World record backflip attempt
Halfway home during an attempt on the world record at Ski Acres, February 1975. Photo by Jenifer Jelliff.
16-man backflip shatters world record!
[From Northwest Skier magazine, February 14, 1975]

At the time my friends performed this stunt, I was ski-bumming and instructing in Sun Valley, Idaho. So, I wasn't involved in this record jump. I've reprinted this story from Northwest Skier magazine out of nostalgia and to remember my high school and college ski friends. --Lowell Skoog

Gold fish are too expensive. The telephone folks frown on overcrowding in their booths. And streaking has gone indoors. But the derring-do of the exhibitionist skier is alive and well. At least it was recently at Ski Acres where 16 skiers managed to hold hands during a unison backflip.

That feat shatters the old eight-man world record set last year by a group of Wyoming skiers who called themselves the Flying Coyotes. The Acres' jumpers, for the time being unnamed, included Drew Merklinghaus, an 18-year-old Bellevue College filmmaker.

Northwest Skier, February 14, 1975

Aside from biting his tongue during the record-setting jump, Merklinghaus said, "It's quite an exciting, exhilarating, far-out feeling, especially when you look to your right and see everybody still skiing and still connected, and then realize that you've just set a world record."

Several attempts were made with 18, but problems and adjustments made these efforts unsuccessful; so practice resumed with six, back to 15, then 16 and that's when Merklinghaus said, "We nailed it! So you can say that the world record now stands at 16."

As you might guess, timing is the key to this stunt. Said Merklinghaus, "You can go off at different times and different positions--up or back. So the main freakout is when you're sliding down the inrun, all holding hands and see this 60-foot line of people swaying back and forth, gaining speed and losing speed, trying to make a straight line by the time you hit the jump. At the lip of the jump you're on your own. You make the flip and you're not thinking about anything else."

Joe Flick, one of the prime movers behind the jump, performs on a regular basis with the Salomon Freestyle Demonstration Team. The 18-year-old freshman at the University of Washington began rehearsing for the record flip last year, leaping backwards in twos, threes, even fours with his friends. Then the word came down that the Flying Coyotes had completed an eight-man backflip, and that it would be published in the "Guinness Book of World Records."

That was apparently motivation enough. Flick recruited as many as 24 jumpers, but he confessed, "We found that was an unworkable number." So it became a case of subtraction.

Sponsors like K2, Salomon, and Roffe got involved, and even filmmaker Warren Miller brought his lenses to the slopes of Ski Acres; he ordered clear blue skies, but as Flick feared, "I didn't know what we could do about that resident cloud that lives up there." The answer was nothing; not even the cloud wanted to miss a world record.

The future for Joe Flick isn't burdened with new assaults on the record. His immediate attention is focused on the professional freestyle circuit. He'll also participate in a Wayne Wong/Salomon Demo Team exhibition at Snoqualmie Summit on Feb. 22.

16-man world record backflip
Guinness Book of World Records 16-man backflip, February 1975, Ski Acres, Washington. The jumpers, from left to right are Jim Flick, John Mohan, Doug Perry, Mike Vowels, Bill Pessemier, Jeff Sleeper, Drew Merklinghaus, Steve Holzknecht, Greg Allott, Bob Pessemier, Rob Humphrey, Joe Flick, Todd Harps, Bryan Rolfe, Ron Olson, Randy Nelson, Bruce Roggencamp and Mike Gentman. Photo by Jenifer Jelliff.

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