Newport Nordic Club
New England Ski Jumping & Nordic Combined Board Member
I grew up in Newport, NH and started ski jumping with the Newport Nordic Club in the 1970’s under our legendary coach, Roland Tremblay. Back in the 1970’s the Torger Tokle League was huge with large meets happening each Saturday throughout the winter. Ski jumping and Nordic combined was definitely a big part of my childhood and growing up in New Hampshire.
Following college, I joined the Navy and started with a different type of flying. After 9 years I left the active-duty Navy and got hired by United Airlines in 1998. After 25 years with United and having flown the Airbus 320, Boeing 727, B757, B767, B777, I am now flying on the B787 as a First Officer out of Newark Liberty International Airport. Two weeks ago, I flew a trip to Lisbon, Portugal. I had not yet flown that route with United and was looking forward to the trip. There were three pilots on our trip, myself, the captain, and an international relief pilot. A couple of hours into the 6.5 hour flight to Lisbon, the captain, Jeff Amsler, and I, started talking about our families and where we are from. I told Jeff that I lived in New Hampshire and he said that he had gone to high school in Vermont. I asked him where and he told me Vermont Academy (VA). I then told Jeff that I used to ski jump and remembered ski jumping there on their 30 meter jump at a Christmas Camp back in the early 1980’s. He said that he used to jump as well at Vermont Academy in the 1980’s and that Chase Kling had been his coach. I remember Chase during my years of jumping and that he was one of the coaches at the Junior Olympics in Ishpeming in 1983.
What a small world and incredible coincidence that Jeff and I would be working the same flight at United Airlines and discover that we are both ski jumpers! We have over 15,000 pilots flying on five aircraft types at nine different pilot bases. I have never flown with another ski jumper that I know of before at United. Given the size of the ski jumping community and that very few ski jumpers end up working for the airlines, most likely there are no other former ski jumpers at United Airlines.
We had lots of fun reminiscing about our ski jumping days back in high school in the 1980’s. We remember the same ski jumping venues such as VA, Lake Placid, the Dartmouth Winter Carnival and some of the same folks. Jeff also told me that he was on the cycling team at VA and a competitive cyclist. He mentioned that he used to go on training bike rides with Tim Caldwell and occasionally they would come across Bill Koch also riding. I can only imagine how intense, difficult, and long those rides must have been!
Before our flight back to Newark, we had some fun taking a few photos to document our flying together. I wonder what the ground support folks were thinking when they saw two pilots on the ramp looking as though they were leaning into the wind. Anyway, once a ski jumper, always a ski jumper.
We were excited and glad that we had flown together and discovered that we were both ski jumpers. I did get the chance to update Jeff on the exciting things that are happening at Vermont Academy with modernizing the ski jumps there and bringing back ski jumping to the school which was mentioned in Ted Chiver’s Story Project earlier this month. I also told Jeff about the annual “Flying Further” Ski Jumping Reunion and Golf Outing each September in the Upper Valley and I’m hoping that he comes to the reunion next fall to reconnect with more ski jumpers and friends from the 1980’s and Vermont Academy!