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Forest Hill Ski Jump

Submitted by Editor on December 13, 2010 – 5:46 am | Print or Email »2 Comments

by Ron Buckli

A big crowd stood in the snow to  watch 117 youths ski down the  wooden slide, soar through the air,  land on the side of the hill and come  to a skidding stop far out on the flat.

Hosted by the neighborhood’s newly  formed Hilltoppers Ski Club, it was  Eau Claire’s first major ski jumping  tournament for juniors and  the site was the South end of the  Forest Hill Cemetery grounds.

The date was Saturday, February  21, 1936. Only weeks earlier,  laborers in President Roosevelt’s  Works Progress Administration  had erected the slide- which  stood 18 feet tall at the top of the  hill—for city recreational purposes.

The jump looked directly at the  heart of the city’s Eastside and jumpers  would finish their runs near the  junction of Summer Street and  Huebsch Boulevard.

“It was really scary,” said Hilltoppers  president and top jumper, Tom Hagen. “When you stood at the top of  the slide and looked behind, you were  looking straight into the Third Ward.”

Hagen said the Hilltoppers marked  good use of the hill, skiing every afternoon  until dark. Club member’s were  also responsible for maintaining the  ski area, brining their own rakes and  shovels. To prepare the hill for ski  jumping, they filled baskets full of  snow and hauled them to the top.

“I knew when to go home for supper”,  said Hagen, who lived a few blocks  over at 1415 Highland Avenue. “ I could see the back of the house from  the top of the hill and when Mom  turned the backyard light on, that  was the signal.”

Merle Stewart, another of the club’s  top jumpers, didn’t need a signal. He  lived directly below the hill on the south end of Summer Street.

Prior to erection of the scaffold,  youngsters would ski down what  Hagen called the “Seven Bumps trail”  that slanted down the south end of  the bluff to Hoover Avenue.

There were about 15 members in the  Hilltoppers and the club held city and  area tournaments each year.

Hagen, now in his mid 80s and  living is the Stevens Point area,  remembers that t here once was  night skiing on the hill – which  he said had a one-way dirt road  a cross the top for the end of  Dodge Street to Hoover.  “Emmett Chaput and Art Harstad  drove up there, put a lantern  at the takeoff and were skiing  in the darkness,” Hagen  said.

The first tournament was held  two weeks before the Flying Eagles  staged their inaugural tournament  at what became famous  as the School Yard jump at the  Fourth Ward School in  Shawtown.

Glenn Nelson, local WPA Recreation Director was in charge of the  meet that included youths from the  city and surrounding area. Winners  were Victor Nelson, Strum, Senior  Class L Bussy Severson, Flying Eagles,  A: Jackie DeBow, Whitehall, B  and Oscar Severson, Flying Eagles,  C. Gerald Larson of Chippewa Falls  had the longest standing jump at 49  feet. Later, the length of jumps would  range between 50 and 60 feet.

The jump was a beehive of winter  activity until the beginning of World  War II when it became a liability and  was torn down.

A special thank to Ron Buckli to contributing  this article. He recently published  a book entitled The Flying Eagles and the School Yard Jump. about the history of ski jumping in  the Chippewa Valley. If you are interested  in a local history it is a must  read! And check out the Flying Eagles’ website.

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2 Comments »

  • aaron. says:

    Thanks for sharing this history of the hill. Could anybody out there clarify for me where exactly this jump was? The article says they would finish their runs near Summer and Huebsch, which seems far from the current seven bumps sledding hill, but maybe not.

    What other things did/will Eastside Hill neighbors create together?

  • Michael Paul says:

    Wow, I had no idea there used to be a ski jump there!

    @Aaron: Wooden skis would take a long time to stop…it’s possible that jumpers going 60 feet could make it to the road if the snow was hard enough. Heck, you can ride the hill to Badger Ave today in a sled…using only half the hill and no additional 18-foot ramp! :-)

    I’m envisioning the runout area was on or very near the current 7 bumps sledding hill.

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