Hunter Gibson learned at a young age how to fly on a set of skis.
Gibson was 5 years old when his grandfather asked him if he wanted to ski jump. A decade later, the 15-year-old Fox River Grove resident is a junior ski jumper who travels the world to compete.
On Saturday, Gibson was home for the 112th International Winter Tournament at the Norge Ski Club in Fox River Grove.
"There's nothing like jumping on your home hill," said Gibson, as he waited to tackle the 70-meter ski jump, the tallest jump at the event. "You've got more confidence and an advantage that you don't have jumping anywhere else."
Junior athletes as young as 5 years old competed Saturday on the ski club's five hills of 5, 10, 25, 40 and 70 meters. More than 1,000 fans gathered to watch under cloudy skies and a balmy 45 degrees.
Norge spokesman Charlie Sedivec said the annual event is the longest continuous ski competition in North America.
The tournament was supposed to happen last month. But it had to be postponed because of too much rain and warm temperatures.
To prepare for this weekend, volunteers worked between Tuesday night and Thursday morning making snow and getting the slopes ready for the tournament.
On Sunday, about 5,000 spectators are expected to watch the professional competition. Ski jumpers from Finland, Norway, Slovenia and the United States are scheduled to compete starting at noon on the 70-meter hill.
That hill has a ski jump structure that stands 150 feet high.
"It you look straight off the top of the tower, you can see the whole Chicago skyline," Sedivec said.
Jumpers rocket down the steep slope at speeds of 45 mph to 50 mph before floating more than 200 feet through the air.
"It's exciting," Sedivec said. "It's nice to see long, stylish jumps. And it's nice to see nobody falling."
On Saturday, a group of young jumpers competed on the big hill for a chance to qualify for the Junior National Championships, which will be held at Norge Ski Club, starting at the end of the month.
One of those jumpers was Maxim Glyvka.
The 10-year-old Fox River Grove resident said he's been ski jumping since he was 4. He's following in the footsteps of his dad, who started jumping in the 1980s.
"You get to fly around in the air," he said. "It's really, really fun. It's not like any other sport."
Logan Gundry, 14, of Fall Creek, Wisconsin, said he also enjoys jumping.
When asked what goes through his mind during a jump, Gundry said, "Not much."
But that's not a bad thing.
"The best trick is to not think about it," he said.
Hours before Saturday's competition, Mike and Candy Colgan were tailgating. The couple from Elk Grove Village said they were looking forward to watching the young athletes compete.
Candy Colgan said the athletes are fearless.
Looking at the ski jump structure for the 70-meter hill, she said, "I think I'd have a heart attack standing up on that thing."