For 6 years and 186 stories we have opened our inboxes everyday in December to reflect on what Ski Jumping and Nordic Combined have meant to all of us. We share our stories and live vicariously through one another, celebrating the thrill of flight. We reconnect with friends, coaches and teammates and meet our next generation of high flying athletes.
We Remember: Gene Kotlarek, American Hero, Olympic Ski Jumper
For me Story Project is the most powerful program we here at USANS conduct, engaging our community to remember our past and dream about our future. Over the past few years this has also been an incredible opportunity for our us to give to help the current and next generation and this year was no exception! Nearly 150 individuals generously donated over $96,000 to fuel the journey of USANS and our amazing athletes.
Sophia Schreiner shares her love for the thrill of flight!
As I write this I can’t help but think of where we would be without the soul of Story Project, Jeff Hastings. There are few people with the talent, drive and ingenuity of Jeff and for him we have so much to be thankful for in helping us all find our way back together. As we wrap up this years Story Project and refocus our gaze toward the upcoming games I would like for everyone reading this to take a moment and Thank Jeff Hastings! His email is firstname.lastname@example.org and flooding his inbox would be the best way for this community to remind him of our love and thanks!
Ribs we will never see again. Other guys kicked sand in our faces at “Skinny Beach” .
Hastings, Konopacke, McGrane, and Holland, 1983, Lahti, FIN. (Mike Holland Story Project, Dec 9, 2012)
Don’t forget, Story Project is not only a celebration of flight but it is a labor of love! Send USANS and Jeff Hastings your story with a picture or two NOW! so that we can make next year even better!
Lastly, a year ago I shared that my son Liam had taken his first jump (albeit on downhill skis) and last week on that anniversary he started his first day on the long boards! It is for love of the sport and the people who cherish it that we do all this. Thanks again for all of your stories, your love and your generosity.
CURATOR’S NOTE- For most of us, ski jumping is a love of flight (as Cooper captured beautifully yesterday) wrapped in family bonds (as father Tom describes poignantly, below). I am so thankful to both of the Dodds for a) having the curiosity and fortitude to pursue the Big Nansen dream in the first place and b) sharing the adventure (from two perspectives!) with Story Project. A great video of the entire adventure, shot and edited by Cooper’s friend, wingman, and talented videographer, Joey Fishman, can be seen by clicking here.
AS DUSK FALLS- Tom and Cooper Dodds with Big Nansen, this day the tamed giant, in the background.
Ford Sayre Ski Club
I loved reading Cooper’s account of skiing “Big Nansen”. For me this was one in a long line of shared ski jumping experiences with my son. Herein I will try to capture some of the myriad emotions of that day from a coach/parent perspective.
Earlier in the winter Cooper had mentioned that there was an effort to reopen Nansen for a single jump by Sarah Hendrickson (national team member with family roots in New Hampshire). The Nansen of my youth is a fuzzy memory but I do recall the enormous trestle and its place among the more prestigious jumps in the east. Having missed the opportunity to jump the Dartmouth College jump the day it closed down in the 1980s, I figured that if he and his friends could avail themselves of this opportunity it would be a unique and memorable experience.
With the winter drawing to a close in early March, I was surprised by a message from Cooper that the exhibition jump was on and he was driving north from Brooklyn to see if he could get a jump. The energy, excitement and determination that he radiated upon his arrival in Hanover with friend Joey suddenly made this very real for me. I dealt with my nervous energy by planning and preparing. Aware of the notorious Nansen winds, I immediately checked the weather in Berlin, NH. Indeed the winds were forecast to steadily build during the day on both Saturday and Sunday.
We studied images of Sarah’s jump (which happened Saturday morning) that had already made it to the web. First came brainstorming ideas for a start, as her “start” seat lowered by cable would likely not be available to us. Joey and I cut several 2×6’s at an angle that could be attached to the deck of the trestle and provide a flat surface for Cooper to put on his skis. We figured we could string a 10 foot 4×4 between railing posts to serve as a “start bar”.
We awoke to an idyllic day for a drive and an adventure. A quick trip to the Roger Burt (Ford Sayre) jump in Hanover yielded a 10 foot 4×4, a 12 foot ladder section (in case the 4×4 was not long enough), crampons, rakes, shovel, broom and the famous Ford Sayre trackulator. Driving north I felt a blend of excited anticipation and nervous energy. I was touched to be part of this shared experience and was intent upon my support/enabling role but desperately wanted to make sure that Cooper had the space and capacity to choose NOT to jump. I feared that the presence of Joey and I as well as the slow trickle of well wishes from Eastern ski jumping comrades might make him feel pressure to jump.
