David W. Torrey
Cambridge, MA 02139
CURATOR’S NOTE – You may recall that David Torrey had a great story about being a stunt man for the Today show earlier in the month. I try not to run stories from the same person twice in one year but in this case I am a) desperate for content (really, if you’re sitting on a story, get it to me!), and b) eager to get this first-hand account of a long passed tradition into the archives. So we bend the rules and enjoy. And say thank you, David Torrey!
HOW I SPENT THE BICENTENNIAL SKI JUMPING WITH NORWEGIANS AND CANADIANS –
AND LIVED TO TELL THE TALE!
July 4th, 1976, Lake Placid, NY.
The large chunks of lake ice harvested in the winter from Lake Placid had been stored in a shed in the woods behind the 40 meter ski jump. Before the annual 4th of July meet, volunteers had fed the ice blocks into a chipper and laboriously shoveled the crushed ice between two rows of wooden planks that had been mounted vertically about 2 ft apart to form a trough down the grassy inrun to the take-off. The remainder of the ice had been slid down the landing area of the 40 meter hill (located where a new larger jump was built for the 1980 Olympic Games) and the transition and outrun thoughtfully laid with wet hay.
Meanwhile some members of the Dartmouth Ski Team, myself included, were attending summer term in Hanover, dubbed “Camp Dartmouth” for its slightly more laid-back academic atmosphere, when one could play a soccer game until 8 pm before jumping in the Connecticut River before one’s cookout dinner. I can’t recall who thought this was a good idea, but we grabbed our skis and found our boots in the bottom of our closets and headed north-west to Lake Placid. On arrival to find that the promised “snow” only covered a part of the hill, we gulped and rode the outrun to see how fast the grass slowed you down, or if you could possibly even remain upright during the jerky deceleration. One of my team members decided that since he was to be married in two months that his soon-to-be wife wouldn’t appreciate the visual of crutches (or worse) in the wedding photos, so he quietly slipped out of the competition.
But nothing could prepare us for the sight from the top of the inrun. The only snow visible was the narrow white stripe of the inrun ice chute! One had to simply trust that: A) we had indeed seen some snow over the knoll somewhere as we’d hiked up the summer green hillside, B) that we could jump far enough to reach it , C) that our flight would be straight and would hit the target , D) that our landing on the rapidly melting crushed ice swath would be clean and upright, and finally E) that we could ride the transition from steep to flat (and from ice to hay) while standing up as we screeched to a stop on the dirty hay. That’s all I remember because I apparently did survive this as the photo attests.
At the time and still today I find it ironic that on America’s bicentennial day we were hanging out with mostly Norwegians and Canadians.