Plastic in February? At Junior Nationals Championships?….Yep! And it was great!
Two weeks ago, for the first time ever, the Norge Ski Club in Fox River Grove, IL hosted Junior National Championships, which in an of itself is kind of hard to believe. And for the first time ever, a Junior National Championships was held in the winter competition season on plastic. I think there are two ways of looking at this: a scary indicator of what the future of our sport could look like, or the amazing ability of our sport to adapt and a huge benefit that we have over other skiing disciplines. We can hold a winter competition when there is no snow. How amazing is that!
This season was almost the Jekyll and Hyde of Ski Jumping and Nordic Combined when it comes to weather. While Park City got pounded with snow, and people were frustrated with constantly having to pull snow off the hills, Central and East saw temperatures surpass 60 and even 70 degrees, and of course the rains came as they always do. This made hill preparation hard on both ends of the spectrum, which is a real concern in a sport that relies so heavily on volunteers for so many tasks including hill preparation. Ford Sayre, Andover, and Salisbury were able to persevere and hold their comps due to snowmaking, but the Lebanon K48 fell victim to weather, and Gunstock and Lake Placid were forced to cancel meets. Lake Placid actually had to cancel two meets. In the Midwest, Minneapolis also had to cancel their meet in February.
Now, many readers may be waiting in anticipation of whether I am going to utter two big words…and yes, I am. The majority of humanity believes that climate change is happening, and I am one of them. However, I see this as an opportunity for Ski Jumping not as the downfall of Ski Jumping. If we can adapt and put plastic on more hills, we have a largely climate change/weatherproof sport, in many ways. And already clubs are doing very innovative things to make it easier on the people preparing the hills.
- Alaska skied a steel track to snow landing hill all winter long, making inrun prep easier.
- Iola has skied steel track for years and may have been one of the first to do this.
- Coleraine put rails on top of their porcelain track, so they can just put an inch of snow in the tracks, water the track down, and voila, and ice track.
- Eau Clair has made the width of the area to snow on the inrun much narrower and now has a refrigeration system on Silvermine.
- Salisbury is planning on replicating the inrun of Eau Claire minus the refrigeration.
- Steamboat skied porcelain to snow on the HS75 and 45.
- Both Steamboat and Park City have inrun covers, which makes snow removal easier for those big dumps.
- And Lake Placid now skis porcelain to snow on a regular basis.
All these adaptations make it easier to prepare hills. Junior Nationals was just the next step of actually skiing plastic in the winter, and I applaud Norge for making the call and deciding to pull the snow off the hill rather than cancel. It ended up being a great event with a new “Plastic Hill Record” (not winter) set by Decker Dean, and there were lots of great jumps. Another awesome feature was the Elimination Jump, which used athletes previous jumps to create a handicap, and then athletes jumped head to head in a NCAA Basketball tournament style bracket, where the winner was not necessarily the longer jump because of the handicap. This gave a much greater group of athletes a chance to win, which is more inclusive and fun!
Thank you to all the organizers for putting on a great event and for all the hard work that went into the week. I am sure that lots of folks were pulling their hair out over the weather, but in my opinion the event was a huge success and shows was is possible. It has not been mentioned in this article yet, but also a big thank you to Matt Laue and Guy Larson for pulling off an excellent Nordic Combined event at Wilmot Mountain with a fantastic course and very good conditions. Nordic Combined is more of a challenge than jumping with no snow, but alpine areas with great snowmaking are a huge bonus and an awesome resource.
I am excited that clubs are figuring out ways to make their competitions happen despite the weather, and we need to keep innovating as we move forward.
For immediate release:
Gabby Armstrong of Lake Placid skied the fastest time of the day in the FIS Nordic Combined Youth Cup in Nordic Combined to finish on the podium in 2nd Place!
For the boys event, Stephen Schumann of Park City finished 4th with Lake Placid’s Beckett Ledger in 9th and Elijah Vargas of Steamboat in 10th. Aiden Ripp of Cloquet finished 17th after throwing down the 6th best time of the day.
