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


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