Arriving to the massive tower silhouetted against the clear blue sky was exhilarating. It appeared that a sno-cat had either repeatedly slid or dropped its blade while descending the hill – leaving longitudinal gouges and mounds of snow on the landing. My immediate impression was that with our small crew the landing hill was not salvageable. I was disappointed for Cooper but somewhat relieved that the decision of whether or not to jump had been taken out of our hands. We all seemed quite content with the adventure, the planning, the companionship and now the opportunity to take in this majestic trestle. We scampered up the overgrown and collapsed landing hill steps and then worked our way up the renovated trestle. The track – a narrow strip of snow on the trestle – was breaking down but appeared skiable. Standing on the table after an hour of sightseeing, Cooper and I exchanged a look – we had worked hills together before and maybe we could pull this off??
Avoiding a handful of snowboarders who were enjoying some beers and taking a few turns, I started working my way down the landing hill. I spent the first 2 hours working down from the knoll, through the P point and toward the K point – territory that Cooper would ultimately sail over! We picked rocks and broken stumps off the hill, tried to break down the longitudinal ridges, and raked dirty ice balls into the depressed areas. With the afternoon wearing on, I got down to the lower part of the hill and realized that there was still major work to be done from above K down through the transition (and I was tiring fast!). At this point I reached the conclusion that our day was done, but Cooper convinced me to let him run the landing hill to simply see how bumpy it actually was. I worked earnestly in the transition for another 30 minutes and then gave him the okay.
With the possibility that he might actually take this jump those coach/parent emotions percolated up once again. I wanted him to know that I was confident in his ability to handle the hill while still allowing the space NOT to jump. I wanted him appropriately aware of deficiencies on the hill without allowing my anxieties to needlessly grow doubts in his mind. After 26 years of doing this dance together we are getting to be pretty good partners!
With dusk beckoning, Joey and I turned in earnest to the inrun. I tried to trackulate the disintegrating track, but my trackulator did not match the dimensions of the track, and I was making things worse. I had intended to measure the hang of the take-off but I forgot my level. We hustled our makeshift standing platform and barstart up the trestle. The 4×4 proved too short but the 12 foot ladder fit just barely. I quickly screwed the platform into the deck about where I thought Sarah had started the day before. Cooper walked up without his skis to check the start and inrun one last time. He signaled pleasure with the way things looked but later confided that he had expected me to put the start slightly lower (I suspect he said nothing because the hour was getting late, my drill was dying, my hands were frozen and my knuckles were bleeding!).
I refer you to Cooper’s piece for a description of the jump. I still struggle to summarize the impetus and motivation for his doing this and my enabling it. The simple love of flying. The opportunity to take on an historic hill that he had heard about from many of us. The potential that the opportunity might never arise again. The challenge and exhilaration of taking on and moving through so many fears and unknowns. The deep unease I felt as a parent realizing that I could not control this – could not know if we could construct a safe start, could not know if the track would hold together, could not know the appropriate speed to take, could not know if the winds would gust, and, worst of all for me, could not repair the landing hill to my standards. No, I will never forget this.
The snowboarders erupted with Cooper’s jump and one of them posted a video of the jump on Facebook. I will leave you with one of the comments about the shared video: “You jumped for the fun man, no crowd. Heart jumping. Class above class. Congratulations. Shake your hand some time.”
CURATOR’S NOTE- Cooper’s great story below is a beautiful testament to the love of the sport and the lengths we will go to pursue it. To see a great video of Cooper’s Nansen moment, CLICK HERE (trust me, you really want to see this).
Cooper and father, Tom, work to fashion a start bar at the top of the long abandoned Nansen ski jump in Berlin, NH last year.
Ford Sayre Ski Club
Growing up in New Hampshire, the Nansen jump in Berlin was one of those renowned hills that I had heard about but never dreamed of skiing. The jump, always referred to as ‘Big Nansen’, shuttered its trestle 15 years before I donned my first pair of skis. Mid-winter 2017 while skiing in Salisbury, CT, I got wind that Red Bull was restoring the legendary tower to allow World Champion Sarah Hendrickson to take one promotional jump. After that, the hill would become an historic site. I reached out to those involved to see if I could forejump, but I was politely told they didn’t want anyone else skiing the hill, so I left it there.
Until a month later, when I woke up to a friendly tip in my email: “… the Nansen jump is taking place tomorrow.” The next morning, accompanied by my friend/ filmmaker Joey, I left Brooklyn for my hometown of Hanover. That night, we watched footage of Sarah’s jump from earlier in the day and saw some potential challenges. The weather had been difficult to say the least, and the snow coverage was very spotty. Red Bull had provided a custom start platform for the event only; we knew we’d have to make our own. On top of all this we still didn’t know if the hill would be destroyed or locked upon arrival.
