There’s a lot of interesting scientific and technical issues involved in the execution of some of these unusual winter sports, and I think it’s a bit too bad that the NBC coverage doesn’t explore any of them. Fortunately, Wikipedia delivers and explains that the modern ski jumping technique—the V-style—was first deployed in 1985 and came to displace the older approach of holding the skis in parallel. The v-style apparently can increase jump distance by about 10 percent relative to the Daescher technique.
An interesting wrinkle to this story is that the inventor of the v-style, Sweden’s Jan Böklov, wasn’t really a dominant performer—no Olympic medals, for example. He did, however, win the 1988-89 ski jump world cup.
The Kansas City Star has a neat graphic put together on how ski jumping works.