BRATTLEBORO—Want to leap the big height of Harris Hill, New England’s only Olympic-size ski jump? You have to start small.
That’s why event organizers are joining with the Brattleboro Outing Club to launch a junior training program for boys and girls ages 8 to 13.
Before the Interstate or internet, dozens of local students learned the sport on smaller nearby slopes before skyrocketing off the 90-meter hill that’s one of just six of its size in the country.
But hometown participation has decreased to the point that only one native jumper — Spencer Knickerbocker, a 25-year-old Marlboro College junior — now competes at the annual Fred Harris Memorial Tournament, set this year for the weekend of Feb. 17-18, according to a news release.
Event organizers hope to change that by training interested youngsters twice a week at Vermont Academy in Saxtons River starting this month and continuing for as long as snow remains.
Students with some downhill or Nordic experience and their own skis, boots, and helmets can learn how to jump by contacting Todd Einig, Harris Hill’s chief of competition, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Hopefully in a few years,” Einig says, “we can get more hometown kids jumping.”
Knickerbocker and fellow Marlboro College student Chris Lamb, 28 of Andover, N.H., are set to represent the region in this month’s once-a-year competition.
They’ll join nearly 40 of the best up-and-coming ski jumpers from North America and Europe who are expected to participate in the nearly century-old event.
Since its start in 1922, Harris Hill annually has attracted several thousand spectators to watch athletes shoot down the jump at speeds of up to 60 mph before soaring more than 300 feet in the air.
The site boasts a snowmaking system, so the event will take place regardless of ground cover in surrounding areas.
This year’s competition will feature the annual Pepsi Challenge on Saturday, Feb. 17, and Fred Harris Memorial Tournament on Sunday, Feb. 18. Gates will open each day at 10 a.m., with trial rounds at 11 a.m. and opening ceremonies and competition at noon.