CURATOR’S NOTE- The following was found on-line thanks to the The Governor Francis Parnell Murphy Museum and Historical Archive. The 1935 footage of jumpers skiing on pine needles in Newport NH was too precious to ignore. The video below tells all (and note there is a brief segment of snow skiing before they get to the Newport footage).
Ski jumping on pine needles in 1935. Someone in Newport NH had a brilliant idea. As you’ll see.
NH LOST SKI HISTORY: PINE NEEDLES?
In August 1935 Newport hosted a Pine Needle Skiing Event…so outrageous it brought film crews and press from everywhere!
At the height of the ski craze, the New Hampshire skiers itched all summer long awaiting the first good powder. The solution played itself out in 1935, and one of the most bizarre chapters in New Hampshire ski history. As dawn broke on Sunday, August 25th, 1935, news film crews, reporters and a crowd of almost 200 people waited expectantly at Wilmarth Park. Ski legend and Newport local John W. McCrillis watched as the members of ski clubs from Montreal to Connecticut piled in for the meet. They were there to ski…in summer on pine needles?! A concept born in this country in Newport.
By the time the meet got under way close to a thousand people had filled the park to take part or watch in wonder as the 40 skiers competed in men’s and women’s downhill and ski jumping.. The concept was simple…a good coating of paraffin wax on your best skis and a thick pile of pine needles and the surface would be as slick as Mount Sunapee in February.
McCrillis, along with Richard “Dick” Durrance (a ski legend himself), Richard Kelley of Newport and U.S. cross country champ Oilli Hegge of Norfolk, Connecticut were judges. The downhill race over 100 yards of pine needles through the woods was won by William Hinton of Putney, VT. The winner of the woman’s downhill? His sister Jean.
When it came to the ski jump however…as you’ll see in the footage it wasn’t for the faint of heart. Only a dozen skiers were crazy enough to attempt it…although judge Dick Durrance had mastered the sport already. Only 4 of the dozen managed to jump twice without falling. John Holden of Putney, Vermont was the winner jumping 28 and then 30 feet!
The event had been held privately for members only for two years previous…but the word was out and people wanted to see what Newport was up to.
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THROUGH THE TREES. Dave Austin back in the day at the high-flying Bear Mt (NY) jump where the air, crowds and trophies were YUGE!
Skiing the Eastern circuit was a blast for the “older” guys in the 70’s and 80’s. Each weekend found us at a different hill, all of which we knew well as we had skied them for many years. The camaraderie among the jumpers was incredible, we were like one big happy family!
I remember (vaguely) one year in Salisbury Ct. on a Sunday; good practice session in the morning then we broke for lunch. Tournament started at one o’clock and we were heading up the hill for the first round. The Masters, or as I still prefer to call them “Veterans” were the first to jump. Half way up the tower I realized I had the lowest number, I would be first off the hill!
The Vets used the top start back then and when the flag dropped I kicked off the top raring to go. Well, when you kicked off the top you are actually airborne for a few feet, and when my skis landed in the track I felt just like someone had smeared peanut butter in the track! How I didn’t end up on my head is beyond me, but the whole way down the in-run was an effort to keep my feet beneath me and stay on my skis. In those days Good old Dr. Don West (rest his soul) always had timing equipment set up on the takeoff. I remember thinking to myself, hell, I can just throw ‘em around and not go off the jump! I believe I was clocked at 20 something mph. Well I didn’t and I flailed off the end and actually went far enough to slide down the whole landing hill and end up in a ball, soaking wet in the dip! Needless to say the hill needed some attention. The funny part is while I was picking myself up and wringing out we all heard a voice from the judges stand (I will not mention his name) say, “send down another vet!” I can’t remember for sure but I don’t think the reply from the top of the hill was something we could print!! A little “snow cement’ was put on the hill and the tournament went off quite well!
Dave at Copper Peak (Ironwood, MI) this summer.
Dave with jumping buddy Dana Zelenakas this past summer at a New England Ski Jumping and Nordic Combined golf event.
