explore the history of ski jumping tracks and the pros and cons of real snow versus icy ceramic tracks.

Related: Freeride Vs. All Mountain Skis

History of Ski Jumping Tracks

When Did Ski Jumping Start Using Tracks
Image credits: The Olympians

Ski jumping has been around for centuries, but Norway’s first recorded ski jumping competition was in 1862. The match was by Sondre Norheim, the father of modern ski jumping. The jumpers used a natural ramp made of snow and landed on a flat surface.

As the sport evolved, the ramps became steeper, and the landing areas became longer. Then, in the early 20th century, ski jumping tracks came into being. These tracks were of ice, and the jumpers could slide further before landing. The tracks also made it easier to maintain consistent conditions for competition, regardless of the weather.

In the 1930s, ceramic tracks came into being. These tracks were of a particular ceramic material designed to mimic ice’s sliding properties. Ceramic tracks allowed for longer jumps and more consistent conditions than ice tracks.

Real Snow Vs. Icy Ceramic Tracks

Real snow tracks are made of natural snow and are the traditional type of track used in ski jumping. These tracks require cold temperatures and a good amount of natural snowfall to create a suitable surface for jumping. 

While accurate snow tracks are beautiful and provide an authentic skiing experience, they are unpredictable and require much maintenance. In addition, changes in temperature and snowfall can affect the quality of the track, making it difficult for jumpers to achieve consistent results.

On the other hand, Icy ceramic tracks are specially designed ceramic material that provides a consistent and predictable surface for jumping. As a result, these tracks require less maintenance and can have a broader range of temperatures and weather conditions. 

Icy ceramic trails also allow longer jumps and higher speeds, making them the preferred choice for professional competitions.

However, icy ceramic tracks have their drawbacks. While they provide a consistent surface for jumping, they offer a different natural skiing experience than real snow tracks. Additionally, the cost of building and maintaining icy ceramic trails is significantly higher than real snow tracks.

The Advantages of Icy Ceramic Tracks

Icy ceramic tracks have become the standard for professional ski jumping competitions for several reasons:


Icy ceramic tracks provide a consistent and predictable surface for jumpers. In addition, they are not affected by weather conditions and do not require constant maintenance.


Icy ceramic tracks are safer than natural snow or ice tracks. They are smoother and more even, reducing the risk of injury to the jumpers.

Longer jumps

Icy ceramic tracks allow for longer jumps than natural snow or ice tracks. It is due to the smoother surface, which reduces friction and allows the jumpers to glide further.


Icy ceramic tracks allow jumpers to speed higher than natural snow or ice tracks. It is due to the consistent and predictable surface, which enables the jumpers to build up more speed before takeoff.

The Disadvantages of Icy Ceramic Tracks

While icy ceramic tracks offer many advantages, there are also some disadvantages to consider:


Icy ceramic tracks are significantly more expensive to build and maintain than natural snow or ice tracks. This cost is often for competition organizers, which can limit the number of competitions held on these tracks.

Environmental impact

The production and disposal of ceramic materials can have a significant environmental impact. Therefore, it is a concern for many ski-jumping enthusiasts who value sustainability.


Some argue that icy ceramic tracks take away from the authenticity of ski jumping. Instead, they prefer the unpredictability and challenge of natural snow or ice tracks.

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Advantages of Real Snow Tracks

Natural Feel

Real snow tracks offer a more authentic and natural feel for ski jumping. In addition, the unpredictability and variability of natural snow can challenge jumpers and create a more exciting experience for spectators.

Lower Cost

Real snow tracks are typically less expensive to create and maintain than icy ceramic tracks. However, they require different levels of specialized equipment and materials.

Environmental Benefits

Using real snow tracks has a much lower environmental impact compared to ceramic ways, which require the extraction of raw materials and energy-intensive production processes.

Unique Conditions

Real snow tracks can offer unique conditions for jumpers, depending on the weather and snow conditions. In addition, it can add an extra element of excitement and challenge to competitions.

Disadvantages of Real Snow Tracks

Unpredictable Conditions

While the unpredictability of real snow tracks can be an advantage, it can also be a disadvantage. Unpredictable conditions can make it difficult for jumpers to perform consistently, leading to competition delays or cancellations.

Safety Concerns

Real snow tracks can be more dangerous than ceramic tracks, as they are often more uneven and can develop bumps or ruts that increase the risk of injury to jumpers.

Limited Availability

Real snow tracks are only available in specific locations during certain times of the year. As a result, it limits the number of competitions that can be held on these tracks and can create logistical challenges for organizers and competitors.

Environmental Concerns

While real snow tracks have environmental benefits compared to ceramic tracks, they are not without their own environmental concerns. For example, ski resorts may need to use artificial snow-making machines to create enough snow for competitions, which can use significant amounts of water and energy.

Real snow tracks offer a unique and authentic experience for ski jumping, but they come with challenges and limitations. The choice between real snow and ceramic paths ultimately depends on various factors, including the level of competition, weather conditions, and environmental considerations.

Final Word

Ski jumping tracks have evolved from natural snow ramps to ice and ceramic tracks. Icy ceramic tracks are preferred for professional competitions due to their consistency, safety, longer jumps, and higher speeds. 

However, they come with a higher cost and environmental impact, and some argue that they take away from the authenticity of ski jumping. Real snow tracks offer a more natural and unpredictable experience, lower cost, and environmental benefits, but they also have limitations in availability, safety, and environmental concerns. 

Ultimately, the choice between real snow and ceramic tracks depends on the specific needs and preferences of the competition organizers, jumpers, and spectators.

Mitchelle Lynn