Full Results can be found here:
USA Nordic is the leadership organization for USA Nordic Combined and USA Ski Jumping and is based in Park City, Utah.
Ski Jumping in Cameron Exemplifies the State of Our Sport in America
Ok folks, if you ever hear anyone say that ski jumping is a dying sport, please politely correct them, and say “Excuse me, but you are 100% WRONG! It is actually quite the opposite.” This is not fake news, and I wanted to take this chance to make sure people are up-to-date on what is happening across the country.
Our first example of progress is the newly formed Cameron Flying Eagles Ski Jumping Club in Cameron, Wisconsin. I should correct myself in saying it is new because competitions were being held in Cameron starting in the late 1800s until the mid 20th century, but then the jump and the club like many small clubs disappeared. These examples may be where the idea that our sport is dying comes from. However, this past fall a Maki, stepped up to revive the club, and continue the exceptional dedication of this family to the sport of Ski Jumping. Alana Maki-Foust and her husband, Brandon, partnered with the Eau Claire Flying Eagles to become a satellite location for the club thanks to the help of the Jastrows. Bjorn Hanson from Out There Nordic has also been a big supporter, and like all clubs, other volunteers have also stepped up to help. Tim Dahlberg, a former ski jumper from Grantsburg and Sue Kavanagh have been assisting, and Doug Maki, who many of you know, has been an amazing resource and mentor, helping with equipment, raising money, getting the hill ready, and lots of advice. They also had a great group of parents who assisted with the tournament Cameron held on February 11. Pat Lyons and the St. Paul Ski Club contributed equipment, and the Itasca Ski Clubs in Coleraine donated helmets.
The new jump is a 7-meter located on a small hill that leads down to a sports field on the Cameron School District’s property. The head of building and grounds came out with his snow tractor to help contour the hill, and they are hoping the school district will allow them to build a ramp for a 10-12 meter next year. This year they had seven kids join the program, and in the words of Alana, “it was seriously so much FUN! Every single night the kids were making gains and improvements. I am pretty positive I will have 5 kids returning next year.” This all goes to show that starting a small hill program and getting kids out jumping can be done in a safe and effective manner without having to build a fancy jump if there is a dedicated group of people.
The Cameron Flying Eagles are just one example of clubs being revived and growing all across the country. Other examples include the Ishpeming Ski Club (which is not as far away as everyone thinks, by the way), which has hired Gary Rasmussen as a coach. Gary has already been into the local schools, recruiting more than 10 new athletes. I was out at practice a couple of weeks ago as athletes took their first jumps on the 40 meter, and the excitement was palpable. Gary hopes to build on this excitement as they move into the summer and start jumping on the plastic that they now have on all their hills up to the 40 meter. Further south in Central, Karla Keck continues to work to move things forward at Heiliger Huegel, and they were able to hold a small informal meet again this year, which is great!
Another exciting development in Central this winter was the creation of Flight Club, which was initiated by Girlie Gessner, Mary Elizabeth Pollard, Scott Ulrey, and Lee Hull. Flight club provided a traveling coach for kids across the region and guaranteed that young athletes would have a familiar coach on all hills for the weekend competitions. These coaches included Oleg Glyvka, Albert Gasienica, Matt Gundry, Nick Schott, Shawn Arneson, and Sue Kavanagh. They had nearly 40 kids sign up, which was much more than they expected and both parents and athletes are excited for the coming summer.
In the East, Colin Delaney and Larry Stone are also doing a great job in Lake Placid to get their numbers back up, and Eric Smith and Ryan McKeon are new coaches in Lebanon. Brattleboro is planning on trying to get their junior program going again next year and Todd Einig and Spencer Knickerbocker hope to reopen the small hills at Memorial Park next year.