CURATOR’S NOTE- Gene Kotlarek, referenced in the story, below, was an internationally renowned ski jumper and among the best in the world in the 60’s. With style like you can only dream about. Gene passed away last month at age 77 but wrote a great story for the Story Project in 2012; to see it, click here. You’ll find a photo there that gives a clear indication of the style he had.
Jim Balfanz (L) and Gene Kotlarek (R) pose for a photo at Bush Lake ski jump. Jim has the backstory below.
Stockbridge, MA/ Minneapolis Ski Club/ Western State College
This picture is from 1972, and shows Gene Kotlarek and me at Bush Lake ski jump as we announced that for the first time since 1938, Minneapolis would be hosting a National Nordic Championship. In fact, the Men’s and Ladies Cross Country Championships and Nordic Combined Championships were awarded to the Minneapolis Ski Club, and the North Star Ski Touring Club for late January, 1973.
On that trip, I was also able to present Ed Brisson, the Minneapolis Ski Club’s outstanding jumping coach, the RUSELL WILDER MEMORIAL AWARD – for his outstanding contribution to youth in skiing. Ed went on to become the Head Jumping coach for the US Ski Team for many years, as well as becoming one of the best experts on ski jumping hill preparation and safety in the entire FIS.
Minneapolis went on to do an outstanding job of hosting the National Championships. Mr. Lars Kindem, chairman of the USSA Central Division Cross Country Committee and Norman Oakvik ( National Nordic Combined Champion in 1954), helped lay out new, more difficult cross country trails for the event. Ed Brisson and the rest of the great coaches and officials conducted well run jumping events as well. In addition to Norman Oakvik, Jay and Jerry Martin – both national jumping champions and Olympians provided tremendous assistance for the jumping events. So many other terrific people helped make those championships some of the best ever conducted to that point in our Nordic history.
It should be noted that Gene Kotlarek was a five time National jumping and three time North American Champion between 1957 and 1967. Gene was actually from Duluth, MN, but was living and working in Minneapolis at the time and was most gracious to come out to help provide support for the events.
The Minneapolis Ski Club has produced many national champions and Olympic competitors over the years.
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CURATOR’S NOTE- Today’s post is one of those unexpected gifts. It’s not a story, per se, but an email sent to Justin Koski, Executive Director of the US Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame, that he in turn forwarded to me. The photos alone are spectacular… and the message that Jim Kirkwood shares about his grandfather, Rolf, adds wonderful texture. To see Rolf Monsen’s Hall of Fame page, click here. Be sure to scroll through the many photos that follow this post.
ROLF MONSEN IN FLIGHT in 1923 in Lake Placid, NY., two years after arriving from Norway. Because of citizenship issues he would not ski in the 1924 Olympics but would go on to represent the USA in 1928, 1932, and 1936. Though injured for the 1936 Games he was elected to carry the flag in the opening ceremonies.
San Clemente, CA
Rolf migrated to Lake Placid from Oslo, Norway in 1921 taking the ski jumping world by storm. He won numerous competitions in Canada, Vermont and New York from 1921 – 1925.
Rolf was a proud member of the U.S. Olympic Ski Team in 1928, 32, 36. Had his citizenship papers been completed in time for the first Winter Olympics in 1924, he would of gold medaled as he was winning everything up and down the east coast. In 1940, Rolf was enlisted by the DOD to train U.S. 10th and 26th Mountain Divisions to fight in the snow on skis. I’m sure those Midwestern farm boys loved that assignment!
I grew up in awe of my grandfather and his many accomplishments. Although he was a quiet man, he was an extremely proud man. He never boasted of his jumping successes. I remember having to prod him just to talk about his career, a common trait among high-achievers isn’t it?
Fortunately for us, and the skiing industry, from 1921 through 1942 someone was always near with a camera documenting every step of the way. I have hundreds of historic photos and press clippings all carefully placed into five scrap books, one of which is just for his many press clippings.
