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Ford Sayre Ski Club, Hanover, NH
Pictured above is Brother Mike flying off the 20 meter jump at Ford Sayre Ski Club in Hanover, NH in the year of 1972.
Note his look of confidence, forward-aerodynamic position and all the safe-modern equipment. Then, jumpers kept their hands out in front during the in- run and then moved them perpendicular to the body for the most stable flight position. Over the years change came slowly, we continued to use slick leather- soled cross country boots that were poor substitute for jumping boots and impossible to walk in. If you were lucky enough to complete the climb to the top of the hill without slipping hundreds of times, you might still have your confidence to jump.
There is something magical about these Ford Sayre jumps that are tucked deep into the pine grove at Oak Hill. I’ve felt it since I was a kid watching Brother Mike jump and then trying it myself. From the unique smell of creosote that permeates the old wooden structure to cold-damp river valley atmosphere, it’s a place that has been frozen in time. One can still spend an evening laughing with the next generation of jumpers and taking a break from the front -page news.
These things stay the same and while the equipment and body position has improved, little else has changed. You can still find brother Mike at the jump but now as a coach with a team of dedicated volunteers who spend Monday and Wednesday nights helping kids fly safely and effectively through the air.
Most of the circa 1972 ski equipment has been upgraded, but the rail road ties that form the takeoff, the many of the “canister” style lights and the atmosphere are unchanged. As one of the assistant coaches, it is interesting to reconcile one of the most simple, yet complex, sports with the vastly different emotions and goals of each skier. Do you call practice if the conditions are bad or do you send little “Joey” off the big jump so he can feel the thrill and build his confidence? Do you continue to coach skiers at the in-run or simply tell them to jump as hard and as far as they can? There are all of these questions and more at each turn. The best part of coaching comes when we somehow find the ‘right’ answer and are rewarded with a skier’s smile.
Recently I was discussing these experiences with my long-time mentor and Coach, Alan Johnson and his appropriate response was “the 20 meter is where the action is.” As a relatively new coach, it is unclear who learns more each practice: the skiers or me. There is magic and beauty in all of it.