President, Copper Peak, Inc.
Early records show that ski jumpers performed somersaults off of ski jumps since as early as 1912. These performances continued on various hills in the Midwest well into the 1950’s. Perhaps the most noted of the somersault artists was Henry Hanson from the Twin Cities area. He relocated to the Ironwood area taking a job in sales but also skied for the Gogebic Range Ski Club. He was a Class A jumper but continued to refine his specialty, a skill he learned from his father.
I was able to witness his first somersault performed in Ironwood off a makeshift jump on the landing slope after the Wolverine Hill meet in 1948. A year later he performed the stunt on the 60-meter Hill, the first time such a stunt was performed on a hill of that size. He continued to perform the stunt on a number of hills in the Midwest and never suffered an injury. In 1950 he signed up with a professional tour group headed by Anders Haugen and toured the country in exhibition. The attached photo shows the aerialist performing his specialty; the venue is unknown. ( I wonder it was more challenging to ride down the narrow inrun with no side rails than to perform the somersault.)
Ski jumpers from Ironwood—and other Midwest clubs—regularly performed ‘twin jumps‘ (two skiers side by side), the ‘shooting star’ (four skiers following each other a short distance), the ‘diamond’ (one skier followed by two skiers side by side, then one) and on a number of occasions jumped through a ring of fire placed on the end of the take-off.
The Zoberski brothers of Ironwood, Ted and John, often performed twin jumps in exhibition in the late 1930‘s. What makes their performances stand out is the fact that they held hands throughout the entire ride whereas others—the Ruud Brothers for example—would diverge upon leaving the takeoff. The attached photo of a twin jump is from the 1920’s, the names of the riders are not known.
One other story stands out. Ted and Chester Zoberski and Bert Wilcheck from Ironwood were touring the East Coast in the professional circuit; the year was 1934. Ironwood lost its big hill (Curry) in a wind storm in 1930, the depression was on and these skiers were looking for a way earn some money in a sport they loved. In 1934 in Chicopee, Mass., they were scheduled to ski in exhibition under the lights. (I believe this is the first mention of skiing under the lights.) When the promoter pulled the switch to turn the power on, nothing happened. No doubt the promoter experienced a bit of anxiety. Chester Zoberski came to the rescue when he offered to ride the hill in the dark holding two flashlights. He was given the two flashlights by the promoter and successfully rode the hill in the dark jumping about 170 feet, thus saving the day for the promoter. Some years later Ted, for a generous gratuity, offered to perform the same stunt at Ishpeming; the Ishpeming Club did not oblige him.
The Zoberski bros., from Ironwood, held hands in the air during their double jumps.