BRATTLEBORO—He’s still too young to go downtown and hoist a beer to celebrate, but 20-year-old Blaz Pavlic had himself a great weekend on Harris Hill.
Blaz-o-mania was in full swing on Feb. 17, as the young Slovenian bested 30 of the world’s top up-and-coming ski jumpers to win the Harris Hill Ski Jump’s 97th annual Fred Harris Memorial Tournament.
Before a crowd of several thousand spectators, Pavlic came within 2 meters of matching the hill long-distance record of 104 meters (341 feet) he set with his first Fred Harris Tournament win in 2017.
Pavlic’s first jump was 102 meters (335 feet), while his second jump was 98 meters (322 feet).
The day before, on Feb. 16, Pavlic won the open division of the US Cup/Pepsi Challenge with a jump of 100 meters on his second attempt.
“For the hill record, you need a little bit of headwind,” Pavlic told reporters after putting his name on the Winged Ski Trophy for a second time.
Wind conditions were calm in 2017 when Pavlic set the hill record.
With one more win, Pavlic would retire the Winged Ski Trophy and become only the fifth jumper to accomplish the feat. The others were Torger Tokle (1940, 1941, 1942), Art Devlin (twice in 1946, 1950, and 1954, and in 1955, 1957, and 1958), Arthur Tokle (1948, 1949, and 1941) Hugh Barber (1970, 1971, and 1972), and Vladimir Glyvka (1996, 1999, and 2000).
Xaver Aigner, 16, of Austria came in second and Zak Silih, 23, of Slovenia was third in both the Open Division of the U.S. Cup on Saturday and the Fred Harris tourney on Sunday.
Aigner had jumps of 87 and 94 meters on Saturday, but he improved on Sunday with jumps of 96 and 95 meters. Silih had jumps 80 and 94.5 meters on Saturday, and 94 and 94.5 meters on Sunday.
In the men’s junior division on Sunday, Evan Nichols, 15, of Lyme, N.H., finished first with jumps of 86 and 87.5 meters. Niklas Malacinski of Colorado was a close second with jumps of 85 and 85.5 meters, but Nichols finished with 211.5 points to Malacinski’s 210. and Erik Belshaw of Colorado had two jumps of 84 meters to finish third.
More women participate in ski jumping
There were 11 female jumpers this year at Harris Hill, another sign of the growing number of U.S. women participating at the highest level of the sport.
In the women’s junior division, Annika Belshaw, 16, of Colorado’s Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club finished first and Anna Hoffmann of Wisconsin second in both competitions. Samantha Macuga of Park City (Utah) Ski & Snowboard Club was third in the U.S. Cup, while Rachael Haerter of Utah was third in the Harris event.
On Sunday, Belshaw had jumps of 85.5 and 86 meters, and 89 and 85 meters on Saturday, by far the longest of the weekend. Hoffman had jumps of 81 and 77 meters on Saturday, and 80 and 81 meters on Sunday. Haerter had jumps of 77 and 74.5 meters to take third on Sunday, while Macuga had two jumps of 78 meters for a third in the U.S. Cup.
Canden Wilkinson, 16, of Colorado’s Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club finished first with jumps of 88 and 98 meters, and Hunter Gibson, 17, of Illinois’ Norge Ski Club placed second with jumps of 97.5 and 94 meters in the mens’ U.S. Cup on Saturday.
Wilkinson was the lone U.S. jumper of the five in the open division on Sunday. He was fifth with jumps of 90 and 86 meters.
One jumper, Brattleboro’s Spencer Knickerbocker, did double duty on Harris Hill weekend. Not just a competitor, Knickerbocker also helped the snowmaking crew maintain the hill before jumping in the masters division on both days.
“It’s perfect,” Knickerbocker proclaimed on Saturday. His best jump of the weekend that day, with a mark of 85 meters on his second jump that day.
The snowmaking system at Harris Hill came in handy for this year’s competition. A winter filled with temperature extremes and little natural snow meant the hill needed the snow guns to lay down the base for the jumpers.
Harris Hill is the only Olympic-size ski jump in New England, and one of only six in the entire United States. The first jumping competition at the site took place in 1922.