|Dave Robinson circa 1974 taking it to the now defunct but once
renown Bear Mountain, NY (just north of NY City) where the crowds
were ample and the snow was not.
Mt. Beacon Ski Club; Vermont Academy Ski Team; Bates College Ski Team; Dartmouth Outing Club; Ford Sayre Ski Club
For decades, I had the good fortune to jet through the world as a businessman. Before that I rode in the back of station wagons and school vans for weekend Nordic competitions, jumping in nine different northeastern US states by the age of 16 and eventually driving jumpers in a Dartmouth ski team van.
My jumping began at age seven in a Hudson River Valley hometown of Beacon, New York. Before waxing in those days, we shellacked the sliding surface of our hickory jumping skis and burned pine-tar into the bottoms of the skinny cross country skis. We soon enjoyed the benefits of fiberglass and polyethylene, yet by my early teens (see Bear Mountain picture above), we still rode the in-run with hands in front of our wool team sweaters and jumped keeping the skis straight and parallel without a helmet or high-back boots.
The ski area on the side of Mt. Beacon no longer exists. In the later 1960’s it expanded, replacing rope tows with chair-lifts, adding many new trails and ultimately bull-dozing our small jumps. Bear Mountain was 20 miles downriver, so we spent quite a bit of time at this state park. Being close to New York City made it great for spectators, but lousy for natural snowfall. So jumps were a continual work in process, with ice shavings from the park’s skating rink and gravel-laden “snow” reclaimed from plowed parking lots among the sliding materials we and the park workers applied to the hill. They usually were able to pull off quite a show on the “50 meter” jump most weekends in January and February.
My father, Dick Robinson, was then the driving force of the Mt. Beacon Ski Club. He and other parents would regularly take us to jumps at Lake Placid, Rosendale, Salisbury, Brattleboro, Hanover and Lebanon and sometimes as far away as Rumford, Berlin, Laconia or Lyndonville.
Dick enjoyed his eventual calling as a FIS jumping judge for many years. He turns 81 in January and just retired, for about the fifth time, this time from mowing golf fairways in Florida.
In 1975, Dick talked to Warren Chivers and arranged for me to attend Vermont Academy for a couple years. There I was able to enjoy much more natural snowfall and a decent jump just steps from my dorm room. We had prep school meets on Wednesdays and some Saturdays, also jumping in the open Eastern tournaments during the weekends. The “Kid” from Maine, Larry Manson coached the Nordic team well and drove us in the school van to various prep school jumps including Deerfield, Putney, KUA, Holderness and Proctor Academy.
During my journeyman junior jumping career, I fell on jumps hundreds of times: with at least one ski flying onto Interstate 91 off the outrun of the Latchis jump in Brattleboro, face over tips on the Olympic Normal Hill at Lake Placid, goggle planting into the Rumford landing hill and after quite a few hand-drags through hill transitions (athletic-taped glove fingers were a routine apparel enhancement). My only injury was during my time at VA, a minor knee tweak stopping on March crud at Norwich University.
Back on the road with Bates College next. The jumpers often would drive Coach Bob Flynn’s car 45 minutes each way between campus and our practice jump at Rumford. We took turns driving, sometimes laboring behind Maine logging trucks and sometimes spinning into snow-banks (sorry Coach!). The college winter carnivals were a blast, with jumping the final event and therefore well-attended, often deciding the men’s ski team winner for the week. Dartmouth always had great crowds, but Jeff Hastings and company also had a decent jump at Williams, and the best hill on the carnival circuit by far was at the Middlebury Snow Bowl.
Unfortunately, despite the East’s coaching prominence on the NCAA Rules Committee, our junior year, 1980, was the final season for jumping as an NCAA sport. Bates continued to support the remaining jumpers for open Eastern meets in our senior year, but it was never again the same great college experience. Going forward, junior jumpers no longer could aspire to a future level of incremental fun competition short of the international circuit.
Regardless, my college-associated jumping continued uninterrupted as I enrolled in the Tuck graduate business program at Dartmouth in 1981. Dartmouth continued to support a good jumping program as part of its ski team with Don Cutter as the coaching leader. So I kept jumping quite a bit, but as the jumping season continued through 1982, I found myself increasingly assisting Don with coaching. By my second year at business school, I stopped jumping and dedicated all my free time to coaching the Dartmouth College team and better Ford Sayre junior jumpers. Driving the big green Suburban van over snowy roads actually was OK.
I enjoyed coaching, and was better at it then than jumping. However, by the summer of 1983 my budding business career called me to places south.
In the 1990’s, we built a small vacation house in Vermont near Bromley, Magic, Stratton and Okemo that returns us to ski culture multiple times every year. A few years back, I was happy to see Lebanon’s legendary Jon Farnham enthusiastically coaching junior jumpers during his stint at Vermont Academy. I continue to follow US jumping on-line, from the New Hampshire high school circuit to the elite international competitors. These days my own competition is mostly golf. So now when I walk by the site of the Dartmouth ski jump, I remember earlier good times when those were a pair of skis rather than a bag of golf sticks carried on my shoulder.
|Carrying (golf) sticks on his shoulders instead of skis these days- Dave after a hole-in-one on a course near his home in VT.