Courtesy of Petr Seymour
Harris Hill as it looked during the 1950s.
On both days, gates will open at 10 a.m.; trial rounds begin at 11 a.m.; opening ceremonies will start at noon; and at 12:45 p.m., the competition begins. Free parking will be offered at Harris Hill, or on Linden Street at the Brattleboro Retreat (with a free shuttle). At the base of the jump there will be food, music, souvenirs, a beer tent, and an appearance by the ski jump’s mascot, Jumper. Tickets both days are $20 for adults, $15 for youths age 6-12) and free for youths 5 and younger. For more information, visit www.harrishillskijump.com.
Originally published in The Commons issue #395 (Wednesday, February 15, 2017). This story appeared on page 0.
BRATTLEBORO—Since 1922, the Harris Hill Ski Jump has attracted competitors and spectators from across the U.S. and abroad.
This year, on Saturday, Feb. 18, and Sunday, Feb. 19, the competition will return to the historic site for the Pepsi Challenge U.S. Cup on Saturday and the Fred Harris Memorial Tournament on Sunday.
Organizers are celebrating the 95th year of competition at the Olympic-sized (90-meter) ski jump, a hidden gem tucked away on Cedar Street.
Liz Richards, co-director of the event, expressed her gratitude for the community’s support.
“Harris Hill Ski Jump could not have reached such an amazing milestone without the support of sponsors, community donors, and volunteers,” she said.
The tradition is one that Richards, and others involved with the event, take pride in.
“[It is] one of a few winter spectator events that can boast such a longstanding history in New England,” she said.
Built by Brattleboro native Fred Harris, founder of the Dartmouth Outing Club, in 1922, Harris Hill hosted six National Championships between 1938 and 1975.
Competition was interrupted during the World War II years (1943 to 1945), snowless years (1980, 1981, and 1998), and between 2006 and 2008, when Harris Hill underwent a major renovation with a new jump, a new steel tower, an improved starting area and in-run, a wider landing zone, and other safety provisions.
Those upgrades — paid for with about $600,000 of donations by supporters over the course of a decade — brought Harris Hill back to prominence in the international ski jumping community.
The jump now is the only 90-meter hill in New England sanctioned by the International Ski Federation. Only the Olympic ski jump in Lake Placid, N.Y., host to the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics, rivals Harris Hill for both size and history in the Northeast.
When the ski jump reopened in 2009, the hill experienced its biggest crowd since 1987, with 5,400 paying customers, and organizers report that attendance has been strong ever since.
More than 40 of the top male and female jumpers from around the U.S., Canada, and Europe are scheduled to compete in this year’s Harris Hill events.
The Saturday competition is called the Pepsi Challenge in honor of the race’s presenting sponsor, Leader Distribution Systems, Inc., a Brattleboro-based beverage distribution company.
On Sunday, the Fred Harris Memorial Tournament, named after Harris Hill founder Fred Harris, gives competitors a chance to have their name inscribed on “the current prestigious Fred Harris Memorial Winged Ski trophy,” Richards said — and, in rare cases, to keep it.
“A competitor needs to win this event three years (but not consecutively) to permanently retire the trophy,” she said. “Traditionally, the same athletes compete in both tournaments over the weekend.”
Only four athletes have retired the Winged Ski trophy — Torger Tokle of Norway (1942), Art Devlin of Lake Placid, N.Y. (twice, in 1954 and 1958), Brattleboro’s Hugh Barber (1974), and Vladimir Glyvka of Ukraine (2000).
Among the competitors this year will be Brattleboro native Spencer Knickerbocker and fellow Marlboro College alumnus Chris Lamb.
This year, Lamb will once again try to retire the Winged Ski trophy. He won the event in 2010 and 2013 and holds the hill’s distance record, 102 meters (336 feet), set in 2010.
Knickerbocker has two Pepsi Challenge wins, in 2012 and 2015.
The Fred Harris Memorial Tournament will again serve as a stop on the U.S. Cup circuit of the United States American Ski Jumping Series.
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