San Francisco Street Becomes Ski Jump

October 5th, 2005

Olympic ski champion Jonny Moseley and his buddies transformed one of San Francisco's steepest streets into one of the strangest king-of-the-hill competitions yet.

After several tons of trucked-in snow were dumped on two blocks of Fillmore Street, a section so steep that the sidewalks have built-in staircases, Moseley and friends drew a big crowd on the gorgeously sunny day, and their aerial tricks as they soared across Vallejo Street had the fans cheering.

The disruption didn't amuse some residents of the well-to-do Pacific Heights neighborhood, but Mayor Gavin Newsom blessed the event as a San Francisco original.

"It's the old adage, 'Nothing ventured, nothing gained,'" Newsom said. "While this is unique, we consider ourselves unique."

Moseley, the 1998 Olympic gold medal winner in moguls, beamed with pride as he dug his heels in the snow, helped erect retaining walls, and oversaw the growing contour of the slope.

"It's about 14,000 cubic feet. That's my number," Moseley said as he helped staple up some banners promoting sponsors of the event, which was organized by Icer Air, a ski equipment company. "We've got plenty. We're good."

It took a few trips down the 400-foot run before the skiers hit their stride. The first jumpers came up a bit short, banging into massive Styrofoam blocks short of the landing area. That elicited a nervous murmur from the sun-drenched crowd. The heat had softened the snow, and while the street plunges down a grade of more than 18 percent, that's not as steep as the slopes these world-ranked skiers and snowboarders were used to.

The thousands of spectators clearly enjoyed watching them fling themselves skyward in the middle of the city.

"In San Francisco, you learn to expect that anything will happen," said city resident Theresa Smith. "It's out of the ordinary for something unusual not to happen."

"I think this is following in a long line of great San Francisco nuttiness," James Armstrong said.