Sunday morning, Joey, my father and I loaded up the truck with our ‘start bar’ (a 12 foot ladder), our platform (plywood boards), and a few rakes and wound our way north to Berlin. Seeing the tower from the highway there’s no doubt how Nansen got its nickname. It wasn’t locked, but when we pulled up to the landing hill, we discovered that it had in fact been destroyed. A Snow Cat had slid down the hill, digging down to dirt in spots and leaving a huge seam that ran down the middle. After hiking to the top we discovered that the in-run didn’t look much better. I could tell my dad didn’t think the jump would happen, but I remained hopeful as we grabbed some rakes and got to work on the hill. We tidied and smoothed all day in the frigid cold, and with about an hour of daylight left, made the decision to give it a go. We hustled to install the platform, set our start bar, and suited up for the attempt.
With the sun slipping fast, my father stayed up top with me to stabilize the ladder, and Joey perched on the roof of the decrepit judges’ stand to watch the wind and flag me. A handful of local snowboarders excitedly watched from the knoll. Delicately balanced on the platform, with the whole tower swaying in the wind, I pushed my fear to the back of my awareness, got my skis on, and slowly slid onto the ladder, sitting myself between two rungs in the middle of the thin track. One last moment of gathering focus, then I received the flag from Joey and pushed off. No turning back now.
I had planned to have a safe jump without full effort, but my body had a different plan. I hit the 15 foot high takeoff well and knew right away I was heading to the bottom. My vision planed out to the parking lot – where a few curious spectators had pulled off the highway to watch – as the world slowed around me and I lost myself in that marvelous feeling of freedom and weightlessness. I jolted back to reality when I landed right on top of a large divot we had failed to flatten, but I landed, I survived (save for some bruised heels), and skied into the outrun yelling, overcome with joy. But perhaps even more joyous was being able to share this experience with my father on his 60th birthday, more than 30 years after he had skied the hill himself.
Here’s to hoping that others will get to ski this beautiful monster. Will Big Nansen work its way into an East coast 4 hills tour? I sure hope so. I’m certainly grateful that I seized the opportunity, and toed the line of legality and safety, to poach a jump on this legend. The things we do for the thrill of flight.
NANSEN ON ARRIVAL- things looked a little rough.
Bluebird day… and big tower.
CURATOR’S NOTE- Great message here- it ain’t over until YOU say it’s over. Thanks for the inspiration, Matt.
LASTING BONDS- Billy Demong (L) and Jed Hinkley (R) with author, Matt Cook, on a Utah camping trip in the early ’00’s.
Lake Placid Ski Club
I feel like this story just happened yesterday. It was May of the year 2000, and I was 23 years old. I had just graduated with a degree in biology, and I wanted one thing…. to start ski jumping competitively again. I didn’t want a job, I didn’t mind being single, and I had no interest in listening to friends and family who told me my plan wasn’t going to come true. It had been over six years since I had taken any jumps. I quit ski jumping my sophomore year of high school because, to be frank, I wasn’t very good. I will never forget calling Larry Stone that spring of 2000 and timidly asking him if I could join his Lake Placid program. He said yes. I remember meeting him and his full-time athletes at the massive OTC gym for the first time. I was so much older than all those spry young athletes, and I didn’t even own any gear. I think I just walked into that concrete locker room at the jumps and pulled some dusty boards off the rack and left an IOU.
Larry suggested we start on the K48… I was so nervous we started on the K18. Now that I think about this story for the first time in almost 20 years, I remember wanting to take a landing hill ride down that 18 meter jump just to be safe. I crashed. My very first landing hill ride my skis got tangled in some chicken wire on the knoll, and I fell forward, sprawled out on the verge of sliding into the pit of harsh reality. I could feel the EMT Debbie and all tourists in the old base lodge staring at me. I brushed myself off and did my landing hill rides.
After a few mildly embarrassing sessions down there we made our way up to the K48. I survived. By mid-summer I found myself on top of the K90, nervous as hell but not willing to back down. That very first jump I’ll never forget seeing Billy Demong and Casey Colby down on the coach’s stand cheering me on, and I survived. Throughout the year, I lost some weight and got thru all those plyometric and weight lifting workouts. In November of 2000 I packed up my rusty red Nissan pick-up truck and moved to Steamboat because that was the place to be I guess. Todd Wilson and the gang accepted me with open arms. I think I was the only ski jumper in the US who didn’t have a V. I was old school. I remember Bob Averill on top of the ski jump whispering under his breath at me during a competition, “Cook where the hell is your V…?!” That was a long winter of endless training sessions, but I loved it, and I soaked it up. In February, coach Chris Gilbertson told me it was time to ski the big hill. I was attempting the first big hill of my life at the age of 24, and yet again, somehow I survived, loved it, went back up.
