Seventy of the best young ski jumpers and Nordic skiers in America and Canada will be heading to Salisbury in Connecticut's Litchfield Hills on February 22 when the five-day Junior Olympics makes its first appearance here. The ski jumpers will gather at Salisbury's Satre Hill, a site already known for its annual Eastern Championship Jumpfest, an event that will celebrate its 85th anniversary here from February 11 to 13.
Both competitions will be held on a newly built $700,000 300-foot ski jump, the only hill of this size on the East Coast. Both are rare opportunities to see close-up some of the best young athletes at this challenging sport, showing the coordination and grace needed to sail over 200 feet through the air, with a happy landing. The Junior Olympics, sponsored by the United States Ski and
Snowboard Association (USSA), is the premier national event for jumpers aged 17 and younger, a key step toward international competition, including the Winter Olympic Games. Landing the event is a big achievement for tiny Salisbury, population 4,000. The new Olympic-size ski jump and steel judges' tower were funded entirely by the local community in a campaign headed by the all-volunteer Salisbury Winter Sports Association (SWSA) Besides hosting the annual Eastern championships, the SWSA provides cross-country and jumping equipment and training to area children and maintains cross-country ski trails at several sites in town.
Salisbury will celebrate its annual Jumpfest at Satre Hill two weeks earlier with traditional festivities, starting with target jumping under the lights with a chili cook-off and bonfire Friday night, February 11, beginning at 5 p.m. Saturday brings a snow carving competition in the village and an evening Snow Ball, along with ski competitions. The day opens with Nordic Kids, young jumpers tacking small hills starting at 9 a.m., followed by the Salisbury Invitational Championship 65-meter (213 feet) jump at 1 p.m.
Sunday features the final qualifying event for the Eastern Junior Olympic Team and the U.S. Eastern National Championships at 1 p.m. The Junior Olympic events Tuesday through Saturday, February 22-27, will include separate individual and team scoring jumping competitions and cross-country ski races for the Nordic Combined titles. Nordic Combined adds a cross-country ski race to jump results to determine winners. Nordic events will take place at the Mohawk Ski Area in nearby Cornwall. Check the SWSA web site for exact schedules.
For happy viewing, the SWSA recommends that spectators dress warmly in layers and bring a cowbell, the traditional way to cheer on the jumpers. Hot food and beverages are available starting about 10:00 AM each day to help watchers keep warm. Limited bleacher seating is provided or viewers can bring their own lawn chairs. Admission is $10 for adults, 12 and under are free.
Satre Ski Hill is on Indian Cave Road, off Route 44 in Salisbury. Signs in the center of Salisbury point the way to ample free parking.
For more information on the ski jumping competitions, phone 860-248-9680 or see www.jumpfest.org.