The Salisbury Ski Jumps - Our Winter Olympics
The 2009 Ski Jumps photographed by Jon Capecelatro.
For 84 years, the Salisbury Winter Sports Association (SWSA) has promised Olympic level competition at the Annual U.S. Eastern Ski Jumping Championships, and the SWSA is good to its word. Last year, we got to see Pete Frenette compete on historic Satré Hill. This year, he’s not returning because he’ll be competing on the U.S. Olympic team in Vancouver. Next year, there could be as many as 200 Olympic hopefuls in Salisbury because the United States Ski and Snowboard Association has awarded SWSA the 2011 Ski Jumping and Nordic Combined Junior Olympics (which would return to Salisbury every four years.) But there’s a catch: the SWSA needs to raise $750,000 to construct a new, state-of-the-art steel tower by next fall. “We are positive that we can make it happen!” says SWSA board member Elvia Gignoux, who notes that donations can be made through a fund at the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation.
Thus, this weekend’s 84th Annual U.S. Eastern Ski Jumping Championships may be the last opportunity to see the young ski jumpers climb the rickety wooden stairs at this improbable sporting venue just off Salisbury’s Main Street. The timeless enthusiasm of both the athletes and their fans is infectious: As competitors fly through the air, spectators ring cowbells, which is the traditional European way to cheer on ski jumpers. Blink and you can imagine that it’s Lake Placid 1932.
Salisbury takes on a winter carnival atmosphere during the ski jumps weekend. There’s target jumping under the lights and a chili cook-off on Friday night. On Saturday afternoon, there’s an ice carving contest on the lawn of the White Hart Inn and the Snow Ball dance in the evening at the Wake Robin Inn. Staffed by volunteers who start making snow weeks in advance, the ski jumps offer the rare opportunity to see Olympic hopefuls compete in a nostalgic, commercial-free setting.
84th Annual U.S. Eastern Ski Jumping Championships
Friday - Sunday, February 5 - 7
Admission $10 daily; free for children 12 and under.