JUMP for It! | The Once-Defunct Harris Hill Ski Jump Now Home to Five Top Competitions
Tucked away in the southeast corner of Vermont is a ski jump that has proven true the old adage, “if you build it, they will come.”
The Harris Hill Ski Jump, located in Brattleboro, has been launching skiers into the hearts and minds of ski-jumping fans since 1922. But nobody jumped for the three years from 2006 to 2008 as the 90-meter ski jump—the only one of its kind in New England and one of only six in the United States—was being rebuilt.
Organizers had been putting off the inevitable for years, but after the final jump in 2005, they knew it was time to take care of the long-overdue needs of the facility.
Three years, more than a half million dollars, and thousands of volunteer hours later, the new and improved Harris Hill Ski Jump was unveiled in 2009.
This year, Feb. 18 through 19 will be jam packed as five separate competitions will fill up the two days of ski jumping.
In addition to the long-running Fred Harris Memorial Tournament and the Pepsi Challenge, last year, organizers added the National Collegiate Ski Jumping Finals, and this year the hill will also host the USA Ski Jumping tournament finals and the International Skiing Federation’s (FIS) only U.S. stop on its nine-event schedule.
“It’s an amazing year,” said Betsy Farley, co-director of the Harris Hill Ski Jumping Competition weekend, adding the FIS Cup event was part of the plans all along.
“It’s something we’ve been working for since we rebuilt the jump,” Farley said. “We made improvements to our jump to become FIS certified.”
That will add to the international flavor of the event that already draws jumpers from around the world.
“You’re going to see some people that will be at the Olympics, if not in 2014, then in 2018,” Farley said.
One jumper who is expected to compete and who has hopes to be in the Olympics is Vladimir Glyvka, a Ukrainian who now lives in the United States.
Glyvka competed for Ukraine at the 2002 Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, and he is the last jumper to win the Winged Skier Trophy, awarded to a jumper who wins the Harris Hill event three times. Glyvka stood atop the podium in 1996, 1999, and 2000.
The history at Harris Hill is littered with folks who have left their mark.
Like Torger Tokle, a Norwegian who came to the United States in 1939 and won the event three times from 1940 to 1942.
Sadly, the event was cancelled the next three years because of World War II, and Tokle, who had joined the U.S. Army, was killed in Italy in 1945. His brother, Arthur Tokle, however, returned and won the event four times himself and later competed in the 1960 Olympics.
Art Devlin, of Lake Placid, N.Y., won the event six times between 1946 and 1958, the most titles of any jumper at Harris Hill.
But few of the repeat champions stand out in the memories of locals like Brattleboro’s Hugh Barber, who became the only hometown competitor to win the event, something he accomplished three years in a row from 1972 to 1974.
“We have some great jumpers,” Farley said. “We have our hometown heroes who come back.”
It’s the combination of the local jumpers and the international flavor that brings thousands of fans to the event every year, which, Farley said, is like a festival—with music, food, a beer tent, even a mascot.
“It’s a fun event to go to,” Farley said. “It’s a real festival atmosphere.”