These scrap books are extremely fragile and must be converted to digital as soon as possible. Many of the identifier tags have faded away. The mounting pages are crumbling and many of the photos are becoming hard to see.
My grandfather entrusted me as the custodian his life’s storied career. He passed away in 1987 in Palos Verdes, California. I was contacted by his wills administrator in 1988. It’s now time to give Rolf Monsen his rightful place among the greats of U.S. Ski Jumping.
I would love to work closely with your team to document Rolf’s storied career, and Hall of Fame presentation, as well as help research his involvement with the first ski jumps constructed in Oslo, Norway pre 1921. I’m thinking he surely must have helped design and build the very first ski jump in Oslo while we was a teenager.
His best Olympic finish was 6th, best American finish, in 1928, he was 29 years old.
Results from the 1928 Olympics in St Moritz, SUI. Rolf 6th.
Skiing a Nordic combined event in 1923 in Quebec.
1932 Opening Ceremonies in Lake Placid, NY. Rolf is first person left in the 6th row. He was 33 years old.
For the love of it!
For the joy in it! Playing on the Lake Placid Olympic jump in 1932.
Location unknown in an undated photograph of Rolf Monsen. Gotta love the spectators watching from the trees.
1936 in Garmisch Partenkirchen, GER- Rolf captain of the USA Olympic ski team, second from right.
Rolf as flag bearer in Opening Ceremonies of 1936 Olympic Winter Games in Garmisch. Notice the Hitler salutes in the crowd.
Training US soldiers in Lake Placid NY, circa 1941.
WHEN THE INMATES RUN THE ASSYLUM- parent competitors at the annual Slush Cup in Eau Claire, WI where kids run the tournament. Competitors from L-R: Paul Jastrow, Paul Loomis, Eli Gottfried, Rob Root, Kim Depringer, Tim Anderson, and Dan Mattoon. This appears to be the “before” picture.
Eau Claire, WI Flying Eagles
My Ski Jumping Career
It was a cool, crisp 30 degrees out when I arrived at the venue. You couldn’t ask for better weather to start your ski jumping career. Forecasts called for clear skies and rising temperatures. It was the annual Flying Eagles Slush Cup, where the athletes run the tournament and the parents jump. As the kids were out raking the 10 meter landing hill and re-icing the in-run, I was focusing on picking out the right equipment to pull out the victory. I was psyched. It wasn’t long before we received our competition bibs and we were heading up the hill. I was seeded to jump third and I was patiently waiting my turn by the start gate focusing on my first jump and setting my PR. When my time came, I looked down the in-run and told myself, “stay on your skis, focus on balance, do my best and above all things, kick Mattoon’s butt”. I got on the bar, took a deep breath and lifted off the bar. Down I went.
Everything went great (for the first ten feet), then my mind shouted, “What are you doing? You are going too fast! Slow down.”, At that moment, I leaned back in my skis and slid down the rest of the inrun. Boy was I embarrassed. But everyone was very sympathetic. In order to make me feel better, my son, Zach, who was Chief of Comp, Chief of Inrun and Judge, quickly yelled, “Nice Jump Dad!”, All my fellow competitors were also quick to offer advice on such topics as how to walk back up the hill, how to wait longer before trying to stop, and my favorite, you just jumped as well as the guy on ABC Wide World of Sports. Very valuable input.
After about a 15-20 minute delay to get the track fixed, the round continued and it appears that I was leading, since the second round order had me going last. Woo hoo!!! (only thing strange, was that everyone else was still in the same starting order as the first round). After watching everyone else take their second jump, I got on the bar and told myself, “OK, Mattoon went far, but he did the splits in the air, so I can still get him on style, Have one and win this thing”. Everyone was watching intently, Markers were standing by, ready to mark the winning jump. I was psyched. I lifted off the bar and down I went.
This ride was much better. I was able to beat my previous PR by about 5 feet and just made it to the bottom of the inrun before laying back on my skis. Competition Over. Now it was in the Judges hands on how well they liked my style.