After competing in regional competitions all winter, I had a strong result in National Championships in March finishing 7th or 8th despite having the slowest skis in the competition by far (which Jed Hinkley can confirm because we skied the whole race together. I would pass him on the up-hills, gap him, and then he would zoom by me on the downhills!). That May, Billy Demong called me to say that the US coaches wanted to talk… they told me I had made the US Nordic Combined Ski Team. That phone call was awesome! That very month I packed up what belongings I had in Colorado and made the next move to Park City. I skied for the US for two years on the World Cup B Circuit. Somehow I learned the V in Europe days before an event, and translated that into multiple top 10 finishes that year on the B Cup.
There is a strong place for ski jumping/ Nordic combined in my heart and a long and rich history of the sport in the US. Despite a busy work schedule and a family at home these days, I continue to follow the sport and think back with excitement to the dreams it fostered for me. Somehow, I was able to start from scratch at the age of 23 and work my way up to finishing in the top ten on what is now the Continental Cup Circuit. I say this to make the point that your career is not over if you don’t make the National Team as a teenager, and there are multiple paths within the sport. A positive attitude and good work ethic will go a long way. I survived, preserved, and even coached for a few years, and now I cherish those memories.
Matt Cook with Carl Van Loan on the World Cup B tour in Taivalkoski, FIN.
Carl Van Loan, US Nordic combined coach Bard Elden and Matt at World Cup B in Klingenthal, GER.
Matt Cook in action back in the day.
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THE BEGINNING OF SOMETHING BIG. January 1981… taking to the road in the green Ford LTD with Matt Petri and Hans Copeland (above).
Ford Sayre Ski Club
The enormous, gas guzzling, green Ford LTD floated down the road, its couch-like bench seats ideal for road trips. It was winter break after my first semester at the University of Vermont. Matt Petri, Hans Copeland and I settled into the LTD embarking on a 4,600 mile journey. Our goal was to improve as ski jumpers by training on a variety of hills.
While we were excited to jump on Olympic size 90 & 120m hills in Thunder Bay and Steamboat Springs, I was apprehensive being in close quarters with Hans and Matt. They were older, handsome, outgoing and knew each other well as classmates at St. Lawrence University. I felt socially awkward and had been spending most of my time with other engineering students who were more comfortable alone in the back of the library with a pile of text books. Nonetheless, off we went.
After a few painfully cold days of jumping in Thunder Bay were heading West on I-80 through Nebraska en route to Steamboat. Staying awake while driving in Nebraska is difficult. The flat highway stretches endlessly in a straight line toward the horizon passing nothing but cow fields. I drove, Hans slept on the back seat and Matt complained about the smell of the cows. The smell was so disgusting, I wondered how anyone could live there. Investigating the stench more fully, Matt rolled down the passenger window announcing that the smell was coming from the INSIDE of the car. I pulled over and Petri jumped out. Looking across the seat, the engineer in me was puzzled by heatwaves rising and distorting the view of Matt in the snowbank. It was then I realized that while reading road maps the night before, someone had neglected to turn off our spotlight. It had burned through the front of a wool sweater leaving a black hole that continued 7 inches down through the foam of the front seat.
This trip was the beginning of my more extensive travel in efforts to make the U.S. Ski Team. The combination of shared athletic goals and a litany of scary, funny, sad and happy experiences with fellow jumpers built bonds that last a lifetime. Our close friendships, unusual experiences and our struggle to master a difficult sport were cathartic.
As I improved and was named to the U.S. Ski Team, I recall Rex Bell commenting that he noticed such a transformation in me. While I still felt like the same person that piled into the LTD with Matt and Hans, socializing became easier. Our sport turned a quiet, reserved, socially awkward engineering student into a more outgoing, confident father, entrepreneur and coach.
This month marks my 9th year coaching young kids in Hanover, NH in the Ski Jumping club where Jeff Hastings introduced me to the sport 46 years ago. I’ve seen the same transformation in the young athletes I coach – the very reason I find coaching so fulfilling. I see their personalities transform as they confront their fears and master a scary, unnatural sport. I know first-hand that the confidence that young ski jumpers develop benefits them in countless ways throughout their entire lives.
What started with a cross country road trip in January 1981 may well have culminated (JUST 4 YEARS LATER!) in the moment captured above when Mike Holland set a world distance record of 186m in March 1985 in Planica, Yugoslavia. To see ABC coverage of this moment, click here.
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CURATOR’S NOTE- The Dion family from Lebanon, NH was legend in ski jumping circles back in the day. A couple of newspaper clippings, one from the late 1940’s, give some great insight into the early Dion days.
FROM THE SUMMER of ’52: The caption in the local paper reads: SKIS AND SWIM SUITS MIX JUST FINE, as far as the skiing Dions of Lebanon are concerned. Above they are shown just before leaving Lebanon this noon for Lake Placid, NY, where they will compete in an invitational ski jump on the Fourth. Crushed ice will perform the seeming miracle of shifting midsummer to winter at the jump area. The Dions, five of them are, left to right: Roger, 12, Dougie, 9, Bernard, 11, Ray and Ernie. Roger and Dougie are Ernie’s sons and Bernard is Ray’s offspring. All of the- of both generations- are star jumpers.
