Masters Ski Jumping in the USA

Old Boys -- Still at it, after all these years!


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A Brief Introduction to Masters Ski Jumping

Imagine this scene -- you approach a complex of ski jumps, two or three or more jumping hills of differents sizes, the sparkling snow carefully groomed, decorated with flags and banners. Scores of athletes in one piece jump suits brighter than the banners trudge up through the snow, or stand in small groups, conversing, stretching, and waiting for their moment to zip down the track and launch into the air. As you come closer, you notice that these skiers are not teenagers, many are a little gray around the temples or bald on the top. This is the annual U.S. National Masters Age Group Ski Jumping Championships and the lean, fit athletes range from youngsters in their thirties to septuagenarians.

Masters ski jumping is not a new idea, but these championships reflect a new stage in competition for old boys . The first U. S. National Masters Age Group Championships were held in 1982 at the Carvers Lake ski jumping complex of the Saint Paul Ski Two over-70 Jumpers
Club in Minnesota. Subsequent Championships have visited twelve locations in the East, the Midwest, and the Rockies. The age groups have changed from time to time, settling presently on ten-year age groups starting at age thirty. Recent U.S. Championships have even involved Masters Class-Five, for jumpers over 70 years old (right).

Many ski jumping competitions around the world, including several national championships, recognize a Masters class. In addition, several nations hold separate age group national championships, usually on smaller hills. The Duluth Ski Club's annual Souvenir Booklet lists U.S. National Masters (formerly Veterans) champions starting in 1935. Norway is the cradle of ski jumping and has led the way in Masters jumping. In 1905 for the first time, the old timers had their own class in Holmenkollen, for those over thirty; that year, the oldest competitor was 70 years old. In 1997, the Norwegian Veteran Club celebrated its fiftieth anniversary.

And why do they do it? Why do old boys go out and play in the snow, jumping with the kids? For competition, for comeraderie, for exercise, but above all because it is fun and they feel mellow when they get home.

Masters Ski Jumpers -- Other Times and Other Names

Age group competition goes back to the earliest days of ski jumping, and through the decades many different terms have been used in the U.S. to refer to the oldest class of competitors. The Senior class was replaced Veterans , then the present euphemism, Masters . Any of these is more dignified than Geritol class , and surely preferable to survivors. Perhaps the most appealing is the Norwegian term Gamle Gutter , literally Old Boys . It reminds us that ski jumpers at any age must be playful and young at heart.

How to Start Ski Jumping

Ski jumping in the U.S. is a club based activity, and ski jumping clubs welcome both adults and children who think that they would enjoy this exciting sport. These clubs usually have some second hand jumping equipment on hand (some old Cadillacs, some Edsels) which beginners may borrow.
Adults beginners usually progress faster than children, sometimes negotiating large hills after only a couple of years. A few fine athletes starting the sport as adults have eventually tried out for the U.S. Olympic Team. Others spend many enjoyable seasons simply jumping smaller hills maintained by their own clubs.

Feel like getting involved in this exciting sport? Here are two links to lists of all ski jumping clubs in the eastern U.S. and in the midwest with contacts and phone numbers.

If you don't live in snow country but would like to try ski jumping as part of your weekend activities, contact Larry Stone, coach at the Olympic Jumping complex in Lake Placid. Click here to use automatic e-mail, or just send your own e-mail response to or call (518) 523-1900. (The answer you hear may include the mysterious word "NYSEF" which stands for New York State Ski Educational Foundation.)

U.S. National Masters Ski Jumping Championships

The earliest U.S. Old Boys National Champion we have on record is from 1935 and during the first decade of recorded Champions, most of the names suggest that the skiers had learned their skills in Norway.
During the post-war decades, Senior Class (and then Veterans Class) started at age 32, although a number of skiers continued to campaign in Class A, and even to compete in the Olympic Games, well past this age. Until 1980, a single National Championship Competition was held each year which included all age groups: Junior, Senior and Masters. The new Olympic facility in Lake Placid made it natural to expand the format to include both Normal Hill and Large Hill National Championships. (These are now referred to as 90 meter and 120 meter Championships.)