Everyone proceeded to the chalet to wait for the results, but I wanted to improve on my PR, so I went back up to the top of the jump. Thinking that no one was watching, I strapped on the lumber and got on the bar. I said to myself, “have 1” and left the bar, down I go. Boom!!! I make it to the takeoff and jump. (Ok, for the record, I rode the landing, but it’s been long enough that I feel I can start embellishing a little.) I land about 5 meters down the hill! and I’m pumped! But then my mind starts to scream “Oh crap!!!”. Remember back when I said the forecast called for rising temperatures? Well, by this time in the day, the temps were in the mid 60s and the outrun had turned into a huge pond from the melting snow. Even though I was panicking mentally, physically, I remained calm. I knew that one has to add water to a plastic hill to remove friction, so I figured that I just needed to ski through the pond and I will be fine. WRONG!!! Immediately after touching the leading edge of the pond, my skis stopped, but my body kept going. My first face plant. Boy was that water cold. But thank God, no one was watching. Or so I thought until our annual banquet, when the jump was played over and over again. Who would have thought that I would make the season’s highlight reel?
After that day, I decided to hang up my skis and focus on other aspects of the sport. But I will leave that for another story.
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JR thought he was volunteering for a WINTER sport. Then found himself prepping the Team AK hills for plastic and year round use.
JR transitioned from volunteer to jumper. He writes: “I always wondered about jumpers as I had seen them on the outruns and they did not seem to be great skiers. So I figured what the heck. Give it a try. I put on a pair of jumping skis and holy moly, those things do not turn. Of course I crashed giving myself a black eye from my glasses hitting the goggles as they hit the snow. I was hooked.”
J. R. PATEE
Volunteering- an Exercise in Community
In 2014 I was working part time as a nurse, easing into retirement, and received an email asking for volunteers to work as hill markers at the local ski jumps. Wow, I did not realize the jumps were even still being used and here was a Jr. National Championship. I had grown up downhill racing and since moving to Anchorage many years ago had been involved with the cross country community. But here was a chance to see a new aspect of skiing. I signed up and was wowed.
For 3-4 days I volunteered and became enamored with the graceful flights. After the event I went to the coordinator, Karen Compton, and asked to be put on the volunteer list. She said I did not really want that, as they would call me. I said I could unsubscribe and now 4 years later they cannot get rid of me. Perhaps it was my desire after retirement to volunteer in the community, an activity I already did working with the Anchorage Nordic Ski Association in a variety of duties: timer, course setter, announcer, first aid ( I had worked as an emergency nurse for years), but the jumping club was different. In the cross country club you are one of hundreds and thousands, in the jumping club you are one of dozens.
I asked and pondered what made it so exciting as I do not have a vested interest in the way of kids jumping. Michael Brubaker, one of the parents, said it was like being a little kid going out and making anything into a jump to jump off. Perhaps that was it as I had made lots of jumps on the potato cellars of Idaho growing up. Perhaps it was just being in a small energetic community, perhaps just another activity adding to the benefit of Anchorage, maybe just being around the kids and their excitement. Whatever it is I cannot argue with the joy it brings me. Learning new things is great, snow making, construction, repairing, and just helping out. Now my wife has joined in the volunteering effort and has become the seamstress for the club, fitting and repairing the dozens of suits which seem to be in need of constant attention.
Of course it is not all snowflakes and good times. Volunteering seems to take its toll. I tell people ski jumping is safe but volunteering has its risks. Every year a purple heart is given out for injuries sustained in volunteering. The award is not given out lightly, one must require a visit to hospital, doctor, or surgery. Luckily I have received only one, for slipping on the icy steps and breaking a wrist.
I have found in retirement one cannot just sit in front of the TV, but must get out and explore new horizons. Ski jumping has provided my wife and me a new activity to pursue. Yet another “job” (I didn’t know it was a year round activity)! During my tenure I have seen the Alaska Club grow from tiny to thriving. I feel proud to be a part of the community.
JR’s Team AK volunteer purple heart. He only had to break a wrist to get it.