Lebanon Outing Club
Here’s memory to share. Not sure if the pictures are usable since there are from a newspaper printed in 1952 when I was 10 years old. We were headed to a summer jumping meet on crushed ice long before they had even thought of the plastic surfaces used today. In the pictures are my Dad Ernie, Uncle Ray (Bernard’s Dad), and Brother Roger, Cousin Bernard and me. We were headed for either Laconia NH or Lake Placid, NY for a summer 4th of July tournament, because they were the only 2 places that had summer tournaments. In today’s world they would probably think we were crazy to be jumping on crushed ice, especially since the jumpers for the most part helped cover the hill for a couple of hours before they jumped on it. Time was always of the essence because of how fast the ice melted and how long it took to cover the hill, which is why they only put on as much as was necessary. The in-run had barely enough crushed ice to have a set of tracks on it and not melt before the last guy jumped, the landing was not very wide and had enough to land on for a couple of hours and only to where the outrun began… which had hay on it. So, beside trying to jump as far as we could, the goal was to land on the ice, don’t fall and when you got to the outrun you wanted to be prepared to slow down in a hurry cause hay wasn’t near as fast as ice…
Don’t let the picture be misleading, we jumped with ski pants and sweat shirts, not swim suits because if you did fall, the ice and/or hay would be uncomfortable to say the least. We never thought of it as being dangerous, and I can’t ever remember anyone getting hurt, it was just a lot of fun.
Another picture that might bring a smile to your face (see below). It was taken next to a jump carved out of the woods on the Meriden Road close to Kimball Union Academy. I really don’t know how far we went but by the height of the take-off behind me in the picture it looks like we had fun. How far we went was related to how far up the hill you wanted to climb, how high in the air you dared to go and how close to the bottom you wanted to land. Oh yeah, and we usually skied until the sun went down and couldn’t see the landing anymore. Through it all we never feared because we always knew Dad wouldn’t let us do more than he thought we could handle. As for me personally, my incentive was to try to keep up with brother and cousin. After all, I was way over 4 years old, been practicing walking for over 3 years, and all I had to do was follow deep tracts strait down the hill, and stay on my feet until I stopped. Easy! Right?
FOUR YEARS EARLIER (1948?)… the caption reads: Tiny five-year-old Douglas Dion of Lebanon is perhaps the youngest jumper in the nation. About a month ago, the lad, who has been skiing since he was a year-and-a-half old, took his first leap off the Kimball Union academy jump, a 25-meter hill in Meriden, and has been hitting the take-off ever since just as unconcerned as a veteran jumper. His eight year old brother, Roger, (inset) has been working out on the 35-meter Storrs Hill jump and is entered in this event in the Class C competitions at the Lebanon Outing club’s 25th annual winter carnival to be held January 31 and February 1.
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JANUARY 23, 2002- A BANNER DAY FOR THE USA! The 2002 World Junior Championships in Schonach Germany where author Alex Glueck was silver (L) and fellow American Nathan Gerhart (R) was bronze. German Bjoern Kircheisen won gold. The unlikely story is below.
Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club
I was once told by a young woman that my friends and I have more stories than anyone she had ever met. She didn’t realize, but by friends she meant teammates, and to be honest, she didn’t know the half of it. Since I was six years old, I’ve been hanging out with the same five guys. It’s not as often these days, but we still meet up when we get a chance. It’s just the nature of the sport that ski jumpers stick together. For whatever reason, we’ve all got that group that we still keep up with, even though most of us have spread out across the country. There are a million stories to tell, but one stands out above the rest.
Going into World Junior Championships, I hadn’t had a single noteworthy result. I’d spent November and December at home, and had only skied in two “B” cups the week before. I’d made the team, but no one was expecting much.
Nathan Gerhart, on the other hand, was on a different trajectory. Nathan had been skiing well all season. He’d even taken the last “B” Cup off to rest because we all knew that he was going to medal. The only question was what color it would be.
The day began with a good amount of luck on the hill. After a first round effort that placed me in 31st, I was poised for an underwhelming result. An undeniable gust of air on my second jump moved me up to a tie for tenth going into the race. No one expected that, least of all me.
Nathan sat in sixth place following the jumping. His first jump had put him in 14th, but I like to think he may have been a little inspired going into his second jump (I rarely out jumped Nathan in competitions). It was only a few meters farther than his first jump, but it was enough to make sure he was in the lead pack.
The race started, the leaders went out, and I had no idea what I was doing. It’s not that I didn’t know how to race, most people who knew me growing up knew that jumping was not my forte. I didn’t know my place. That race was full of future star power (Tande, Edelman, Kircheisen, Moan, etc), and I had absolutely no idea. What I did know was that my skis were fast, and I felt good.
