CURATOR’S NOTE- Zak Hammill coached in Ishpeming before moving to Alaska. We found a great video of him jumping in the 125th Ishpeming Tournament in 2012 which includes spectacular POV footage of a rapid-fire triple jump at the end of the piece. Check it out here
Team AK head coach
formerly from Iron Mountain, Michigan
Alaska: USA Ski Jumping’s Last Frontier
My ski jumping adventure started in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and later moved even further north, if you can believe that. 4 years ago, I got an amazing opportunity to fly to Anchorage, Alaska and coach ski jumping for 4 months over the winter and then fly home. No strings attached, except for the unknown vacuum that is Alaska itself. I packed my bags and headed north December 1st into the land of 5 hour days, cold weather, and a ski jumping program I knew almost nothing about. Fortunately for me Alaskan hospitality is some of the best in the world and within the first couple weeks I realized that Alaska was the place for me.
Over the last couple of years, I have witnessed and heavily influenced, along with many others, one of the most substantial changes in a ski jumping club. When I arrived in Anchorage, Karen Compton and Vivienne Murray had laid incredible ground work for a ski jumping program, the only thing that was missing was the ski jumping culture. Day one on the job, a standard warm up routine seemed like a foreign language to the club, and imos where completely out of the question. This all seemed so crazy to me growing up in the Midwest where I grew up jumping with one of the deepest ski jumping cultures in the US.
Our first traveling trip really blew me away and I realized that a ski jumping culture had to be created. With a club that supported my every move, we began to develop this culture. With fundraising money obtained prior to my arrival, our plastic project started that following summer and we hired another coach for the small hills, Natasha Mattoon, for the next winter. Luckily for us she got sucked into permanently moving up here as well. Slowly the culture grew and grew. The kids and the parents began to understand the sport, and traveling on trips turned our kids into an actual ski jumping team.
4 years later I am still living and coaching in Anchorage. Ski jumping culture is now alive in Alaska. I know this because my jumpers can actually tell me who a world cup ski jumper is. Gus Compton got to jump with a few of them this summer in Europe. This year we will be hosting Junior Nationals, and I cannot wait to show the rest of the country how far the Alaska ski jumping club has really come. Without a doubt, the future of Alaska ski jumping is as bright as the northern lights on a cold crisp December Alaskan night. Few people actually get to mold and develop a ski jumping culture, and I feel very fortunate that Alaska gave me that opportunity.
Karen Compton and Vivienne Murray have been visionaries and amongst Alaska’s fervent volunteer base which has launched their club into flight. Check out this video on ski jumping safety that Team AK Ski Jumping recently worked with USANS to release: