A Brief History of Ski Jumping in BC
1988 Winter Olympic Games in Calgary - who can forget the British ski jumper "Eddie, the Eagle."
Norwegians developed the sport of ski jumping as an offshoot to skiing. Swedish skiers developed cross country skiing which was basically a means of
transport over snow. Jumping was fun; fun, to leap off the top of a platform - be it a small cliff or manmade trestle.
Scandinavian men coming to Canada in the early 1900's brought their skis. In winter, when a group got together in western Canadian logging or mining camps, on a day off work they went for a ski. To add excitement and a challenge, they built a ski jump trestle. Some of these early immigrants were ski jumping champions in their homeland. While they enjoyed the thrill of leaping off the trestle - flying through the air, then gliding down the slope of the outrun - the non-skiers enjoyed watching them. Thus everybody had fun! Ski jumping was a passion with these men. Competitions were organized between jumpers in British Columbia interior communities of Wells, Quesnel, Pioneer Mines, Smithers, Revelstoke, Rossland. On our coastal mountains, from the 1920's to the 1950's, Hollyburn was known as the "ski jumpers' mountain." This was due to skiing being organized by the Scandinavian men that developed Hollyburn Ski Camp and founded Hollyburn Pacific Ski Club and development of Vancouver Ski Club, 'Viski".
A jumper stands at the top of the trestle with 20 marks to his credit. From the moment the starter blows his whistle, the jumper is being judged by two or three judges watching his every move as he performs the leap until his final landing at the bottom of jump hill to reduce those 20 points for every mistake made.
Among the many Scandinavian skiers coming to Canada were three from Kongsberg, Norway - Nordahl Kaldahl, Tom Mobraaten and Henry Sotvedt, known as the "Three Musketeers." They found their way to the mining and logging camps in B.C.'s Cariboo and on the west coast, Wells and Barkerville. Kaldahl and Sotvedt along with the Brandvold brothers, Emil & Ottar, from Gudbransdal, Norway, built ski jump hills and organized the provincial Nordic championships in Wells during 1930's. Later, they moved to Vancouver where they participated in ski tournaments throughout the Pacific Northwest. Aside from their families, their fervour was ski competition. On a Friday evening after work, they would drive to Spokane for a tournament; then drive back to Vancouver on Sunday. They won many competitions. Since 1987, some of their dozens of silver cups and medals are displayed in the Kongsberg Ski Museum in Norway.
After his competitive career. Henry Sotvedt became a leading technical consultant and spokesman with the Canadian Amateur Ski Association. He served as manager of the 1964 Olympic ski team and a delegate to the FIS (International Ski Federation). Sotvedt was on the Olympic Bid Committee in 1968 for the Winter Olympics to come to Whistler. He was also the first Canadian to receive certification as a judge in international ski jumping. Nordahl Kaldahl, a member of B.C. Sports Hall of Fame, trained young Canadian ski jumpers. Jack Roocroft was a member of this group. Tom Mobraaten became part of a retail ski business. In 1987 he had the honour to represent Canada and the Norwegian-Canadians Kongsberg, Norway at the official opening of the ski museum.
Some of the ski jumpers following the three musketeers were Jack Roocroft, Ron Glover and Jack Pratt. Jack Roocroft was outstanding. Trained by Nordahl Kaldahl & Henry Sotvedt, Jack started ski jumping at age 11 years. His hero was Nels Nelsen, one of the best jumpers of that era. Roocroft was 1950 North American Champion. In 1954, he went to Norway as a member of the Canadian jumping team at the World Championships. Jack participated in many jumping competitions before retiring in 1960. Now, at 78 years, he still enjoys recreational downhill skiing.
Jack Pratt was another Holly bum ski jumper that showed promise. However, for Pratt it was not to be. His life was cut short by cancer. Today, there is a sign high in the trees on the Jack Pratt Run, testimony to the Jack Pratt Memorial Ski Jump. This jump trestle was built, but it had to be moved as it was in Brothers Creek watershed; rebuilt, it had just one tournament, only to be destroyed by falling trees during Typhoon Freda in 1962.
Worthy of mention is that during 1940's there was a deaf ski jumper, on Hollyburn, Ernie Marwick, who enjoyed this challenging sport.
Tom Mobraaten had a good bit of advice for aspiring ski jumpers, “ Always look at the take-off and in-run to make sure they are in good condition before going up to the top. In other words, look before you leap!”