It’s worth pointing out that I was skiing on a famous pair of skis that day. Bard Jorgen Elden, the Norwegian star turned US coach, had loaned me a pair of skis that were well known on our team. Bard had used them when he was an athlete, and then passed them down through our ranks. I’m not sure of all the skiers that had seen success on those skis, but for that day the “Pink Atomics” were mine and they were rockets.
By the second lap, I had caught the group. Everyone was busy playing games, no one wanted to take the lead. We got to the bottom of the last big hill, a group of ten or so, with only one skier out in front (way out in front). Everyone stood up, I yelled (something profane I’m sure) and I went. That was it. By the top of the hill I was alone.
I crossed the finish line in second and turned in time to see my tallest (and best) friend just a few seconds behind me in third. The feeling was truly unreal. The winner, Bjoern Kircheisen, had crushed the rest of the competition. In true champion fashion, he had jumped to first and skied the fastest time. It really wasn’t even close, but we didn’t care. To be honest I think he was annoyed that we were so excited when he’d embarrassed the whole field.
After the race, we had doping control. I was so dehydrated that by the time we got out to the press conference, half of the reporters were gone. We fielded some questions, more than a few relating to the German translation for my last name (luck). To celebrate we treated ourselves to a pizza and one beer, then called it a night.
Now, nearly 16 years later, that day is still one of my best days. But not for the reason people might think. Sure, it was great to get a medal. It’s an accomplishment I’ll always carry with me. But the medal is packed away these days and I sure can’t ski like that anymore. What really made that day special was being able to share it with a teammate and a friend. It’s not often in life that we get to share the stage with each other. Especially in an individual sport, victory always means a loss for someone else. That day I got to share victory with my best friend and for that reason, it’ll always be one of my favorite stories and best days.
Nathan Gerhart, USA coach Jukka Ylipulli (Finnish athlete and Olympic medalist), and Alex, right after the Schonach race.
Curators Note: There are so many who feel touched by ski jumping and nordic combined and thus a desire to give back. Scott and Heidi are some of those who have given back in many ways and continue to inspire us all to continue to work hard and give back to the sports that unite us. Thanks for all you do!
Evan & Casey Nichols share a smile… and appreciate the support of their many coaches and mentors over the years.
Ford Sayre Ski Club
Thanks to a great community of coaches, parents and kids!
I knew I would love the sport of Nordic ski jumping the first time I took my kids to a jumping meet. My daughter, Casey, was 10 and had jumped on alpine skis for most of the previous season, only moving into jumping skis for the last few practices. My son, Evan was 8 and had never gone off a jump at all. It was January and there was no natural snow in the East and none in the forecast. Our club hadn’t had any practices, but there was a meet in Andover where they made snow. We decided to head to Andover despite the fact that we had no idea what we were doing.
As you can imagine, Casey and Evan were a bit intimidated about jumping in their first meet since neither of them had jumped that year (or at all), let alone competed. They had all the nervousness of regular competitors with the additional anxiety of having no idea what they were doing in the first place. I told them to look at it like it was their first practice, only with a number on their chest. Besides, with the winter going the way it was, this competition could possibly be the only time they jumped that season.
When we arrived in Andover without a coach to explain how things worked, I had no idea how to guide my kids. I soon found out that I had nothing to fear. After walking up to a guy who looked like he knew what he was doing and admitting my lack of knowledge and experience, we were promptly sent on our way to the jumps and years of love for the sport. The guy I talked to was Tim Norris, the long-time Andover coach. Tim immediately took my kids under his wing and showed them the ropes. He taught Evan how to put on his skis and coached both Casey and Evan as if they were kids from his own club. This was the beginning of our introduction to jumping, and Tim was the first of many coaches to adopt my kids on the jumps and coach them through practices and meets regardless of which club they were from. Tim Norris, Jay, Luke and Zach Daniels, Mike and Joe Holland, Tom Dodds, Jeff and Chris Hastings, Jon Farnham, Nick Burke, Walter Malmquist, Josh Flanders, Tara Geraghty-Moats, Larry Stone, Taylor Hoffman, Colin Delaney, Evan and Andrew Bliss, Lindsay Van, and Alan Alborn are some of the many coaches who have taken my kids under their wings and taught them to fly. It’s this atmosphere that I fell in love with: where the coaches, parents and athletes from all of the clubs look out for all of the jumpers regardless of where they are from. Our family has made many lifetime friends through jumping, and we look forward to many more years of deepening those friendships and making new ones.
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CURATOR’S NOTE- Ted emailed me last year after the Peter Robes story ran with supplemental details on Peter’s father, Bill. It was quickly apparent that he was sitting on a treasure trove of material. He promised to pull some of it together for a story this year and, to the good fortune of all of us, came through! Be sure to scroll through the many pictures below. Enjoy!