In 1982, the minimum age for Masters jumpers was reduced to 27, and a Small Hill Age Group National Championship was established.
From 1982 until 1991, the age groups were: 27-34, 35-49, 50 and up.
Starting in 1991, ten-year age groups were established and the minimum masters age was increased, one year at a time, from 27 to 30 in order to agree with the international masters age groups. You can look through lists of champions .

The gang in St. Paul,
Competitors at the 1992 Masters Age Group Nationals, St. Paul.
KNEELING: (left to right): 29 Mark Windisch, 41 Terry Holmgren, 22 Mark Miles, 28 Sig Malvik, 31 Dave Edlund, 40 John Werler, 11 Luke Soler, 19 Dale Severson, 32 Walt Cherry, 39 Paul Olson, 6 Earle Murphy, 20 Dave Peterson, 10 Dave Tomten, 3 Jay Martin, 35 Dave Zarling.
STANDING: (left to right), 34 Tom Ricchio, 21 Tim Denisson, 16 Gary Rasmussen, 23 Jeff Hammel, 7 Steve Erkkila, 25 Greg Windsperger, 13 Ron Carlson, 37 Bob Keck, Fritz Mittelstadt (TD), 12 Paul Johnson, 14 Rick Anderson, 17 Jerry Martin, 4 Stig Hallingbye, 38 Corky Denisson, 1 Cal Brager, 36 Dan Ellefsen, 30 Dave Engstrom, 27 Don West, 5 Mark Ellefson, 18 Mike Bloom, 33 Jim Maki, 24 Jamie Gaboury, 9 Doug Maki, Bob Immens (judge), 8 Larry Maki.
MISSING: Jim Grahek, Bob Hein, Norm Hanson.

The National Age Group Championship event broke out of a two-year dry spell in the year 2000, but not without a struggle. In Madison WI, at the banquet of the 1997 Championships, the Old Boys of the U.S. were called upon to assemble again in 1998 in St Paul for the next Championships. However, a very early spring melted the snow in St. Paul, leaving the organizers scrambling. "How about moving the event way up north to Coleraine, MN?" No luck! Coleraine was scheduled to host the Junior Olympics and even that event had to be moved. So finally, the 1998 Masters Championships were cancelled. The year 1999 was even worse, when poor communication and lack of enthusiasm left the event unscheduled.

For the 2000 season, everybody assumed that St. Paul would finally hold the Championship so it was a surprise when the announcement came around that the Tri-Norse Ski Club would host the event January 8-9 in Wisconsin Rapids. When early January came, there was less than two inches of snow in Wisconsin Rapids, and organizers postponed the Championships yet again, to February 19-20 where it would conflict with the Continental Cup event in Ishpeming and the inaugural Goodwill Games in Lake Placid. Finally, in February, the National Masters Championships ran, with only a slightly reduced field. The Eastern jumpers did not make it back, but the Wyoming contingent showed up and skied well. All reports were of a well run competition with good weather and snow conditions. See complete results of the 2000 Championships.

The Old Boys gathered on January 6 in Westby, Wisconsin for the 2001 event; complete competition results and a photo have been posted.

The 2002 Masters Championships were hosted Jan. 19-20 by the Norge Ski Club in Fox River Grove, IL who did a great job on short notice. The snow gods provided fine weather and the hard working hosts provided three beautifully prepared hills. The competitions were folded into with Norge's annual junior and senior competitions, and it was exciting to see so many new kids trying out the sport that the Old Boys love. Complete competition results and a couple of pictures have been posted.

As the seasons have gone by, discussion of the annual Masters Championships has outgrown this page, so we continue in a dedicated page where you will find listings for all the recent seasons.


U.S. Masters Ski Jumping Committee

Tim Denisson -- Chairman
118 Applewood Court
Cheyenne, WY 82009
(phone) (307) 634-6066
Joe Berens (Central Division)

In Memorium

Don West (Eastern Division)
Earle Murphy (Emeritus)
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