Most ski jumping records have been set in Europe… but that wasn’t always the case.
Gary Entz tells us about Ironwood’s Curry Hill Ski Jump for this week's A Northwoods Moment in History.
Ski jumping as a competitive sport has been going on since 1808. In that year, Olaf Rye set the first world’s ski jump record of 31 feet, in Eidsberg, Norway. Nordic ski jumping has been dominated by European countries, and most of the world’s records have been set in Europe. However, for a brief period in the early twentieth century, the world ski jumping records were not being set in Norway, Austria, or Switzerland. Instead, they were being set at Ironwood, Michigan.
The Ironwood Ski Club organized in 1905 and in 1906 operated the 40-meter Curry Hill ski jump outside of Ironwood. The records set at Curry Hill are sometimes mistaken for Wolverine Hill, but the Wolverine Hill ski jump was not built until 1935. World class Nordic skiing came to Ironwood with the Curry Hill ski jump, which at the time was considered among the best in the world, and American ski professionals were frequently in the region to train. In 1911, the American ski jump record stood at 140 feet, while the world record, set in Norway, stood at 148 feet. However, at a tournament held in February 1911, Anders Haugen of Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, set a new world’s record at Curry Hill. In the first of three jumps, Haugen equaled the American record, in his second he bested the American record by jumping 145 feet. But it was in his third jump that Haugen flew. He jumped for 152 feet, which broke both the American and the world record. Haugen went on to become captain of the first U.S. Olympic ski team in 1924 and became the first, and so far, the only, American ever to medal in Olympic ski jumping.
The Norwegian Gunnar Andersen broke Haugen’s record with a jump of 156 feet in Norway in 1912, but in 1913 the ski jumping record returned to Ironwood. A huge crowd from around the Northwoods gathered for the 1913 tournament, and they were not disappointed. On the second day of the tournament on his second jump, Ragnar Omtvedt of Chicago set a new world’s record with a jump of 158 feet. But he wasn’t done. On the same day in the competition for the longest standing jump, Omtvedt broke his own record by jumping 169 feet. Omtvedt’s record stood until 1915 when Reidar Ommundsen jumped for 177 feet in Norway. Omtvedt was also part of the 1924 U.S. Olympic ski team but did not medal.
No more records were set at Curry Hill, but the jump continued to operate through the early-1930s. Talk of replacing the “old site” appeared when discussions over the construction of Wolverine Hill began in 1935.
This story was written by Gary Entz and produced for radio by Mackenzie Martin. Some music for this commentary came Podington Bear. The photo above belongs to USA Nordic and can be found on their website here.
A Northwoods Moment in History is funded in part by a grant from the Wisconsin Humanities Council, with funds from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the State of Wisconsin. Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this project do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities. The Wisconsin Humanities Council supports and creates programs that use history, culture, and discussion to strengthen community life for everyone in Wisconsin.