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Never Mind The Temps, Jumpfest Goes On (And Turns 90)

Photo: Mel Morales

By Lauren Curran

Next weekend, when Satre Hill in Salisbury, Conn. is icy and slick and the first ski jumper there soars into flight, a time-honored, local tradition will turn 90. Ski jumping runs deep in the roots of Salisbury and, along with it, the coinciding winter festival known as Jumpfest, which runs through Feb. 14. As per tradition, the winter festival features everything from the zany — a human dogsled race — to old-fashioned fun: bonfires, a chili contest, karate and ice sculpture demonstrations, a bourbon tasting, restaurant specials and a Snow Ball Dance.

“It’s become part of the fabric of our community,” says John Sullivan, a member of the board of directors of the Salisbury Winter Sports Association (SWSA), the nonprofit group that sponsors Jumpfest and fosters ski jumping for all ages. 

The volunteer-run festival, with the ski jump competition at its core, attracts thousands of people — one year as many as 5,000. The activities begin on the 11th with sales, gallery openings and other community events. Then the flying begins. The schedule: Friday, Feb. 12 is the target ski competition; Sat., Feb. 13 is Salisbury Invitational ski jumping; Sunday, Feb. 14 holds the Eastern U.S. Ski Jumping Championships, where competitors, some of whom you may see in the next winter Olympic Games, seek to earn a spot in the Junior Nationals held the following weekend. Three of the four ski jumpers on the last winter Olympics team competed here. 

Photo: Kate Erwin

“It’s such an extraordinary event right here in northwestern Connecticut. You can’t really see it anywhere else,” says Hallihan. “Each day has its own personality.”

Tucked between the scheduled ski jumps are events for kids and adults. On Friday, after target ski jumping, the human dogsled races kick off, featuring six-person teams with one lucky member chosen to ride inside the team-designed sled. The remaining members pull. “It’s a crowd favorite,” says Hallihan. One year, a competing team went with a Viking theme: helmets with horns and half of a canoe as the sled. The Falls Village Volunteer Ambulance also has competed with a sled design suited to the team: a mini ambulance.

With fun and frivolity so much a part of Jumpfest, it’s no wonder so many people turn out to cheer the skiers with cowbells in hand at the hill’s base.

“If you haven’t seen ski jumping live, you haven’t witnessed the sport,” Hallihan says.

Jumpfest, A Winter Festival
February 12-14 in Salisbury, CT

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