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Ski Jumping On Hollyburn Mountain

First Lake Ski Jump #1

Even before the Hollyburn Ski Camp opened in January, 1927, Rudolph Verne and Oscar Peirson were planning to build a ski jumping trestle on top of the ski run just east of First Lake. Most likely, a small training hill was in place by the end of the 1926/1927 ski season. During the next three years, the jump at First Lake was rebuilt and enlarged. By 1930, an impressive-looking trestle had been built. Although constructed of sturdy timbers cut from the surrounding forest, the jump tended to sway alarmingly when contestants and spectators climbed to the top of the trestle. This did not deter the experienced, mostly-Scandinavian ski jumpers. During the 1930's, the First Lake jump was the site of many club and Vancouver ski zone tournaments. Sometime in the early 1940's. the jump trestle collapsed. Eventually a new trestle was built on the site of the old jump.

"Oscar’s New Ski Hill"
Pollough Pogue
“The Province” -  October 27, 1929

Three thousand feet on a mountainside, the trees begin to have some of the characteristics of the alpine timber higher up. They grow very slowly; they are seldom straight in the grain; the wood is so hard and tough that it soon dulls an axe; it is almost impossible to split a log for a puncheon. The green logs are almost as heavy as metal.

Building a tower trestle, a split-log chute and a timber take-off for a big ski-hill on Hollyburn Mountain, the Swedes at the ski-camp have found out how hard and tough and heavy the mountain hemlock. the balsam fir  (Abies amabilis) and the western cypress (yellow cedar) are. Cutting and shaping the timber, raising the logs by muscle power alone to fit and mortise them into the giant frame of the structure has been heavy labor even for the sturdy Swedes. The top of the tower at the head of the chute is over forty feet from the ground. The trestle is built on the steep sidehill about 200 feet above the lake, on the opposite shore from the ski-camp.

It is constructed of strong timbers, posts  and beams and girders. solidly joined together. There is nothing rickety about Swedish construction, The chute and the take-off are floored with puncheons, split logs. The slant of the chute is that of the steepest roof you ever saw.

The structure was correctly designed for safety and efficiency. It looks something like a lofty roller-coaster. It’s dizzy steepness has a hazardous look. From the starting platform  at the top, the broad skidway slanting down to the take-off is a shear declivity. Naked and bare, without snow, it looks now a giddy slant indeed. But snow will give it a far less perilous aspect.

Starting from the top the ski-jumper will gain a velocity of about fifty miles an hour before he reaches the take-off platform, about five feet above the ground. The take-off slopes upward slightly to shoot the jumper off. From this he volplanes, soaring over the level “knoll” in front of the take-off and landing on the lower section of the side-hill, a sharp slide about 200 feet long. This is very steep, and if the jumper falls in landing he rolls head over heels down the slope, turning, spinning, gyrating in the air and showing to the thrilled gallery the waxed bottoms of his aids, until he reaches the bottom with a spill almost as spectacular as the crash of an airplane.

I think it will be possible, on the new Hollyburn ski-hill, to jump 150 feet, perhaps more. It is what the experts call a small hill. It is the best hill in the Vancouver district, one of the best in British Columbia. From the top of the chute to the bottom of the hill the distance is  about 500 feet.

If the jumper does not take a spill in landing after his glide through the air, he slides swiftly out on the level concreted snow that covers the ice on the take. His momentum will take him almost to the ski-camp porch. Or he may make the beautiful Telemarcken turn to check himself with appropriate grace. Do not suppose that experienced ski-jumpers frequently finish their glides with a bad spill. They usually make a good landing.

Down in the city most people are not praying for snow and cold weather. But the ski-riders and jumpers are looking forward impatiently to winter on this mountain. Already there has been a fall of snow on the high meadows. Soon the snow will come on the big plateau of Hollyburn, a ski runners winter paradise.

Then the hard, clean, steel-nerved athletes of the Hollyburn Ski Club, the jumpers, will be making their gliding flights over the new jump, rushing down the chute, leaning forward with arms extended as they take off,  and swooping through the frosty air as if their eight-foot skis were wings.

It will be thrilling  sport. Winter weather is magnificent on Hollyburn. The great fire at the ski camp will be full of blazing yellow cedar; the big camp will be crowded with ski riders, men and     women.

The only trouble will be that the camp is not big enough to hold them all.

But there’s always plenty of room outside.

Photo Group 1 - First Lake Ski Jump (1927 - 1929)

"Wooden Wings"
Pollough Pogue
Daily Province - 1929

 The ski-jumper, when he springs  into the air from the take-off, after shooting down the runway, probably comes as near to flight as man unaided by a machine ever will.

He flies for a considerable distance, with arms beating the air like wings, lands and flashes over the smooth .snow on a long tangent line which ends  in a beautiful curving turn.

Certainly the ski jumper and the skier who rides his skis down a mile-long slope in a flying glissade attains the highest and most fluid velocity reached by unmechanized man.

Ski-jumpers get. a poignant thrill from jumping and the spectators get a sharp kick out of it, as the crowd s in the Roman amphitheatre did out of the gladiatorial combats. Onlookers always find fascinating the sight of a fellow-being apparently risking life or limb. But ski-jumping is not as  dangerous as it looks.

Any Sunday afternoon at the Hollyburn ski-camp you may see the club jumpers practicing on the First Lake ski-hill.