On the ship headed to Garmisch Partenkirchen, GER for the 1936 Olympics. Note that many of the athletes signed the photo. Ted’s father, Warren, is back row fourth from the left. To see Warren’s US Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame bio, click here.
THE OLD DAYS
I grew up in the next generation after the renowned Dartmouth ski teams of the 30’s, of which my dad, Warren Chivers and uncle, Howard Chivers were members and captains in the late 30’s. Warren and Howard went on to Olympic teams of ’36 & ’40. They were followed on Dartmouth teams by two younger brothers in the early 40’s. This is a condensed, pigeon-hole view of some of the history of that era and forward, much of which relates to those teams and the Dartmouth jump at Vale de Temps, accompanied by various photos from the early days of the jump, along with some trivia information. Of course, it may include a bit more information about Warren, as I will admit, I am naturally biased and proud of my Dad’s accomplishments. Forgive me if it appears that I’m blowing his horn, as he was a humble man in that sense, preferring to take pride in the successes of his students and athletes. I should add that Howard was right there next to him in that sense. There is so much that could be written and so many photos to choose from, the most difficult part is to know where to begin and end, and moreover, to keep it short. And there are many who are far more knowledgeable of that history than I, as I’m going on photos from Dad’s albums and information passed on to me over the years, along with having been around many of those early skiers of that pioneering generation as a kid and competing on the same hills that they skied a generation before. I loved listening to their stories and looked up to them as my heroes.
To any of you in later generations and those from other parts of the country, the names may not be as recognizable as they will be to those of us who grew up and skied in the 50’s-70’s.
Here is little random trivia. Did you know?
- That the knoll on the Dartmouth hill was built out of wood, which eventually rotted or was otherwise damaged (possibly from the ’38 hurricane and caved in. Knoll hopping was not recommended, as there remained only a large crater that one had to clear just to stay alive.
- That Bill Robes not only was a good ski jumper of that era (and subsequent official and coach over his long career), but had the additional talent and courage to entertain the crowd doing flips, or somersaults- forward at that, off a normal ski jump! Bill created a wooden model of a ski jumper which he named Olaf Longflight,. Olaf had articulated joints that could be formed into any shape to illustrate inrun, takeoff, flight and landing positions, and was used as a coaching aid for beginning jumpers. See photos. And it wouldn’t be right not to mention sons Dana and Pete, top jumpers of my generation. Pete contributed a fitting story about his dad last year.
- That Dick Durrance was not just the best alpine skier of his time nationally and internationally, but skied 4 events. See photo beside jump with Warren Chivers. In reality, nearly everyone skied 4 events in those days. In fact, all of us who skied for Warren skied 4 events through the 60’s and beyond.
- That Warren Chivers competed with Nordic Combined team at the 1936 Olympics in Garmisch-Partenkirchen and was an alternate to the Olympic Alpine team. He might have skied four events had he not gotten lost in fog the at the Olympic Tryouts on Mount Ranier and skied off the course. This was a comical anecdote in Durrance’s book The Man on Medal. Dad, along with brother Howard and Dave Bradley, was also named to the 1940 nordic team, but those Olympics were not held due to the war.
- That Sigmund Ruud from Kongsberg, Norway, (older brother of Birger) and World Champion in ’29 & ‘30, and Dad became close friends, and he counted the Chivers home in Hanover as his own when competing in this country. And it was reciprocal relationship when Warren was in Norway after the ’36 Olympics. See photo.
- That Warren Chivers was the head ski coach at Vermont Academy from 1940 until his first “retirement” at 65 and continued on working with the program for nearly 20 years more. All of his kids learned to compete in 4 events. Other than the Prep School Championships, we skied all 4 in the same day! He sent many skiers off to become national and international competitors and coaches, and well known and respected members of the ski community- too many to name without the risk of missing some. During that time, a few other highlights were: Coaching the Jr, National team in ’66 or ’67; Appointed Chief of Timing for the X-C venue at the 1960 Squaw Valley Olympics; Elected to the National Ski Hall of Fame; Elected to the Vermont Ski Museum Hall of Fame.
- Jumping (pun intended) way ahead to 1993, when the Dartmouth Vale de Temps tower was torn down, as the colleges had given up the sport and the structure was viewed as a liability. However, when word got out that it was due to be demolished, the network of active and former jumpers came alive and a last-minute, informal send-off competition was held, marking the last time any of us would ski the 50M hill. We dusted off the skis and up we went- most of us from the picnic table on top to help offset the years and muscle memory loss, and others, like Jimmy Holland in his prime, out of a lower chute. See article here commemorating the event by Don West. http://archive.skijumpeast.com/lastflg.htm; and here by Evan Morgan. http://www.thedartmouth.com/article/2017/02/remembering-the-dartmouth-ski-jump-1929-1993
- That a ceremony was held in 1994 to dedicate the granite monument with bronze plaque commemorating the site of one of the more recognizable features along the road past the Hanover golf course. This marked the true “END” of the Dartmouth jump- a sad thing to accept, as it was an important piece of the history of the early days of skiing in this country.
