The Dummy Gelunde Jump is an annual event at Ski Apache, where contestants build a dummy on skis, point it down a slope with a huge ramp at the bottom, give it a push and cross their fingers. Similar dummy jumps can be found at other ski resorts like Mount Sunapee and Mission Ridge. The specifications and judging criteria vary, but most will require only 2 skis be used and will reward creativity, height of jump and distance traveled or proximity to a bulls-eye.
The Ski Apache Gelunde Jump is great because there isn’t a weight restriction and the dummy need not necessarily be standing on the skis. This has led to some really great designs in past years. From an 8 foot tall Sasquatch to the obligatory president, there have been some very creative entries.
My parents found out about the competition in 2013 and immediately knew they wanted to submit an entry. I had a lot more time on my hands than they did, so they told me what they wanted, gave me some skis and set me to work on it.
The first step is building the frame. We mount brackets on the skis that will hold the ski spacer boards once we know how the frame comes together. The frame is built from PVC pipe and fittings and designed to not only look like the cartoon, but also support itself well structurally.
I wrap a few coat hangers around the back for a tail and start tape-er-macheing the body. Basically I’m just crumpling dry newspaper and packing it on where I want more form, then compressing it appropriately as I tape it on with packing tape. We want the overall weight to be close to 100 lbs, but its important that it has a low and forward center of gravity, so the character itself needs to be as light as possible.
We compensate by adding dive weights in the feet that will be disguised as buckles (we don’t want boots hiding his iconic large feet) and by putting a large weight on the front support eventually.
I keep building up until it starts to look more like the famous Looney Tune. More coat hangers for ears.
Finally, I’m ready to start giving Wile E. some skin. I use a fairly stretchy brown fleece for the main color and more canvas like light brown material for the stomach and face. I simply hotglue the material onto the packing tape form, which holds surprisingly well. The fleece is a lot easier to work with, being able to stretch to fit the form, so I’m doing a lot less patterning and cutting to get it to fit than with the light brown.
Fully fleshed out, we add the supports between the skis. There are a few much needed finishing touches like the solo cup pole grips and, of course, an ACME rocket.
The rocket was easily the coolest part of the whole build. We weren’t sure what the rules were regarding actual rocket propulsion. Even in winter, mountain villages have strict fire safety guidelines, for good reason. So instead of using actual model rockets, we opt for an ingenious alternative.
After modifying an old fire extinguisher, we are able to load it with about a cup of baby powder before charging it with an air compressor to about 30psi. This is enough pressure to send a jet of white powder spewing in a 12 foot stream for roughly 20 seconds. It’s set off with a pull-pin that I’ll use right as I launch him.
With that fixed on his back, all that’s left is a paint job for the skis.
It’s so cold out that any snow immediately freezes to the fleece, making him look a lot more gray. The rockets on back are also weighted.
The jump is on the main face of the mountain so that it’s a short walk from the ski lodge to spectate. A crowd of at least a hundred people are gathered at the bottom to cheer on their favorite entries. At this point we haven’t given much thought to how the heavy coyote is going to get into position. A snow mobile is provided to tow each entry up, but the driver doesn’t seem to have the lightest touch on the throttle and it looks like it could be a bit jerky. Sure enough the front support gets damaged on the ride up and needs last-minute repairs. The jump looks a lot further from up here.
I’m happy not to go first. Watching other dummies take their shot gives me a feel for the lay of the ramp. Many of them fall over or veer off before even making it to the jump. I see a pattern of right pull so I know where I want to aim.
When it’s my turn I ask everyone to stand back so the rocket doesn’t powder them and slowly move Wile E. into position. As heavy as he was, it takes a lot just to keep him from starting on his descent. I’m worried for a second that I won’t be able to pull the rocket pin without adjusting his course. The time is finally here and I let it rip. He starts off slow with the rocket trail blasting out behind him. Unfortunately, the white backdrop and gusts of wind make the rocket trail a lot less noticeable from below, but I’m still glad it worked.
Oh no! He hits a bump and the repaired support beam falls off the right ski and drags. He starts to veer hard right. But wait! He goes so far right that he corrects DOES A FULL 180 AND HEADS STRAIGHT FOR THE JUMP!
Nails it! Even manages an okay landing! Incredible luck helped all the work pay off.
The only drawback are more concerned with height and distance than creativity, jump dynamics or crowd response. We didn’t place that year but we had a blast and got to see some antics that would have made Chuck Jones proud.
So Wile E. Sat in the loft of the garage for 3 years, looking determined for another shot at glory. Fast forward to 2016 and my parents decide the time is right.
Wile E. is taken down and revised. The character stays intact but an extra set of skis is attached under the first pair, to keep the feet or supports from dragging in the snow. The supports are also reconfigured to be more sturdy.
The big day arrives and Wile E. is once again staring down his destiny
Wile E. Looks on as his competitors take turns crashing, careening or soaring over the ramp, all the while noting how the terrain is affecting trajectory.
At long last, the moment has come. Again, aiming just left of center, he gets what he came for.
First Place! Not only were judging criteria better in favor of more well-thought-out entries, but he hit the ramp at top speed, shot straight up, stalled in typical Looney Tune fashion, then came crashing down spectacularly. Mine and my parents’ hard work is rewarded with the top prize of $1,500 and the pride of being Dummy of the Year.
Most entries are smashed to bits, but weights and parts are salvaged for another build. Both years were a great time and I look forward to collaborating on future dummies to carry on this epic, if ridiculous, tradition.