USA Ski Jumping considers local officeBack in the 1920s, two Norwegian brothers thought up a simple idea that was able to bring about impressive results, and all it took were some Copenhagen tobacco boxes.
By: Regan Carstensen, The Republican Eagle
Back in the 1920s, two Norwegian brothers thought up a simple idea that was able to bring about impressive results, and all it took were some Copenhagen tobacco boxes.
“They put them in snow banks, they put them on electric poles and they put them everywhere,” explained Jerry Borgen, who created the American Ski Jumping Hall of Fame.
Located throughout Minnesota, the boxes all said the same thing: Follow the snus box trail back to Red Wing.
“And it worked,” Borgen said, explaining how 2,500 people were drawn to the area to experience the 1928 U.S. National Ski Jumping Championship on Red Wing’s own McSorley Street.
That was the first time the town played host to the national tournament, but it wasn’t the last. The championships were brought back to Red Wing — officially known as the birthplace of ski jumping in America — in 1936.
The sport had a good run for a couple of decades, but locally, it faded out of the spotlight around 1950, Borgen said. A few decades later the sport was no longer seen in high schools because of insurance reasons.
Although it had lost some steam, the sport was front and center for some Minnesotans, including Stillwater-native Bryan Sanders.
Sanders followed in the ski boots of his grandfather and father, becoming a third-generation ski jumper who competed on the 1992 U.S. Olympic team. By 2008, he was inducted into the Ski Jumping Hall of Fame.
With the sport so close to his heart, Sanders joined Jeff Hastings, another former Olympian, to bring attention back to ski jumping. As the spotlight shines on other events — like snowboarding and downhill skiing — the U.S. Ski Team has less money available to provide for ski jumping.
“We’re the ugly sister at the bottom that’s been cast off,” Hastings said during a stop Wednesday in Red Wing.
“It’s not something that we’re bitter about,” Sanders added. “We look at this as more of an opportunity.”
The two are taking that opportunity to break away and start their own organization called USA Ski Jumping.
“Our goal is to preserve a sport that has been around a long, long time,” Sanders said.
The trick there is re-developing interest — something they think can be done by starting small. Some ideas include building small jumps in little towns to get kids thinking about the sport. There is also hope that the hall of fame can be grown into an exhibit that will attract people to Red Wing as well as increase awareness of ski jumping.
“It’s rare that you can have a front row seat at bringing a sport out of the ashes,” Hastings said.
USA Ski Jumping is currently looking to hire a development executive and create an office, which will potentially be located in Red Wing.