The good news, is that ski jumping is alive and well in Hanover and surrounding towns in New Hampshire, and the current participants are creating their own stories to be told, while making a new era in the history of ski jumping.
Dartmouth’s Vale de Temps ski jump after the ’38 Hurricane. Note the trestle knoll that would later rot away making knoll-knocking a risky proposition.
The famous Dartmouth coach, Otto Schniebs (L) with members of a mid 30’s Dartmouth Ski Team. From left to right- Otto, Warren Chivers, Dick Durrance, Sel Hannah, Brian Woods, Ted Huntley, and an unknown skier far right. Otto died in 1971 at age 78. To see his New York Times obituary click here
Postcard of the Val de Temps ski jump during a Dartmouth Winter Carnival. Note the wooden trestle knoll is still in tact.
Dick Durrance (L) and Warren Chivers (R) at Dartmouth’s Vale de Temps ski jump. Warren graduated from Dartmouth in ’37 after taking time off from school in ’36 to compete in the Olympics.
Dartmouth Ski Team lunch break in Lake Placid. From left to right- George De Rocier, Steve Bradley, Dave Bradley (back), Howard Chivers, coach Walter Prager (back), Warren Chivers, Sherman Spears, and Steve Kolter. Walter Prager was from Switzerland and coached Dartmouth from 1936 until 1957; he was legend in both Europe and North America. To see his US Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame bio- click here.
A family that skis together… the Chivers boys with mother. From left to right- John, Roland, Howard, Warren, and their mother.
Brothers Howard and Warren Chivers with Mezzy Barber (R).
Sigmund and Birger Ruud performing a double jump in Brattleboro, VT.
A 1930’s era shot of an exhibition event that Warren jumped in at the Los Angeles Coliseum. The note under the photo in the scrapbook reads- “The jump as constructed of steel tubing in the Los Angeles Coliseum.”
Warren Chivers, Dartmouth’s Vale de Temps ski jump in 1937
Howard Chivers at Berlin NH.
Warren at Berlin, NH.
Dave Bradley at the Olympic tryouts in Bush Lake, MN (1940?). Dave and brother Steve were Dartmouth skiers with the Chivers… another story, some of which you can see in his US Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame in Dave’s bio by clicking here. and Steve’s by clicking here. Dave, along with Warren and Howard Chivers were named to the 1940 Olympic team that did not compete.
END OF AN ERA- Warren Chivers, Ev Wood, and Dave Bradley saying good bye to Dartmouth’s Vale de Temps ski jump at the final competition in March of 1993 before it was torn down that summer.
Dave Bradley and Mike Holland saying a few words at the dedication of a monument at the site of the Dartmouth ski jump.
Warren Chivers speaking at the dedication in 1993.
The plaque commemorating the “grand old Dartmouth Ski Jump- first and last of the college big hills.” The inscription reads: “Youth and courage took flight here… and fired the Carnival air.”
“Olaf Longflight” the training model that Bill Robes designed and built as a coaching aid. Bill used Olaf to show young jumpers the preferred positions and movements… without having to bend over himself!
Jeff Volmrich (JV) stretching one in Lake Placid in the 80’s.
Lake Placid Ski Club/Park City, UT
The Road Not Taken
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Robert Frost 1916
BACK THEN- Jeff and friends playing at the Lake Placid Ski Club circa 1975.
All the difference indeed.
Forty three years ago in Lake Placid, NY I was beckoned down the ski jumping road. I was not looking too far ahead or around any corners at 10 years old. What I experienced lured me further on, and I have not regretted it once.
I jumped for the next 18 years, experienced life and the world through the unique lens of a ski jumper, it was a fantastic thrill ride with more ups and downs than can be recalled.
ANOTHER FORK IN THE ROAD- after the last ride in Brattleboro in 1992.
On February 24, 1992 I hung ‘em up for good and closed the jumping chapter of my life. Little did I know how my efforts during the winter of 91/92 would affect the next 25 years of my life. John Bower (RIP) was getting things going at what is now the Utah Olympic Park, he hired me to start the jumping programs at the Park. In November of 1992 I drove across the country with my dog Bear, landed in Park City and have found no compelling reason to leave.
The ski jumping road led me to Park City and the best 25 years of my life. Fiona and I met here in 1997, Taylor and Savannah are both Park City natives. No ski jumping? Who knows what path might have been taken?
THESE DAYS- Jeff with wife, Fiona, and daughters Taylor and Savannah in Park City.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
It has been one heck of a ride!
May you all have Merry Christmas and a healthy, happy New Year.