Winter is the longest season in North Dakota, and hearty North Dakotans have always plunged into frosty outdoor sports. On this date in 1916, the Grand Forks Herald newspaper announced that the city’s ski jump in Lincoln Park had been repaired and had been built a little higher to make ski-jumping “more sensational.”
The ski jump had been built in 1915 because the local Norwegian Club asked the City Park Board to consider building one in Lincoln Park, adjacent to the Red River. City officials agreed to build one near the park’s toboggan slides and skating rinks, and officially opened the jump on January 2nd, 1916.
The honor of being the first man to ride the slide went to Halfdan Hanson. Several hundred spectators watched Hanson climb to the top of the 78-foot-high scaffold and then zip down the snow-covered slide and kick-jump off the end, leaping into the air before landing on a downward slope that extended all the way onto the frozen Red River. This intrepid ski jumper glided to a halt several hundred yards further on, decelerating up a small hill on the Minnesota side. Hanson made a leap of 48 feet that day, tied for the longest jump.
The Norwegian Club held its first ski-jumping tournament that following January, offering prizes that included a silver cup for the best all-around jumper, plus other prizes of a watch fob, a fountain pen, and a box of cigars.
The ski jump was built to be as safe as possible “without removing any of the thrilling . . . features” of the sport. To encourage beginners, the builders put two platforms as starting stations partway down the slide. The first one was just a few feet above the ground; the second station was at twenty-five feet up. The third platform was at the very top, 78 feet high. The ski jump in Lincoln Park became even higher in the 1930s when workers in the New Deal’s Civil Works Administration built one 200 feet tall.
Interest in ski jumping faded in the 1940s as Norwegian-Americans turned to other winter sports; and eventually the Grand Forks ski jump was taken down. The only remaining traces of the magnificent ski-jump that once graced Lincoln Park are photographs in the U.N.D. Archives.
Dakota Datebook written by Dr. Steve Hoffbeck, History Department, MSU Moorhead.
SOURCES: “Ski Slide in Lincoln Park Is Repaired,” Grand Forks Herald, November 12, 1916.
“Norwegian Club Wants Ski Hill,” Grand Forks Herald, October 31, 1915.
“Park Board Will Install Ski Slide,” Grand Forks Herald, December 8, 1915.
“Ski Hill Is Put In Good Shaper for New Year’s Fun Seekers,”Grand Forks Herald, January 1, 1916, p. 3.