On the opposite side of the small lake from the camp is a large structure built against the steep side-hill, a 70-foot tower heavily framed of tall tree-trunks and cross girders from the top of which a long trestle-work, decked with logs and padded with snow drops at a sharp incline to the level take-off platform from which the jumper launches himself into the air. The take-off is about ten feet from the  ground.

Several ski jumpers climb to the top of the tower with jumping skis on their shoulders. These are not ordinary skis. They are longer, wider, heavier. The cross-country has one groove on its running surface. The jumping ski has two grooves. The top of the tower is flat, with a railing around three sides. Half a dozen men are standing there. One of them bends to put on his skis. Give sharp attention now or you may miss something.

Having adjusted his bindings he stands erect, a tall Canadian. Many of the spectators recognize him as Ralph Morris, a well known A-class Hollyburn Ski Club jumper. In a moment he has started and with the velocity of a bullet swoops down the runway. He crouches slightly to minimize wind resistance. At the  take-off he snaps upright again. With long lean body tense but pliant, arms upraised and fluttering wing-like, he soars from the take-off. For a second or two he appears to hover in the air. You hold your breath. The crowd stands rigid with tense interest.

"Beautiful style," observes a man near you. Morris is a jumper to whom style is more important than distance. But he seems to have covered a considerable distance before he lands, his skis thudding heavily on the packed snow, though he appears to land lightly enough. With the speed of a rocket he rushes up the slight slope from the lake. and makes in a blur of spray-like snow a long, infinitely graceful Telemark turn.

Photo Group 2 - First Lake Ski Jump (1930 - 1940)

West Lake Ski Jump

Like Rudolph Verne and Oscar Peirson, the owner-operators of the Hollyburn Ski Camp, Roland D. Brewis planned to erect a ski jump trestle on the northwestern slopes above West Lake as soon as he finished building West Lake Lodge. The West Lake jump, designed by Finn Fladmark and built by Mickey Pogue and 'Irish' Beaumont, was constraucted during the summer and fall of 1933 and ready for the Vancouver City Ski Jumping Championships in March, 1934. Higher than the First Lake jump, ski jumpers were able to make longer leaps on 'the big hill'. Over the next few years, the trestle was increased in height, making even longer jumps possible. Much to the disappointment of Vancouver's ski-jumping fraternity, the West Lake jump was dismantled after the property around lake was sold to the District of West Vancouverin in 1938.

Photo Group 3 - West Lake Ski Jump (1934 - 1938)

Mobraaten Ski Jump

The Mobraaten Ski Jump was officially opened by the Vancouver Ski Club in 1936 to honour club member Tom Mobraaten who had competed in the 1936 Winter Olympics at Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. Tom placed 14th in the competition on the big ski jump in spite of an ankle injury he had suffered in an earlier Nordic event. Since his arrival on Hollyburn in 1932, Tom had competed in ski jumping tournaments throughout the Pacific Northwest and had established himself as one of Canada's top ski jumpers. The Mobraaten Jump was used in April. 1939, for the Vancouver Ski Zone and City Ski Championships. Sometime during the next decade the jump was dismantled. In 1950, Mobraaten Hill was cleared for use as a downhill ski run. For a while a rope tow was in operation there. Today it is the site of the challenging Mobraaten cross-country ski trail.

Photo Group 4 - Mobraaten Ski Jump (1936 - 1939)

Photo Group 5 - First lake Ski Jump (1941 -1945)

First Lake Ski Jump #2

Soon after the original First Lake ski jump collapsed in the early 1940's, plans were being made to build a replacement jump. A new trestle, stronger and more stable than its predecessor, was completed in time for the Easter ski jump tournament in 1945. Those participating included Hollyburn's legendary 'Three Musketeers' - Nordal Kaldahl, Tom Mobraaten, and Henry Sotvedt. During the next decade a new generation of ski jumpers competed on the the jump, most notably, Jack Roocroft, Ted Hunt, Jim Hennigar, Al Menzies, Ron Glover, Johnny Halstead, and Halvar Sellesback. Hollyburners expected the jump to last a long time. Changing times and priorities led to its early demise. After 1950, recreational skiers were less likely to join a ski club. As a result, the number of competitors began to decrease. Fewer volunteers were available to maintain the trestle, prepare the hill for jumping, and run competitions. After a couple of poor snow years in the mid-1950's, Fred Burfield dismantled the jump to create more space for skiers on the Popfly ski run.

Photo Group 6 - First Lake Ski Jump (1946 - 1956)

Jack Pratt Memorial Ski Jump

In 1958, the Vancouver Ski Club built the Jack Pratt Memorial Jump to honour the memory of club member Jack Pratt who had died of cancer the previous year. The new jump was located a few hundred meters east of of the site of the First Lake jump which had been dismantled in 1956. Since the late-1930's, Jack had been considered a strong contender in cross-country, down-hill, slalom and ski-jumping competitions. His specialty was cross-country. The Vancouver Ski Club had hopes that the opening of the Jack Pratt Memorial Jump would herald the beginning of a new era of ski jumping on Hollyburn. This was not to be. There were only two officially-recognized competitions on the jump. Damaged in 1962 by Typhoon Freida, the jump eventually collapsed under a heavy snow load in 1967, the last of the ski jumps on Vancouver’s North Shore mountains. Today, the Jack Pratt cross-country trail passes by the former site of this jump.

Photo Group 7 - Jack Pratt Memorial Ski Jump (1957 - 1967)