WE’RE COOKING WITH GAS! LOTS OF GREAT SUPPORT (see below). Time to get your name on the list- SUPPORT USANS- click here to donate now! Or better yet, set up your own fundraising page on Classy and reach out to others to support you and USANS. For more information, click here.
Young Stuart in the late 70’s meeting XC silver medalist Bill Koch. What started as the Torger Tokle league was re-named for Bill after his Innsbruck ’76 success. In addition to being a great Nordic skier, Koch was also a former ski jumper who took a few jumps here and there (including Brattleboro’s Harris Hill) after his silver medal.
Side notes- Love the leather helmet! Safety first. Also- please note the signature Johnstone Norwegian sweater that, like blonde hair, was part of the uniform donned by the entire Johnstone clan, from mom and dad- Signe and Dusty, to the kids- Grace, Hans, Stuart, and Scott.
Carlisle, MA, Middlebury College
Being from Carlisle, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston, my brothers and I were unlikely candidates to be nordic combined skiers. Hans, Scott, and I were fortunate to have a former nordic combined skier for a dad, a 15m ski jump a few towns away, a ski trail out back, and parents who were happy to drive north for hours each weekend so that we could jump and race with New England’s other nordic kids. Living in the “banana belt” brought extra challenges for training but we were happy to look past them, knowing the fun that would come.
As odd as we must have seemed to our neighbors, I came to realize that the sport actually had some roots in our home territory in part because more than a few Norwegians had settled in the area generations before. Old ski jumps lurked in the woods just a few miles from our home and I remember feeling that each seemed like a sacred site from a lost civilization. (I still do.) I now live in neighboring Concord where 3 small ski jumps once graced different slopes in town. And a short walk from my home is the former location of Dovre Ski Binding, maker of the country’s best bindings a half-century ago and the kind that I used to have on my Splitkeins. We came to know Leif Nash, who had operated Dovre, in his later years and he told colorful stories of the times he had while traveling to events up north 50 years prior.
I jumped and raced in the Torger Tokle/Bill Koch League as a kid and on the eastern junior circuit through my high school years, got to go to junior nationals as a nordic combined skier a couple of times, and through it all gained much respect for the power of the inner mind (especially that way-inner part). Heading to Middlebury College in 1982, 2 years after ski jumping had been dropped as an NCAA sport, I had the feeling of having missed the boat. I put my jumping skis aside and enjoyed four years on the cross country ski team but it was painful to see the college’s ski jump sitting idly in front of the lodge at the Snow Bowl and easy to imagine the excitement felt there at Winter Carnivals past. I do claim that as a freshman, having convinced nordic coach Terry Aldrich to bring me with the ski team to Dartmouth Carnival (where ski jumping competitions continued into the early 1990’s), I was the last official Middlebury skier to jump in a meet, so maybe I didn’t miss the boat! A far brighter moment came 28 years later just down the road at Middlebury’s Rikert Nordic Center, when the torch was passed to my next generation as Henry and Hazel entered their first-ever cross country ski races at the 2011 Bill Koch League Festival, a gathering of about 500 kids from all over New England. Terry was present to start each of them in what was a sight I’ll remember. Also present was former Olympic nordic combined skier Walter Malmquist who had made a “snow bump” ski jump on a small slope to introduce kids to the sport, and mine got hooked. Walter connected us to the Andover Outing Club in New Hampshire and the next winter Tim Norris taught them how to fly.
New generations of skiers continue to rise and I’m glad that the same is true for coaches, officials, and supporters. Especially as a parent, it’s easy to see all the hands that it takes to provide events and build ski programs, and it’s also easy to see the benefits that result. With hopes for the future, I give thanks to all who are there for ski jumping and nordic combined!
Keeping it Nordic. Since 1988 Stuart has run the Great Brook Ski Touring Center in Carlisle, MA, a venture started by his father, Dusty. See more at http://www.greatbrookski.com