The Snowflake Ski Club
The Snowflake Ski Club was founded in 1922. It has its roots deep in volunteerism, community spirit and good will, boasting over 500 members. That’s in a town of 2000 people. We are one of the two remaining “all volunteer” large hill ski jumping clubs in the Western hemisphere.
Located in the City of Westby, a peaceful community with Norwegian roots, the Snowflake Ski Club is proud to provide a place of entertainment and recreation.
International and US jumpers compete on the large hill, often traveling down the jump with speeds in excess of 50 miles per hour.
Annually, the Ski Tournament is an event the entire community gets excited about. International and US jumpers compete on the large hill, often traveling down the jump with speeds in excess of 50 miles per hour flying for hundreds of feet. Ski jumping truly is the original extreme sport.
Our Club is very active during the summer season as well. The Snowflake Golf Course is used by hundreds of people who want to enjoy the natural beauty and tranquility of Timber Coulee.
Click here for some historic photos. [This portion is still under development, there are only a few test photos there for now.]
Westby ski jump has long, proud history
By Gregg Hoffmann
Used with author’s permission, full story available at: http://www.oldschoolcollectibles.com/articles/article1.html
It’s a tradition that has gone on since 1923, and has put Westby on the international ski jump map.
“I think it has given Westby some recognition and identity,” said Dr. P.T. Bland, who has been a major supporter of the annual event for more than three decades. “Skiers come from 10-15 countries. Since the event has been a Continental Cup competition, we get skiers who are just one notch away from World Cup status and possible Olympians. We have Olympic medal winners jump here.”
The Snowflake Ski Club was organized in 1922 by a group from Westby who thought the community should have such an event because of its strong Norwegian heritage. Organizers first tried to buy some metal jump scaffolding in Eau Claire and St. Paul, but it was too expensive.
So, they decided to build the scaffolding from wood. They ordered 10,000 feet of 1-by-4 and 1-by-6 boards and went to work. “They didn’t really know much about building a ski jump, but just observed the way the hill went and built the jump in the opposite arc,” Bland said. “Some of the supports were tied to trees to help hold them up. They did finish it though.”
By 1923, a scaffold was done and a tournament was held. As one of the organizers reportedly said, “I awoke on Sunday, hoping for a good day and a good crowd. Otherwise, I would be owning a ski scaffold.”
The turnout was good for that first tournament, held on the Holte Farm between Westby and Bloomingdale. Nearly 2,000 spectators showed up. Most had never seen ski jumping before. Every business in Westby closed for the afternoon to allow more people to watch the jumping.
Oscar Villand served as the first president of the ski club and Henry Nerison as the secretary-treasurer. Nerison happily pointed out that the event was paid for through the gate receipts.
Lars Haugen of Steamboat Springs, Colorado, took first place in Class A and was presented the Governor’s Cup by the governor himself.
A second ski jump was located near Seas Branch. In the late 1940s, a 60-meter hill was built on the Anderson farm in Timber Coulee.
Peter Haugstad, the 1948 Olympic champion, jumped on Anderson Hill in 1949. The U.S. Olympic team trained on that hill in 1952 and again in 1960.
Perhaps the finest ski jumper in Snowflake history was Lyle Swenson, who competed at the current Timber Coulee hill. He captained the U.S. Olympic team and competed in the 1964 Innsbruck Games. Swenson also competed with other U.S. national teams. He died at 42 of pneumonia.
Timber Coulee Hill
The Anderson hill jump served well until 1960. It then became apparent that there was a need for a larger and more modern hill. The ski club committee bought the farm of Eugene Volden in Timber Coulee for a 90-meter jump.
Bland, who first started as the ski event doctor in 1953, had become more involved in other aspects of the event by then. “The hill is in a great location with the natural valley. It looks to the east so the snow doesn’t melt as fast, and is protected from the wind by the hill to the west,” he said.
“There was a lot of preparation to do though. It took a lot of work to clear the land and get the hill ready,” Bland said. But, a jump was held in late January 1961.
As time went on, it became apparent that the hill needed modifications to more accurately reflect the flight curve of the skier, allow for better landings and other aspects. Bland linked up with Agnar Renolen of Norway.
“He was a crusty old Norwegian, but was the foremost expert in the world on designing ski jumps,” Bland said. “He helped us make the modifications. I remember visiting him in Norway shortly after we finished (in time for the 1967 competition).
“I told him he should write a book on how to build ski jumps. I remember he told me, ‘you should write a book about how to become a doctor.’ You had to kind of pull information out of him, but he was very helpful.”
Bland pulled enough information out of Renolen and studied on his own to become quite expert on ski jumps himself. In fact, he has served on the international committee for ski jump design and has traveled around the world in that role.
“I have enjoyed it a great deal,” Bland said of his hill design work. “I like the mathematics involved and have enjoyed learning from others.”
Bland has contributed financially to the Snowflake hill, as well as with his design expertise and work over the years, but refuses to take too much credit.
“You can perpetuate the myth that I was a ski jumper, but I have never been and am not even Norwegian,” said Bland, who has practiced medicine in Westby for more than five decades. “When you’ve been in the community as long as I have, you get credit for a lot of things that might not be true. I’m from Ripon originally, but fell in love with this area.”
Bland also emphasizes that dozens of volunteers – those who serve on the ski club committee, work on the hill and other aspects of the annual event, those families who open their homes to host skiers – deserve a great deal of credit.
“This is the only hill and event in the country that are maintained strictly by volunteers,” he said. “Lake Placid receives support. Park City is an Olympic venue and receives support. This community has kept this event going for many years. It takes a lot of dedication and hard work by a lot of people.”
If you look at the events’ programs, Bland’s contention is born out. Names like Erlandson, Lunde, Fremstad, Nelson, Haugen, Hanson, Frydenlund, Jacobson, Hendrickson, Anderson, Dregne and many others can be found as volunteers, former Snowflake queens and even competitors over the years and generations.
One of the highlights of the annual event is the singing of the “Ski Jumpers Song” – often done by students from the Westby High School music programs or local singers. The song echoes almost eerily through the Timber Coulee valley and, as Bland put it, “makes your hair stand up on your back.”
They have been singing that song, and flying through the air, for more than eight decades at the annual Westby ski jump. It’s a tradition to be proud of.
Phillips T. Bland Memorial
Phillips T. Bland (PT, “Doc”) was inducted into the American Ski Jumping Hall of Fame on Sunday, October 30, 2011 in Redwing, MN at the historic St. James Hotel. Doc was inducted based on his outstanding meritorious service to the sport of ski jumping. Among many other things, Doc Bland served as the head of the USSA Ski Jump Engineering Committee and as a member of the FIS Ski Jump Engineering Committee. He was also three-time president of the Snowflake Ski Club and served as the team physician for the US Ski Team. In his career, he designed more than 30 ski jumping hills around the world. Doc Bland will be missed by the ski jumping community.
Please visit http://www.americanskijumping.com/ for more information.