Salisbury Winter Sports Association (CT)
A Salisbury Raggie Ski Jumper
For the locals in Salisbury, they are referred to as, “The Jumps.” The ski jumps in Salisbury, Connecticut were more than just a winter-only event for me. In the summertime I explored the woods behind the ski jumps, making my way to the Indian Caves. We would climb to the top of the jumps that looked over much of Salisbury. From other areas in Salisbury, the jumps can be seen from Lion’s Head, driving on route 44 on the way into town, and through the woods from my old house during the wintertime. The jumps were just another part of what it meant to grow up and be from Salisbury.
Even before I started ski jumping, I had been down the hill before, but not the jump. A number of the local kids and I went down the 60-meter hill in carboard boxes in the summertime. During one winter in the middle of the night, I went down the hill at a very young age in a large inner tube with my brother John, and Keith & Kenny Lacko. I screamed all the way down and at the bottom I said, “Let’s do that again!” On a back woods cross-country run, I went down the hill on cross-country skis, “not the jump.” I wiped out at the bottom of the hill. But the real experience came when I started jumping. Salisbury is a small town with less then 4,000 people. Everyone knows Larry Stone.
My father, James McGarry, worked at the local post office. When Larry stopped in the post office one day, he asked my father if I would be interested in ski jumping. I started jumping in 1986 with a number of local kids. All of the equipment was free to use, and it was my first time ever skiing. Larry coached us along with Mr. Collins and Mr. Lampson. There was no snow making machines then, and when it snowed, we were on the side of all the hills, packing it down. I remember my legs being so tired the next day, but playing soccer helped me get in shape for ski jumping.
Night skiing was the best. What was really cool were the high school kids jumping off the 60-meter at night. Only half of the hill and the outrun was illuminated. You would hear the jumper go down the jump, then silence in the air with a sudden slap of the skis on the hill. The only evidence that they were there is when they appeared at the end of the outrun. It was colder at night, and the sounds of the skis was different than during the day.
Larry Stone called me, “Mad Dog McGarry.” The reason being because I jumped by kicking my legs out in front of me. I never really thought of the dangers of ski jumping. We did have a fellow jumper, John Swanson, break his arm on the 40-meter hill. But any injuries were rare. We travelled to Vermont, New Hampshire, and Lake Placid, New York. I jumped through “the ring of fire” in New Hampshire. In Lake Placid we stayed most of the time at White Sled Inn, just minutes from the jumps. I was also able to stay at the Olympic Training Center (OTC), and HoJo’s (Howard Johnsons) where I experienced my first jacuzzi. We would roll in the snow, then go into the hot tub, then repeat.
I loved Lake Placid so much that it was my dream to move there after high school. I not only jumped there in the winter, but also had the opportunity to jump in the summertime on the new plastic straws. The outrun consisted of woodchips. Larry Stone told my parents that I could live with him and go to high school in Lake Placid, ski jumping after school each day. But I wanted to go to the technical high school to learn a trade. Thus ending my years as a jumper.