‘Let’s go bigger’

Volunteers take a leap and collaborate on a 120-page book commemorating 100 years of ski jumping in Brattleboro

BRATTLEBORO — When Dana Sprague began thinking of how to commemorate the centennial of the Harris Hill Ski Jump in print about four years ago, he brought some ideas to his fellow trustees of Harris Hill Ski Jump Inc., the nonprofit that oversees all things Harris Hill.

“My thought was doing a beautiful program for this anniversary, with beautiful photographs, a list of winners, record holders, and a few historical references,” said Sprague, a local historian.

He was surprised when the group of 19 volunteers said, “Let's go bigger.”

And did they ever. They didn't make a special program - they created a 120-page, full-color, softcover book.

Harris Hill Ski Jump: The First 100 Years is now available at Everyone's Books on Elliot Street; at Zephyr Designs and Galanes Vermont Shop, both on Main Street; and from

Sprague, who grew up in Brattleboro, was a member of the junior jumping program officially called Harris Hill Nordic, starting in 1967. Between the ages of 7 and 12, Sprague, along with a group of about 20 other local children, he traveled to a variety of jumps all over New England.

“We practiced at Latchis Hill and Living Memorial Park. We also went to Lebanon and Laconia, N.H., Bear Mountain and Lake Placid, N.Y., and others. In those days it was a big group of kids. Every year, one or two members of the group would move up to jumping Harris Hill,” he remembered.

Sprague has been collecting information and some 350 photos over the last 30 years, “so when the committee decided to move forward with the book, I had a lot of stuff ready to go,” he said.

Starting in February 2021, he and six other contributors combined their skills in a symphony of volunteerism to complete the project.

“We didn't have a ski jumping event last year because of Covid, and we were all still at home, so that was a good time to get started on the book,” Sprague told The Commons.

Sprague has volunteered about 300 hours into the making of the book. Using his personal knowledge, connections to veteran jumpers, and articles from his archives, he became the fact checker and historian of the group.

Kevin O'Connor, a Brattleboro native and longtime local journalist, is the wordsmith for the project. The book is divided into “time capsules” that measure various spans of time as Harris Hill evolved.

As a longtime reporter for the Rutland Herald and, most recently, a staff writer for, O'Connor has covered Harris Hill ski jumping for most of his professional career.

Sally Seymore went on the road and gathered information and photographs from places like the New England Ski Museum in Franconia, N.H., while local publisher Lynn Barrett lent her skills and expertise in book development. Pat Howell, board president and trustee, captioned many of the photographs.

Heidi Humphrey and her firm, Dot Four, of Shaftsbury, designed the book, and Kelly Fletcher was photo editor. Creative Director Mel Martin, a former marketing professional in Brattleboro, met with everyone involved to bring the project to an artful fruition.

The group sought funding from 12 local businesses and organizations. Even the printing of the book was kept local, with Howard Printing manufacturing the product.

Of the original 750 copies printed, 425 have already sold. The group is retaining 100 copies to sell at the 100th anniversary event.

An insider's guide

Going beyond the history of the hill, the book provides an insider's guide to the world of ski jumping on Cedar Street. With a forward written by Peter Graves, former Olympics announcer for ABC Sports and co-announcer at Harris Hill, a professional tone is set.

Topics in the book range from how the Harris Hill competition welcomed women to jump long before they were allowed to compete at the Olympic level, to the story of southern Vermont Olympians who flew off Harris Hill, to a photograph of the first commissioned Cartier-created winged trophy that Fred Harris designed for the event.

“We are so excited about this project finally being complete and available for sale,” said Sprague with a smile.

In addition to a celebration of Harris Hill's past, the publication of a commemorative book will help people of the present day appreciate the ski jump's contributions to community.

Noting that Harris Hill is the only 90-meter ski jump in New England and there are only six others in the country, “sometimes those of us who live in Brattleboro forget what a special facility we have here,” he said.

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