In the West, Alaska has record numbers with 70 junior athletes and over 10 master jumper/parents in their club, and plastic on all their hills, thanks to the hard work of Karen Compton and Vivienne Murray, Zak Hamill and Natasha Matoon. As to be expected, Todd Wilson has steamboat setting the bar, with 120 athletes in the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club program, which is a record! In Park City the Learn to Fly days have been a huge hit, and Alan Alborn, coaches, and parents are all putting in tons of time to move things forward. Leavenworth, WA continues to have a ton of jumpers on their 15 and 25 meters because of their Four Way Competition the Bakke Cup. All these kids jump on alpine skis, but there is some real interest in getting a Nordic program going.
On the infrastructure side of things there are many efforts to upgrade facilities and a very exciting project moving forward in Red Wing, Minnesota, being led by Bryan Sanders. This will bring a brand new HS 130 to Red Wing. A new Big Hill in the US is a Huge DEAL! Eau Claire is currently in the middle of a capital campaign to rebuild their 40 meter, make it larger, and put plastic on Silver Mine, which is being led by Dan Mattoon. ORDA is currently in the planning process for a facility upgrade of the 1980 Olympic Complex, in Lake Placid, and the question I get asked the most… yes, the rumors are true that the Nansen Ski Jump in Berlin, NH has been re-decked and Sarah Hendrickson will be jumping it later this winter as part of a Red Bull promotional event, so stay tuned.
I am looking forward to culminating the winter season in Norge for what will surely be a great Junior Nationals despite the lack of snow, and there are many other positive things happening that I have not even mentioned. I am sorry if I missed some people. I also recognize that there is still a lot of work to be done, and some clubs are struggling. However, overall I am very optimistic about the direction we are heading and the future of our sport!
By: Jed Hinkley
High School Jumping Showcases What is Great About Our Sport
Many of you may know that New Hampshire still has high school ski jumping, and it gets a lot of attention because it is the only state in the country where this still exists. However, with State Championships having just been held and won by Kennett High School this past weekend, I would like to highlight why high school jumping encapsulates so much of what is good about sports and ski jumping in particular. So here we go.
- It is all about fun! The atmosphere at the top of a jump at a high school meet is awesome! It is relaxed, everyone is cheering on the other teams, and they recognize that what they are doing is pretty unique and an experience they will hold with them for the rest of their lives. Most data says kids stop doing sports because it is not fun, so I love that these jumpers have so much fun.
- Many of the athletes do not start jumping until they get to high school, which shows that you do not have to start ski jumping at age 6. You can start at age 16 and still be safe, have fun, and fly nearly thirty meters through the air. I think you can start jumping at age 36 and still be safe, but that is a discussion for another day.
- High school meets are team events, which means the top four skiers from each team are scored to determine the overall winning team. This creates a great sense of team unity and friendly rivalry between teams and also a feeling of doing something for more than just yourself, in what is often a very individual sport.
- There are male and female athletes and a winner for each, however, for the team portion there are not enough women to have a separate team class. Because of this schools can take their best six athletes to States, regardless of their gender, and this year, Kennett’s top six (the overall winning team) included a women, which is awesome!
- Many, if not most of the jumpers also compete in other skiing disciplines, with alpine being the primary one. Most experts agree that kids should be multi-sport athletes well into their teen years, and at USA Nordic we believe that skiing in multiple disciplines makes you a better athlete. A lot of these kids also compete in Skimeister events which include alpline, jumping, and cross country, and more and more clubs are bringing this back, which I think is awesome!
- These athletes gain a feeling of ownership of their hill which is unmatched by any team that plays on a manicured grass field or varnished wood floor. Often the hills these teams compete and practice on are maintained primarily by the team itself, with some volunteer help (thank goodness for volunteers). It is a testament to their dedication to the sport when you can get high school kids to work outside shoveling and packing snow for hours at a time, just so they can fly. The skiers from Kennett worked on the hill all Thursday, skied in alpine States all day Friday, and then jumped Friday night in States. Wow!
