Saturday, June 11, 2016

Ski Jump, Soldier Field, Chicago 1954

I found the slides for today's "Anything Goes Saturday" a few years ago while digging through a box of random images. I immediately recognized the distinctive Neoclassical architecture of Chicago's "Soldier Field", but what in the world is going on with that gigantic ski jump?!

After a little online research, I discovered that the photos are from the summer of 1954, when the Norge Ski Club hosted an exhibition and competition of ski jumping, which had become popular thanks to the Olympics. Some sources said that there were not only traditional ski jumps; they also included thrilling tricks such as two jumpers side-by-side. 

How about a souvenir hat?

I am breaking out in a cold sweat just looking at that rickety structure! It was 148 feet tall, built by Gilco Scaffolding of Des Plaines. Apparently there were high winds on the actual day of competition (as evidenced by the flag to the left) and only 3 skiers jumped from the top. After that, they started from a lower level. Imagine having to trudge up that ramp, skis in hand, with the winds from Lake Michigan whipping around you. Yikes.

Here we can see two jumpers side by side! The ramp was covered with 200 tons of ground ice - I found a photo of a man dumping a wheel barrow full of the stuff, and pictured guys like him having to haul heavy loads of the "snow" up that long incline. 

I might as well share that photo. No fancy-pants snow machines here. Just hard work!

Check out this wonderful view, with a skiier in mid-jump. The stands are virtually empty, so I am hoping that these photos were taken during a rehearsal. They did similar exhibitions in 1936, 1937, and 1938; the attendance for the 1937 event was around 60,000 people! 


TokyoMagic! said...

"Yikes" is right, Major! You couldn't get me up on that structure....unless maybe it was to slide down on a burlap sack.

Scott Lane said...

"...Imagine having to trudge up that ramp, skis in hand, with the winds from Lake Michigan whipping around you."

Oh H-E-double-hockey-sticks NO. Not even without the skis or the winds. Nope, nope, nope.

Unknown said...

Astonishing! It's like some weird project where every step of the way some sane person would step forward and say, "No, really. That's just nuts." But apparently no one did. Just a bit surreal.

Chuck said...

The only thing that keeps playing through my mind is "Ferb, I know what we're going to do today."

What a great find, Major!

Nanook said...


It seems "back then" - whatever 'then' means, nothing was ever too much trouble. I suppose one could argue erecting scaffolding of that size was common place, as that sort of thing was constructed for large projects, etc. But the idea of hauling all that "snow" up that steep incline, just seems nuts. Nowadays there'd be some cockamamy contraption that would not only make the snow, but would have it "delivered" all the way to the top 'at the push of a button'. (Let's just hope that scaffolding had a number of guy wires to keep it from pitching over to one side-!)

What a great find, indeed-!

Thanks, Major.

K. Martinez said...

WOW!!! What an incredible find! What comes to mind is a bit of newsreel footage I once saw of a collapsing radio tower with workers still on it. Yikes! You couldn't get me on that thing! Today's post is a gem! Thanks, Major.

Anonymous said...

If this had been posted on April 1, it would make sense.

This is straight up nuts.


USA Nordic said...

Just in case you thought that was crazy you have to keep in mind that jump is about 1/8th the size of a modern day ski flying hill (erring on the large size). Watch Chicago's Kevin Bickner set a new American record of 244.5 meters or 267 yards!

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