100 Years Ago Today: When Skiing Meant Ski Jumping

Creede Candle, March 8, 1919

Before the advent of the Telemark turn or the Stem Christie turn, the Nordic-imported term, skiing, meant either ski jumping or cross country ski travel, rather than the shussing down steep slopes that we think of skiing today. The earliest ski areas in Colorado were all originally built for ski jumping, like Inspiration Point in Denver (built 1913), Howelsen Hill in Steamboat Springs (built 1914), and Genesee ski jump near Evergreen (built 1919).

Genesee Ski Jump Built in 1919 near Evergreen, Colorado.
Today, highway I-70 is at the base of this jump
Courtesy, US Forest Service

In today’s article, Chicagoan Einar Jensen’s jump of 128 feet at the Steamboat Springs Winter Carnival is very impressive, especially for someone in the amateur division of the contest. But the so-called Jumping Jack of the Great Lakes would perform even better at the Norge Ski Club Jumping Tournament where he won the contest with jumps of 140 and 160 feet. Not bad, considering how much these 7-8 foot wooden planks must’ve weighed!

Einar Jensen
Great Lakes Recruit: A Pictorial Naval Magazine, Volume 5, 1919

In 1921, Jensen would go on to win the amateur division of the National Ski Jumping Championships held at the Genesee Ski Jump. My ski hero, Carl Howelsen, would win the professional division that year. And that mention of my guy, Howelsen, leads me to nerd out with a quick game of Six Degrees of Pick and Sledge, because today’s article has connections to several 100 Years Ago Today posts from the last few months.

Einar Jensen in flight at a ski jump contest
Great Lakes Recruit: A Pictorial Naval Magazine, Volume 5, 1919

Carl Howelsen, who I wrote about last month regarding the Winter Carnival in Steamboat, was also one of the founding members of the Norge Ski Club in Chicago, which is now the longest running ski club in North America. The ski club was started in 1905 by 28 Norwegian immigrants that wanted to build the sport of Nordic ski racing and ski jumping in the U.S., and Howelsen found them a place to organize their club. Today’s article champion, Einar Jensen, won several of the club’s tournaments.

The Norge Ski Club famously built a giant ski jump inside Soldier Field in Chicago (where Da Bears play, yah?) in 1937, where they held a spectacle of events, including a ski jump contest that has been called “the most dangerous sporting event ever held in Soldier Field.

ChiSoldierField1954.jpg
In 1937 the Norge Ski Club built this huge ski jump in Soldier Field, Chicago

In 1919, Einar Jensen was a Navy man, stationed at Naval Station Great Lakes, the same boot camp where Hugo Frey received the inoculations that would leave him at death’s door for the next two years. Check out the #5 sweater Jensen is wearing in the top picture in the post to see the NTS with anchor insignia of the Navy.

Thanks for joining us for Six Degrees of Pick and Sledge. We only covered two or three degrees, but whatever, it was fun anyway!

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