- Lastly, this is all possible because of the coaches who give so much back, without much recognition, so that this cool tradition can carry on. Now giving back to the sport without much recognition is something that is universal to ski jumping clubs all across America, not just high schools, so thank you to all the people involved in clubs. But this article is about high schools, so thank you to High School Coaches Tom Dodds (Cooper’s dad), Morgan Stepp, Chip Henry, Kathleen Doyle, Rick Bragg, and Dave Smith.
To conclude, the vast majority of high school jumpers will never jump before or after their high school years, but in my mind this does not diminish high school jumping at all. Those few years means they have joined a community that is so unique. And some will move beyond high school jumping. This year Sean Maloney, AJ King, and Dennis Morgan qualified for the Eastern Junior National team and will be headed to Norge next week. The East is trying to create more of an overlap between high school and club jumping, which is great because it means more opportunity to fly and have fun, which is what it is all about!
I know multiple things mentioned here are not necessarily unique to high school, but I think that high school jumping does a great job at showcasing why ski jumping is something we all love, and I wanted to point that out. I will get off my soap box now 🙂
Congratulations to Chip Henry (the Kennett Coach) Sean Maloney (boys winner) and Sabin Mitchell (girls winner who is a 9th grader and this is her first year jumping). I would also like to congratulate Carter Wilcox, who won the Gene Ross cup which goes to the “rookie of the year.” Gene was the former ski jumping coach at Plymouth who passed away, and he was always known for taking athletes who had never ski jumped before and turning them into ski jumpers over two to three years.
Full results from the state meet can be found at usanordic.org/results
By: Jed Hinkley
We are excited to announce that there will be live coverage of Nordic World Ski Championships in Lahti, Finland on NBCsports.com. We would like to thank USSA for partnering with NBC Sports to make this possible, and “for the first time, more than 24 hours of same day televised coverage will be broadcast on NBCSN or Universal HD. In total, NBC Sports Group will present more than 60 hours of Nordic World Ski Championships coverage.” (Michael Jaquet)
Please see the schedule below, and be sure to tune in to watch US Ski Jumpers and Nordic Combined skiers shine on the world stage!
|2017 FIS NORDIC WORLD SKI CHAMPIONSHIPS
Live Streaming and Broadcast Schedule (times EST)
Thursday, Feb. 23
Friday, Feb. 24
Saturday, Feb. 25
Sunday, Feb. 26
Tuesday, Feb. 28
Wednesday, Mar. 1
Thursday, Mar. 2
Friday, Mar. 3
Saturday, Mar. 4
Sunday, Mar. 5
Lots of Great Jumping and Skiing in Salisbury This Weekend
As I pulled into the small town of Salisbury, Connecticut and followed the big, red a-frame signs directing me to the Satre Hill and announcing the 91st Annual Salisbury Ski Jumping competition, I searched the depths of my brain to think back to how long it had been since I had competed in Salisbury. The answer…. either 19 or 20 years, which is way too long! I think next year I need to throw the boards back on and try for my second leg on the Cup! (maybe)
It was great to be back, and it was all so familiar and brought back lots of great memories. Most of those memories, however, were of very little snow and warm conditions. This year was quite the opposite, with 8-10 inches of new snow falling on Wednesday and Thursday, which had to be raked off the hills, and an additional half-foot of snow that would fall between Friday and Sunday. Of course, the heaviest came down during Sunday’s Eastern Championships, which made for an interesting day. Luckily, Salisbury has a great group of committed board members and volunteers who all chipped in to first put snow on the hills earlier in the week, just to then turn around and rake, blow, and shovel it off so the hills. The result was a successful weekend of competitions, which included a long jump of 71 meters (1 meter shy of the hill record) from Matt White, and over 40 competitors on all the hills. This is more than Salisbury has had for Eastern Championship in a long time. They even held two Nordic Combined races, one for the junior hills and one for the K70.
Jeff Hastings sent out an update on small hills for US Cup Junior Series yesterday, and results are posted at usanordic.org/clubs/virtual-nationals/.
On the K70 Matt White from NYSEF skied very well winning the U16 both days. Beckett Ledger also has a strong showing, winning the U18 both days, and to no one’s surprise, Cooper Dodds took home the Satre Cup coming off some great jumps at the 5 Hills competitions in the Midwest.
On the Nordic Combined side of things, Tate Frantz won the U12 boys, Evan Nichols the U16 boys, and Beckett Ledger the U20 boys, and it was great to see Nordic Combined in Salisbury, which was a rarity when I was growing up.
I don’t need to go through all the improvements Salisbury has made over the past few years, but Kenny Barker was happy to announce that with revenues from this year’s competition they can pay off the loan they took out to rebuild the K70, and put money back into the program! The weekend saw crowds in excess of 1200 people on Saturday, and a human dogsled race, complete with a Viking ship, which was quite the spectacle but a great way to make the event fun and bring out more people. A big thanks goes out to all the directors, but especially Kenny, Matt Kiefer, and Nick Collin for all their work on the hills. Also a big thank you to Larry Stone and all the officials, and to Holly Reid and others who were taking care of registration. Thank you to Scooter and Tanya for putting me up, and finally to Ariel Picton for her great work coaching the junior program which now has 11 athletes.
The future of Salisbury and the East looks bright!
Jed Hinkley, Sport Development Director
USA Nordic Announces Ski Jumping and Nordic Combined Squads for World Championships in Lahti, Finland
For Immediate release
Park City, UT (February 8, 2017) – After a very successful start to the 2016/17 racing season, the entire coaching staff was faced with some difficult decisions, as several athletes have taken their game to the next level in both Ski Jumping and Nordic Combined. “We have a few veterans with World Championship medals already on their walls in Bryan and Taylor Fletcher, so these selections were quite easy,” noted Dave Jarrett, Head Coach for USA Nordic Combined, “where the discussion became complicated with was the rest of our picks. We have a lot of very talented up and coming athletes, and it was very close in some cases. Ultimately, I am confident that our selection criteria were fair, and I believe we are sending a great team to Lahti.”
The Nordic Combined squad will be as follows:
Clint Jones, Head Coach for USA Ski Jumping offered a similar perspective. “I am very excited about this team. We had a great summer, and even though we’re only part way into the winter, we’ve already had almost every single one of our athletes jump to personal bests, so we are very optimistic for Lahti.”
The Ski Jumping squad will be as follows:
The FIS Nordic World Championships will be held in Lahti, Finland from February 24 – March 5.
USA Nordic is the leadership organization for USA Nordic Combined and USA Ski Jumping and is based in Park City, Utah.
For Immediate release
USA Nordic signs strategic partnership with Toko
Park City, January 15, 2017: “USA Nordic is very pleased to announce that we will be working with Toko as our exclusive glove supplier for the Nordic Combined Team’s cross country racing for the 2017 season,” said Bill Demong, Executive Director of USA Nordic. “Toko has a long, distinguished history as one of the premiere Nordic brands and we are very excited to be working with their committed team.”
Toko US Brand Manager Ian Harvey commented, “Bryan Fletcher lives in Heber, Utah close to me and I have been impressed with him and his other teammates’ professionalism and commitment. It is my pleasure to support them.”
“Switching to Toko was a fantastic opportunity,” stated Taylor Fletcher, one of the top athletes on the USA Nordic Combined team. “The gloves have a great warmth to weight ratio. Due to their European sizing, the size increments are smaller such that we can achieve a perfect fit. I appreciate the personal touch that Ian has given the gloves as well as to our team”.
To stay connected with all of the USA Nordic Combined athletes, please visit www.usanordic.org and subscribe to our newsletter!
USA Nordic is the parent organization for USA Nordic Combined and USA Ski Jumping and is based in Park City, Utah