A sports event and so much more

The valley below Ponce. Photo: Nordic Centre Planica archives

Planica. A word with many meanings. For some a glacial valley in the Julian Alps, for others the cradle of ski jumping. Some people call it the biggest Slovenian sports festival, others regard it as a unique place on a world scale.

At the mention of Planica many people think of ski flying, although increasing numbers also think of cross-country skiing. This is a place where sports people become heroes, where huge crowds breathe as one and unforgettable stories are written.

Sports spectacle

At the end of March (23. - 26. 3. 2017) the rich sporting history of Planica will continue with the new and exciting contests in the Ski Jumping World Cup. The valley under the Ponce mountain range will once again play host to tens of thousands of sports fans from all corners of the globe, who will loudly cheer on the fearless competitors, creating an incomparable atmosphere. 

In the Alpine and Scandinavian parts of Europe, ski jumping – which is not as well-known as some other sports – has a long tradition and large number of loyal adherents. And as for Planica, we can only speak of this sport in superlatives. Last year over four days a crowd of 110,000 people gathered at the foot of the slope, while every fourth Slovenian watched the competition on television. The main credit for such enthusiasm of course goes to the competitors, whose flights simply take the viewers’ breath away. At 100 kilometres an hour they fly 10 metres above the ground, for a flight of around seven seconds. The current record on the ski flying hill at Planica is 248.5 metres, set in 2015 by the Slovenian Peter Prevc.

But flying through the air is not the only way to travel at Planica. Many sports people remain on the ground, even though they are crossing it at high speed. Cross-country skiing, a sport related to ski jumping, is now returning to its former glory at Planica. A year ago the challenge of the World Cup drew the best cross-country skiers, who showed everyone that Planica is not just a “jumping” valley. These competitions spurred the launch of the Nordic Centre, the most modern sports complex of its kind in the world.

A competitor taking on the Gorišek Brothers Ski Flying Hill.

Planica as a model for others

Cross-country skiing returns to the valley.

Although Planica was always a centre for Nordic sports, until recently it had not exploited its full potential. Now its facilities have caught up with the rest of the world, and even overtaken it. The refurbishing of the jumping centre, which comprises seven jumps and a flying ramp, the new cross-country centre, which includes seven kilometres of cross-country ski trails, plus other multi-purpose facilities, have transformed Planica into a destination that attracts many visitors outside the winter months.

Since December 2015, when we saw the official opening of the Nordic Centre, Planica has offered year-round sports. It now hosts guests who are just seeking relaxation in unspoilt nature, as well as sports people, both amateur and professional, who can make use of the range of ultra-modern facilities. Moreover, each year teams from 30 different countries around the world come to train at Planica.

The philosophy behind the renovation of the Nordic Centre was to shift the facilities into a natural setting, and the end result is that the great majority are now concealed underground. Concern for nature is also one of the leading concepts of the project of sustainable development, which the Planica Organising Committee began four years ago. The main elements of this project are promoting the use of public transport among visitors to the March ski flying competitions, and care for the area’s nature and heritage.

In 2013 visitors were first able to come to Planica by train, and in this way help in meeting the targets that were set with regard to environmental protection. Since then almost 8,000 people have come to Planica by rail. The project is continuing with a new cooperation agreement with the Slovenian Railways company, which during this year’s World Cup competitions will step up its scheduled train services and offer special and additional trains. These will bring visitors from all parts of Slovenia to Jesenice, and from there buses will run to Planica and back.

Text by Matevž Peršin

Photo: Planica Organising Committee