Reach for the sky

Oberstdorf in the Bavarian Alps is best known for the FIS Ski Flying World Championships, held here most recently in January 2018. The Heini Klopfer takeoff tower, one of the highest in the world, had to be restored and enlarged in time for the event, and Trelleborg played an important part in the solution.

There are just five ski flying towers in the world, and the is one of the tallest, rising to 72 meters (236 feet). Originally built using wood, it was restored as a concrete structure in 1973 and has been modernized several times since then. But its latest incarnation, the work of Renn Architekten in Fischen im Allgäu, is doubtless the most impressive to date, and Trelleborg played an important part in bringing it to its present state of glory. Trelleborg’s D3630 window seals help the glazed facade of the viewing platform defy the harsh mountain climate for many years to come. 

Any construction in the mountains has to withstand extreme weather, from rain, hail and snow to blistering winds and temperatures well below freezing. Oberstdorf, a two-hour drive southwest of Munich in the Bavarian Alps, has some of the highest levels of precipitation in Germany, and temperatures sometimes drop below -30 degrees Celsius (-22 Fahrenheit). So when plans were drawn up for the latest renovation of the Heini Klopfer ski jumping tower, carried out in 2016-2017, cutting corners was not an option.

“The request came in for casement seals that could withstand temperatures ranging from -40 °C to +80 °C (-40 °F to +176 °F), and there was no question that Trelleborg was the supplier with the right solution,” says Ralph Blome, Country Manager for sealing profiles within Trelleborg Industrial Solutions in Germany. “For me it’s always fascinating to see Trelleborg get involved with many kinds of extraordinary projects. A sealing profile really is a hidden marvel of technology.”

Not only would the tower need to endure the power of the elements, it would also have to meet today’s stringent security regulations set by the International Ski Federation. In addition, the viewing platform needed to be built for the ultimate spectator experience.

Affectionately known as the “leaning tower of Oberstdorf,” the ski flying tower has a 118-meter (387-foot) inrun that rises at a 38.7 degree angle. Perched at the far end of the tower, the platform for the coaches and judges offers a premium vantage point, with magnificent bird’s eye panoramic views of Lake Freibergsee and the mountains beyond. The giant glazed nest-like box hangs beneath the tip of the tower, high above the trees.

First-class building materials in the cantilevered prestressed concrete construction are complemented with sturdy fittings and fixtures including the windows of the platform, which are all set in wood-and-aluminum frames with Trelleborg’s D3630 seals – just the highperformance, high-protection hardware required. The facade of the viewing platform was manufactured and installed by woodworking firm Holzverarbeitung Bietsch from Ofterschwang, the prefabricated elements fitted with profiles running this way and that, like the interlinking twigs of a giant eagle’s nest. It took just three days to install the facade and glazing of the tower head.

Originally opened in 1950 and designed by the ski jumper turned architect Heini Kopfler, the ski flying hill on which the tower stands still dominates the landscape. Here, up to 40,000 spectators gather to see some of the world’s most daring athletes compete for both the Ski Jumping World Cup and the Ski Flying World Championships, which were held here most recently in January 2018. 

The sport is extreme and the athletes are hardcore, the hills being much bigger than those used for ski jumping, and the jump distances longer. Daredevil ski fliers will lean into a forward dive, shoot down the ramp at 100 kilometers per hour (60 miles per hour) and launch themselves skywards. Gliding like a giant flying squirrel in a great leap of faith, they manage – somehow – to land on two feet. Apparently with no fear of flying – or accident.


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