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President of Copper Peak Inc. 1998- present
Author of the book “Soaring with the Eagles, The Copper Peak Story” and also “Ironwood: The Epicenter of International Ski Jumping. 1911-1913” published in the Michigan History Magazine.
Aerialists from the Past
Aerial competitions in skateboarding and skiing are relatively new events in Olympic and other international competitions including the X-games. New forms of aerial competitions are being added on a regular basis. More than likely this trend will continue in the decades ahead.
But aerialists go back in time more than one-hundred years. From the onset, the sport of ski jumping was host to the many young ski jumping enthusiasts who would deviate from the normal ski jumping competitions and provide the fans with some daring and innovative aerial exhibitions.
Following the National Tournament held on Curry Hill in Ironwood on February 15, 1913, Axel Hendrickson from Virginia, MN performed a perfect backward somersault and in the process sailed 113 feet. (During that competition Ragnar Omtvedt set a world record of 169 feet.) This was the first evidence which identified a backward somersault. He also performed this aerial stunt at the Ishpeming invitational ski jumping meet held that same season. Axel Hendrickson learned his skills as a tumbler traveling with the Barnum circus. He also performed his somersault at the Curry Hill Invitational Meet in February 1914 and perhaps at other Midwest hills.
Forward somersaults would become commonplace starting as early as 1913 and continuing well into the 1950’s. John Rund of Duluth was known to perform his art on several Midwest hills as reported in the 1913 edition of “The Ski Sport”, the publication of the National Ski Association. Henry Hansen, from Ironwood (originally from Minneapolis), learned his trade from his father in 1940 and became the most celebrated of the forward somersault artists performing this feat 100 or more times on most of Midwest’s large hills. He would eventually go professional on tour with Anders Haugen performing his feat utilizing staging to construct the inrun start and landing. Large crowds witnessed his performances. Most of the forward somersault artists, including Birger Ruud of Norway, performed their art on much smaller hills.
There were a number of team aerial events regularly demonstrated at many of the ski meets held in the Midwest. Ironwood sent 15 ski jumpers to compete before 57,000 spectators at Soldier Field in Chicago in February of 1937 and four performed the “The Shooting Star”, an event in which each skier follows the other by only seconds and all are airborne at the same time. Another favorite was the “Diamond” in which one skier starts down the inrun followed by two skiers side by side then followed by a single fourth skier. The two events were often highlighted by sending the skiers thru a burning hoop on the take-off.
One of the more spectacular events was the “Twin Leap” whereby two skiers would ride down the inrun side by side holding hands and begin their flight at the same time on take-off. One of the earliest accounts of a Twin Leap occurred at Ishpeming in 1913 when Ragnar Omtvedt and Barney Riley performed this trick. This trick was performed by a number of ski jumping brothers including Ted and John Zoberski of Ironwood, Birger and Sigmund Ruud of Norway and Walter and Paul Bietila of Ishpeming in the 1930’s. The performance by Ted and John Zoberski was unique however in that they, unlike the others, held hands throughout the flight completing the landing and race to the end of the outrun. All other twin leapers diverged into their flights and landing.
Stanley Zoberski from Ironwood, when skiing professionally out east in Chicopee, MA in the mid 1930’s, jumped 180 feet at night using two flashlights after the lighting system failed.