Duluth Ski Club/Chester Bowl
MY FIRST and LAST RIDE ON BIG CHESTER
Big Chester was BIG!
Built in ’26 on the banks of Duluth’s Chester Creek, it had a large false knoll to complement the tall steel and wooden scaffold to enable a P point of 40m and a K point of 49 or 50 meters.
The box could be seen from all over town. From the box, one could look out at a beautiful panoramic of the City. Man, I wish I could bring my iPhone up there now and shoot on pano mode. I calculate a view of Lake Superior further than 35 miles.
At about 2/3 up the rickety 2×2 “stairs”, the skier popped above the tree line and the wind would start to blow. Fantastic for kite flying at the top: We would just toss our kites into the air and let the wind do our work. The wind was not so fantastic while wearing the old jump suits.
The knoll was big, too. Landing short meant a punishing thud and a scrape job along your ears from one’s knees brushing past. It actually hurt. Then there was the Cow Path…
Making it over the knob did not absolve you of humiliation and pain, it only earned the opportunity to hit the Cow Path, a deep trail left from the markers crossing the landing on their way to the other side of the landing. There was lots of landing below that.
When I was about 11 years old, none of this was properly explained to me, so I making the decision to ride it was easy. I wasn’t scared, but like Yoda said, I should have been. At the time, I weighed about 60 lbs. and was skiing on a 180 cm pair of Norway’s Bonna skis with grey bottoms. My alpine skis are longer…
I don’t even remember kicking out of the start. That’s probably better, as that might have hindered remaining jumps. Everything went well until the take off, but I don’t recall that, either- only the effects of such. I don’t remember the flight, probably because it was so short. However, the jump was long enough to hit …IT- the Cow Path.
I landed on my a$$, exactly on the upper side of the crossing, setting myself up for the perfect re-launch into the flight trajectory of our Nation’s better skiers. I was so high on my second flight that I lit south of the cup, ending in a fantastic explosion.
I do remember the crowd around me at the bottom, asking all the pertinent questions. Being light is very good in ski jumping for more than one reason. I should mention to the younger readers that not all of us had a coach or even supervision in those days. Helmet, schmelmet.
I walked away from that event and waited until the end of the next year to try it again. With Yoda’s advice firmly planted, I kept at it.
My last ride went better. I do remember the take-off of this ride. And I do remember the flight. I doubt if I was higher than the re-launch, but my effort resulted in the hill record of 54.5m/180’.
My record is safe, never to be broken, but it is because our ski jump is gone. So my heart is broken: I would rather have our hill and someone else’s name attached to the record.