DOUG LANTZ STRETCHING OVER ‘EM in 1964 in Salisbury, CT. Bernie or Roger Dion watching from the coaches’ stand.
|Detail of Doug’s face… the fine line between ecstasy and terror.
Newport Nordic Club
If I had to list five important things in my life growing up, ski jumping would surely be one of them. Born in November, in a snowstorm, in Brattleboro, Vermont, I was the fourth son, joining three older brothers, to a family that would eventually consist of six boys, no girls. It was always important to point out, “no girls.” I’m not sure why because if you were ever around us, there was never a question…”no girls!” Now that I think about it, probably one of the reasons we ski jumped is because Mom and Dad couldn’t afford to take us all to a ski area for the day.
During the winter, it seemed like we traveled almost every weekend. Competitions in Lake Placid, Bear Mountain, and Beacon NY; Salisbury CT, Rumford ME, Gunstock, Lebanon, and Hanover, NH. In the ski jumping community, we were all part of a big family. Lifelong memories and friends forever.
It all started across the road from our house in Vermont. I’m surprised none of us ever got into engineering, (now that I think about it…no, I’m not surprised). I can remember, even in the summer, finding a slope and designing in our minds, the jump we’d build that winter. We had jumps all over the place. One of our favorites, until Dad saw it, was behind the house, down over a steep bank, dodging large maple trees, then quickly getting into an in run for thirty feet, jumping, between trees, going about 30 feet, then trying to stop before we hit even more trees. I remember Dad seeing it and that was it. My other favorite jump was off the roof of the house. We’d climb a tree next to the garage, hang onto the weathervane, balance, put on our skis, ski down the roof, across the breezeway roof and jump. And the best part was the landing hill…the lawn, it was flat. (seemed to build strength). That was another hill that didn’t make it onto the circuit.
As the family grew, ski jumping was always part of our dinner time family conversation. A new jump built that day, somebody had a new bruise, somebody’s ski fell off, and sometimes a real bad fall. At age 15, my oldest brother Jim, dislocated his right hip ski jumping at Maple Valley in Dummerston, VT. I wasn’t there but the story goes…”a gust of wind, landed off the side of the hill.” That jump isn’t there anymore, and Jim was never able to jump again.
Brother David, #2, had a very successful career…Jr. Nationals, Middlebury College Ski Team, and the US Nordic Combined Ski Team 1971-76. Brother Tom, #3, was probably the best jumper in the family. He also was Jr. Nationals, the US Eastern Team, and University of Vermont Ski Team. They had both blazed pretty good trails, and that did put some pressure me. I never made into the same arenas they did but still made my own way gathering a few personal highlights in ski jumping.
In 1971, our family moved to Newport, NH. Dad had purchased a business, and I was about to start my freshman year at Newport High School. This was tough at age 15. All my friends in Brattleboro left behind, my three older brothers off at college, and a slightly different level of ski jumping from Brattleboro where they had the 15 and 20 meter jumps at Memorial Park, the 40 meter known as Latchis Hill, and the famous Harris Hill. When I lived there it was a 65 meter. Now I think it’s a 90, or what you call today, a 120. Anyway, my new home, Newport, had only a 20 meter ski jump.
If you’re 50 years old or older, you’ll remember the ski jumps behind Lake Placid High School. There was a 15 meter and a 30. My research says they were built around the 1932 Winter Olympics. As a 6 year old, the steel trestle of the 30 meter seemed to tower as high as the Empire State Building. I jumped the 15 meter and watched my older brothers fly off the 30. I knew that one day I would also jump that hill.
There were stories of a place behind Newport High School where a larger hill once existed. We found a grown in area with a slope that resembled a landing hill. It looked like it might have been a 30 meter. With some clearing and landscaping, we had the landing but no in-run. The old 30 meter trestle in Lake Placid had been closed for many years. With the help of a community, the Newport Nordic Club had been formed and we purchased the old 30 meter trestle from Lake Placid. Almost by coincidence, we found a retired steel worker who agreed to travel up to Lake Placid, number each piece of steel, take it down, put it on a flatbed, and rebuild it exactly as it was, back in Newport. What a project! I remember a gentleman named Dave Bradley, a Dartmouth guy, coming down to Newport and basically saying, “This should be where the takeoff is.” From there, concrete footing were poured, and the trestle put back up.
Like kids at Christmas time, the jump couldn’t get done quick enough. The landing hill was perfectly groomed, waiting for the in-run to be built. The outrun looked very short, but who cared. Stopping was the last thing on our minds.
Finally, the structure was complete, the wood planks on, at least up to the first box. Although the landing hill was perfect with plenty of snow, we couldn’t wait for Mother Nature, so we grabbed trash cans and started snowing the trestle. I remember standing at the top and looking down with my brother David. The snowed area was about 3 feet wide and curved like a snake all the way down. Honestly, this looked like a piece of cake after dodging those trees in Brattleboro.
I was first one up with skis. Matter of fact, the only one up. There were no stairs, just two by two wood slats…but not really a problem because there was no snow. The top wasn’t done yet so I’d be coming out of a side box. (for you younger guys, we didn’t slide out onto a pole like you do today. We had different starting “boxes” staggered up the in run.) If you’ve ever stood at the top of a hill by yourself, it’s very quiet and peaceful. You’re up above the tree tops and usually have quite a view. There’s nothing like it. A great place to let your mind wander. But this day thoughts were flying through my mind as I checked my bindings. “This is different. Nobody’s ever been off this. Is the trestle too big for the hill? Am I going leave the hill and drop like I rock out of the sky?” One thing was for sure, the outrun looked way too short. I felt like “Mikey” in the Life Cereal commercial…”Dougie’ll go first!”
I put my arm up and yelled down to Roland Tremblay on the knoll. A handful of people had gathered. He looked down the landing, then back up to me. You could hear the excitement in his voice, “How’s it look?” I yelled back, “Great!” Like a giggling kid he yelled, “Nice and smooth, just take it easy.”
It was “nice and smooth.” They said I smiled all the way down the in-run, through the air, and could hear me laughing after I landed. I had finally jumped the hill behind the school in Lake Placid, but it was now behind a different high school in Newport. Oh, by the way, the outrun was way too short!
Side notes from Doug-
Brother Steve, #5, never jumped but competed on the Newport High School Ski Team in cross country. And Jeffrey, #6, graduated from KUA, and represented the East at the 1980 Jr. Nationals as a Nordic Combined skier. My Moment of Glory…a Gold Medal in US National Masters Team Jump, with my teammates from the 1975 Eastern Jr. National Team, “Lyndon Larry” Welch, and Jon “Cannonball” Farnham.
|Relaxed for the long flight in high school- Doug circa 1973.