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CURATOR’S NOTE- Justin Koski is Executive Director of the US Ski and Snowbard Hall of Fame in Ishpeming, MI. He pens a beautiful tribute to both Ishpeming and ski jumping, below. To see more on the Hall, click here.
Executive Director | U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame
This is a story of ski jumping as a way of life, a tradition, a community and a culture. From my office window, I see a bluff that once housed Homicide Hill – a popular jump in the 1910’s. I can walk to the window and look southwest to see Last Bluff which also had jumps coming off two sides of it used for competition in the 1920’s. If I go upstairs and look southeast I can see the very tippy-top of the 90-meter Suicide ski jump. I am in the heart, soul and birthplace of organized skiing in America. Do you know where I am?
Growing up here I tried jumping ONCE. I admired jumpers like Rudy Maki, Coy Hill, the Bietalla’s and many others. I listened to these guys tell ski jumping stories after golf for hours some nights when I was young. They were local legends with international accolades. They were extraordinary athletes and kind, gentle souls with a fierce competitive bone hidden deep down in each one of them! You didn’t have to jump to be embraced by them, you didn’t even have to ski. It didn’t matter what you did as long as you competed hard and drove for one thing – winning.
For over 65 years, my family has piled in the car and headed out to Suicide for the Annual ISC Ski Jumping Tournament. This year marks the 132nd annual event making it the longest running annual outdoor sporting event in North America. Today jumpers fly farther and the gear is a lot different but the community support and engagement has never wavered. We are a community who will forever embrace our jumping culture and keep the tradition alive. We support what we love. We are Ishpeming!
CURATOR’S NOTE- Jasper Meyer is a senior at Hanover High School and one of the captains of its 2017-18 ski jumping team. Yes, NH is the only state in the nation that offers sanctioned high school ski jumping and most competitors, like Jasper, arrive as freshmen having never jumped before. The energy around these high school practices and competitions is exhilarating and infectious (as Jasper captures so well in this story). And best of all, the team that wins states is effectively the NATIONAL CHAMPION! An honor that last year went to Kennett High School (North Conway, NH). Hanover was second… watch the video here
Hanover High School Ski Jumping Team
I crave this high. I sit atop the towering jump. Music blares over the crowd. My eyes scan across the horizon, pausing at the soft light of Baker Tower. This view has become one of my favorites. I reach back and hammer my bindings into place for the third time — a reflexive habit. I dig my edges into the tightly melded track. For a second, I feel the nervous ghosts of all my past tumbles try to force themselves into my head. I gently push back, feigning poise in my posture. The official waves me off, and I take five deep breathes, expelling all thoughts of the icy sheet I will land on in seconds.
My mind drifts away from my body like I’m nervous during a speech. I watch myself, as I have so many times on the iPad, zooming down the jump on my skis. Keeping a tight tuck to achieve minimal air resistance. Hands back. Body forward. I see my padded lycra suit stretching at the seams as I enter a deeper squat. My name tag pokes out of its neck. Jasper Meyer 2015-16 it says, but the M and 0 have almost completely faded into the winters’ air. The suit has smacked the snow many times since Coach dragged that Sharpie over the tag, christening its seams to protect me for a year, identifying its green fabric as my second skin for the winter. My helmet rides atop the suit. An obvious hand-me-down. Three visible name tags peek out from below mine. Three other names who understand the distinct sensations I feel now. Off the back of the helmet, right next to the Marker logo, a green ribbon streams away — it was attached last year to commemorate an ill coach. I don’t know him, but it doesn’t matter. He knows this.
My slide is coming to an end. I’m reaching the critical point: the takeoff. The pine boughs stuck into the snow tell me when to push. I load my power up, ready for launch. Suddenly, my knees lurch upwards, straightening my legs. My entire body stiffens as if shocked without warning. I got it. The wind catches my suit, hitting me with the force of my speed all at once. Like a hand angled up outside the car window, I begin to rise. I see nothing. I pull my chin forward over my skis and reach for distance. The boards strapped to my feet begin to cut through the air, spreading into a V as naturally as a flock of migrating geese. Time seems to slow, but my thoughts are few.
