Brattleboro, Vermont is home to the historic Harris Hill Ski Jump where local and international jumpers compete annually during Winter Carnival Week. Within walking distance of Main Street, built on a wooded in-town hill, the jump is sheltered by tall evergreens to protect it from crosswinds. A friendly event where spectators can climb the stairs along the side of the jump and be close enough to see jumpers take off and land (90 meters later), and to hear the whoosh of lithe athletes flying by at highway speeds.
Built by daredevil skier Fred Harris, from the ground up in 1922, the jump is the only 90 meter ski jump in New England and one of only six in the USA of this size and caliber. The wooden jump closed in 2005, but with the support of the local and international community, was able to open again after an extensive renovation and the addition of a steel launch ramp.
The first known ski jumper was Norwegian Olaf Rye, who jumped 9.5 meters in 1809. By 1862, ski jumpers were competing in official contests. At a time when ski jumping has all but died out throughout New England, Harris Hill is keeping the tradition alive. This year, jumpers came from the UK, Canada, Norway, Finland, USA, Slovenia, Turkey and Italy. In 1938, Norway’s Birger Ruud won at 67.1 meters. In 2015, the longest jump was 100 meters by Ziga Mandl of Slovenia.
Two weekends ago, armed and fortified by wood-fired pizza and locally brewed beer, the happy crowd cheered the flyers on despite snowy weather, freezing temperatures and a town-wide power outage. For this spectator, a rare chance to see the Norwegian flag flying in southern Vermont.