Winter 2006

The notion of jumping from a roof with skis strapped on your feet didn't seem such a healthy idea back in 1926. But according to legend, that's what happened when a gentleman named John Satre (Say-tree) climbed to the top of a shed in Salisbury, in Connecticut's Litchfield Hills. He didn't just jump, however; he soared through the air for quite a distance before gliding to earth. This new idea of ski jumping that Satre had learned in his native Norway looked like fun to some of his fellow immigrants, who took up the sport. By the next summer, several of them had gotten together to build a proper takeoff and ski run. When the Salisbury Winter Sports Association presides over the 80th Annual U.S. Eastern Ski Jumping Championships on February 11 and 12, the event will take place on Satre Hill, named for that first intrepid jumper, and one of the oldest ski jumping programs in the nation. The maintenance of the hill and the organizing of the competition remains an all-volunteer affair, with the whole community pitching in. The 80th birthday will be celebrated with plenty of fun along with the ski jumping, including an ice carving contest, a Snow Ball Dance, a pancake breakfast, and a cross-country ski race. Judging by past history, many of the competitors in Salisbury will likely go on to the Olympics. For sure, they will be hoping to better the 65-meter jump record, an impressive 231 feet. Even the most sedentary spectators will appreciate the extraordinary coordination and skill required to make a 65-meter jump soaring well over 200 feet-- with a happy landing. For the best viewing, spectators are advised to dress warmly and to bring a cowbell, the traditional way to cheer on the jumpers. The Junior Event, 20 and 30-meter competitions, meaning leaps of from 65 to 98 feet begins on Saturday, February 11, at 10 a.m. The Salisbury Invitational Ski 65-meter Jump will take place at 1 p.m. Saturday, and the main event, the U.S. Eastern National Championships 65-meter jump, will be held on Sunday, February 12th, at 1 p.m. Meanwhile, an ice carving competition will go on all day Saturday at the White Hart, Salisbury's venerable inn on the village green. The Snow Ball Dance with live music will also take place at the White Hart Inn on Saturday night at 8 p.m., open to all for $10 admission. The Salisbury Volunteer Ambulance Squad will hold a pancake breakfast at the corner of Route 41 and 44 Sunday morning from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m., and the cross-country ski race begins at Satre Hill at 9 a.m. Hot food, coffee and hot chocolate will be served at a convenient stand starting at 10 a.m. both days to keep spectators warm. Between events, there will be plenty of time to explore the charming town of Salisbury with its many intriguing shops. The weekend ends with the awards ceremony and the naming of the U.S. Eastern Junior Olympic Team at Salisbury's Congregational Church at 4:30 p.m. The all-volunteer Salisbury Winter Sports Association, host of the Annual Championships, provides cross-country and jumping equipment and training to area children and maintains cross-country ski trails at several sites in town. Satre Ski Hill is on Indian Cave Road, off Route 44 in Salisbury. Admission to the ski jumping is $10 for adults, free for children under 12. Limited bleacher seating is available. For more information on the ski jumping competitions, phone 860-435-0019 or see or check the Internet at www.swsa.info.or contact the Northwest Connecticut Convention and Visitors Bureau, PO Box 968, Litchfield, CT 06759, (860) 567-4506, or check the Internet at www.litchfieldhills.com. The Visitors Bureau also offers a free copy of UNWIND, a 112-page color guide to lodging and dining and other regional attractions in the Litchfield Hills of Northwest Connecticut.