The landing is the most treacherous part. At such high speeds, one slip leads to a steep hospital bill. The snow acts like concrete, and a fall means a forty mile per hour blow to it. I’m totally unaware of these truths in my descent. I let myself glide out as far as possible before setting my skis on the ground beneath me and letting gravity apply pressure. My senses snap back into focus. All of a sudden, I can hear my the crowd’s clap and feel the nippy night blowing against my face. I landed it. I turn around to look at the jump above me and don’t have time to react before my nose batters into the crusty earth. Embarrassed by my rookie mistake, I pull myself up and apply snow to my leaky face. Although I hear Coach’s laughing, I still feel the high — the flying high. I feel the rush I yearn for every second of the day. Nothing makes me smile easier than this rush: the adrenaline pumping through my veins; the sense of accomplishment; the wrangling of fear; the joy of doing something insane. I crave this high. I wish all the people who ask me why could feel the high I do right now.
CURATOR’S NOTE- Success has many fathers so there are a number of people you can point to who deserve credit for the USA Nordic combined medals but I think many would agree that one of the first rungs on the ladder was Steve Gaskill who cobbled a tiny budget and a bunch of passionate kids into something that caught the world’s attention. To read a brief interview with Steve, now a professor at the University of Montana, click here, To check out Steve’s TEDx talk on on the connection between movement and learning, click here.
BUSTED FOR DRUGS
1978 was the year of the Nordic World Championship in Lahti, Finland. It was also a few years after the advent of CERA F, the mystical SWIX powder wax that could be really fast in snow near 32˚ F. I was packing the night before our departure for Lahti when I received a call from the owner of an American ski wax company. He wanted to know if I would like to try the new CERA F like fluor wax that he had developed. “Of course,” I quickly answered. Who wouldn’t love a substitute for the $100 small Swix vials when I was operating on a shoestring budget.
The problem was, he was in Buffalo, New York, and I was leaving for Finland the next morning. No problem he said. He would have the package sent overnight to the Pan Am Ticket counter in New York where I could pick it up during our transfer. The plan worked perfectly! I arrived in New York with about 300 pounds of gear: Three large wax boxes, two very large skis bags, a Polavision viewer and camera (instant polaroid movie film pre-video or digital), radios, my luggage, wax benches and misc. team gear. I had managed to get this far with no overweight and checked all of the bags through except one wax box that had some room in it for the wax samples.
Talk about wax samples. There was a large box filled with about 20 pounds of the stuff in large plastic containers and large, heavy duty plastic bags. I stuffed what I could into the wax box and sent it down the checked bag chute. The rest I carefully put into my carry-on bag. If this stuff worked I was sitting on thousands of dollars of wax. For once we might actually be able to afford wax for the typical southern Scandinavian snow.
The flight was uneventful. On arrival in Helsinki customs were well prepared for the many skiers and teams arriving. A band was playing and the skiers were all waved through pushing their carts with skis and personal gear. At the end of the line I was pushing two large carts. The customs agent laughed and commented that he could always tell the coaches. I thought he would simply wave me through, but jokingly he said he had to do his job and at least check one bag. A token check back when flying was much more casual. My stuffed wax box just happened to be on top.
It happened quickly and with Finnish efficiency. Bags of unmarked white powder stuffed into the top of a wax box. Within seconds I was surrounded by security guards and hustled off with all my gear: me to one room and my gear down a long hall. I was able to confirm that the skiers would all be put on the bus to Lahti and checked in. After what seemed like hours in the sterile white room my previously friendly agent walked in holding one of the bags of ski wax. His English was impeccable and while now a bit cold, he remained very profession and courteous. I explained that the powder was ski wax. He looked at me and laughed. He surprised me with the comment, “Like CERA F I suppose.” He was obviously a skier, but then many Finns are so why should I be surprised. I agreed and further explained it was an American company that had made it and sent it with us for the Championships. “We’ll see,” was all he said as he left me alone again.
