They fly through the air with amazing ease, those daring young competitors at the annual Alpine Ski Jumping Winter Carnival at Satre Hill in Salisbury, in Connecticut’s Litchfield Hills.
This is the 87th year for the main event, the Eastern U.S. Ski Jumping Championships, that often has forecast future Olympic competitors. Ski jumpers will be showing off the tremendous coordination, skill and grace it takes to soar 64 meters — over 200 feet — with a happy landing. Traditionally, the enthusiastic crowd cheers them on by jingling cowbells as the jumpers soar.
Activities have expanded into a Winter Carnival that fills two exciting weekends. The first, January 25-27, will feature extreme Alpine Ski Jumping, while the highlight of the second weekend Jump Fest, Feb. 8-10, will be the Championship action.
Both weekends will include the Human Dogsled Race, a crowd favorite where five humans pull a sled and driver around a .3-mile course. It’s all in fun, and competing teams can get very creative with both their costumes and sleds.
Alpine Ski Jumping
Extreme downhill skiers from across the U.S. will be competing at Alpine ski jumping, a sport also known as Gelande. This is a daring hybrid form of jumping where jumpers use heavy downhill ski equipment, including poles, and the danger to the jump by ignoring the landing grooves cut into the run for traditional jumpers.
Informal practice will take place Friday night, Jan. 25, with Alpine ski jumping under the lights scheduled for Saturday from 5 to 7 p.m. Saturday afternoon will feature a Junior Meet from 1 to 3 p.m., and the Human Dogsled Race will mush into action on Sunday at 2 p.m.
Eastern U.S. Ski Jumping Championships
Some of the best junior jumpers in the East are expected for this annual event that is often a warm-up for Olympic hopefuls. The activities begin Friday night, Feb. 8, with a chili cook-off at 6:30 p.m., followed by the human dogsled race and jumping warm-ups under the lights. Saturday events kick off at 9 a.m. with the kids Nordic 20- and 30-meter jumping competition, followed by the Salisbury Invitational Competition for ski jumpers from 1 to 3 p.m. The Salisbury Volunteer Ambulance Squad, located at the corner of Route 41 and 44, traditionally starts Sunday with a pancake breakfast from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. The big event, the 87th Eastern Ski Jumping Competition, will start at 1 p.m. on Sunday; everyone will be hoping to beat the Salisbury record, an impressive 231-foot jump.
Adding to the festivities is the annual ice carving competition with a fantasy of creations on display at the Scoville Memorial Library, 38 Main Street in Salisbury, Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Everyone is invited to attend the Snow Ball with music by Treetop Blues featuring Joe Bouchard of Blue Öyster Cult fame, scheduled for Saturday night a 8 p.m. at the Lakeville Hose Company 9 Sharon Road in neighboring Lakeville. Admission is $12.
The all-volunteer Salisbury Winter Sports Association (SWSA), host of the annual championships, provides cross-country and jumping equipment and training to area children and maintains cross-country ski trails at several sites in town. For happy ski-jump viewing, the Association recommends that spectators dress warmly in lots of layers and bring a cowbell, the traditional way to cheer on the jumpers. Limited bleacher seating is provided or viewers can bring their own lawn chairs. Hot food and beverages will be available. Admission is $10 for adults, 12 and under are free. Proceeds help to fund SWSA’s children’s skiing programs.
Satre Ski Hill is on Indian Cave Road, off Route 44 in Salisbury. Signs in the center of Salisbury point the way to ample free parking. For further information, see www.jumpfest.org.
For more information about ski jumping and other winter activities in nearby Litchfield Hills, including a free copy of Unwind, a full-color, 152-page booklet detailing what to do and see, and where to stay, shop and dine in Western Connecticut, contact the Western Connecticut Visitors Bureau, PO Box 968, Litchfield, CT 06759, (860) 567-4506, or visit their web site at www.visitwesternct.com.