Montana Snowbowl is gearing up for one of its biggest annual events. The Snowbowl Cup Gelande Championship returns at the end of February with a spectator-worthy show.

The annual gelande competition is slated to take place Feb. 25-26, 2012. National competitors shoot off of a jump, aiming for the furthest distance to win part of an $8,000 purse. Crowds of spectators line the course for the Sunday finals, which ends with an unknown jumper sailing naked through the air.

Contrary to Nordic ski jumping, gelande jumpers use long downhill skis with fixed heel bindings rather than Nordic skis with free heel bindings. Jumpers hold their skis in a "V" to gain distance in flight. But winners gain points for more than distance as style is judged, too.

Here’s how the Montana Snowbowl course looks from the gelande jumper’s point of view:



The Snowbowl course doesn’t provide world record distance jumps, but it is known amongst the North American gelande jumpers as one of the most technical courses. The jump launches from a narrow chute between two cliffs. At the launch, jumpers have been clocked at 40 m.p.h. The air distance that follows spans about 200 feet and ends by crossing under a chairlift.

The past 14 years has seen a trio of Montana brothers pass the championship trophy between each other. Brent Wilson held the title from 1998-2001. Younger siblings Rolf and Erik have swapped the title back and forth since then, with Rolf claiming the title the past three winters.

Skiers and snowboarders with lift tickets can watch for free. Spectators without lift tickets are usually charged $3 per person. Skiers, snowboarders, and spectators can catch a bus from Missoula to Snowbowl for $3 round trip.

For more information on the gelande and the bus, check here.