It again seemed like a long time, but in reality it was only about an hour from starting through customs. Mr. Customs agent returned, this time he was smiling and laughed. “You were not lying, it is not cocaine and it appears to be some kind of wax. We have repacked your bags and are free to go. A vehicle has been arranged to transport you to Lahti.” That should have been the end of the story, but it was not….
Three days later, the night before the first cross country race (Nordic Combined would come later), I was working late after dinner in the wax trailer. There was a soft knock on the trailer door which I answered. Pekka (name changed), one of the Finnish coaches, was at the door and asked to talk. He was obviously a bit embarrassed but finally got to the point. A friend had given him some white powder wax which apparently I knew something about. It turns out the friend was the customs agent, a former Finnish XC national team member, who discreetly had borrowed one of my many bags of wax and passed it along. The Finns had been testing it and could not get it to work at all. Pekka was willing to exchange some local wax information and tips for info on our ‘special wax.’ I didn’t at first tell him that we had had the same results with the wax. He gave me a bar of their special mix and in return I told him the story of the wax and that we hadn’t a clue either. It was a good laugh and started a long term friendship that lasts to this day. On a side note – their glide wax was a step up from what we had been testing, but by the time the Nordic Combined races came along it had all been used an XC team skis and the weather had turned colder and we did just fine.
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CURATOR’S NOTE- Zak Hammill coached in Ishpeming before moving to Alaska. We found a great video of him jumping in the 125th Ishpeming Tournament in 2012 which includes spectacular POV footage of a rapid-fire triple jump at the end of the piece. Check it out here
Team AK head coach
formerly from Iron Mountain, Michigan
Alaska: USA Ski Jumping’s Last Frontier
My ski jumping adventure started in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and later moved even further north, if you can believe that. 4 years ago, I got an amazing opportunity to fly to Anchorage, Alaska and coach ski jumping for 4 months over the winter and then fly home. No strings attached, except for the unknown vacuum that is Alaska itself. I packed my bags and headed north December 1st into the land of 5 hour days, cold weather, and a ski jumping program I knew almost nothing about. Fortunately for me Alaskan hospitality is some of the best in the world and within the first couple weeks I realized that Alaska was the place for me.
Over the last couple of years, I have witnessed and heavily influenced, along with many others, one of the most substantial changes in a ski jumping club. When I arrived in Anchorage, Karen Compton and Vivienne Murray had laid incredible ground work for a ski jumping program, the only thing that was missing was the ski jumping culture. Day one on the job, a standard warm up routine seemed like a foreign language to the club, and imos where completely out of the question. This all seemed so crazy to me growing up in the Midwest where I grew up jumping with one of the deepest ski jumping cultures in the US.
Our first traveling trip really blew me away and I realized that a ski jumping culture had to be created. With a club that supported my every move, we began to develop this culture. With fundraising money obtained prior to my arrival, our plastic project started that following summer and we hired another coach for the small hills, Natasha Mattoon, for the next winter. Luckily for us she got sucked into permanently moving up here as well. Slowly the culture grew and grew. The kids and the parents began to understand the sport, and traveling on trips turned our kids into an actual ski jumping team.
4 years later I am still living and coaching in Anchorage. Ski jumping culture is now alive in Alaska. I know this because my jumpers can actually tell me who a world cup ski jumper is. Gus Compton got to jump with a few of them this summer in Europe. This year we will be hosting Junior Nationals, and I cannot wait to show the rest of the country how far the Alaska ski jumping club has really come. Without a doubt, the future of Alaska ski jumping is as bright as the northern lights on a cold crisp December Alaskan night. Few people actually get to mold and develop a ski jumping culture, and I feel very fortunate that Alaska gave me that opportunity.
Karen Compton and Vivienne Murray have been visionaries and amongst Alaska’s fervent volunteer base which has launched their club into flight. Check out this video on ski jumping safety that Team AK Ski Jumping recently worked with USANS to release: