As a newcomer to the Northfield History Collaborative, I have spent the last few months exploring the wealth of resources available on a variety of Northfield-area stories. It has been fun uncovering stories few people outside Northfield may be aware of. Over the next few months, I’ll be highlighting a few of these finds, starting with St. Olaf College’s Haugen Ski Slide.
More than 100 years ago, St. Olaf College became one of the first U.S. colleges to offer competitive ski jumping with the erection of a 25-foot wooden ski jump in 1911. By 1913, the college constructed a metal scaffold and upgraded their “ski slide,” which was named after Anders Haugen. Haugen, a Norwegian-American, was the 1910 U.S. national ski jumping champion. He was born in Norway but emigrated to Wisconsin with his brother Lars, also a ski jumper. He consulted on the construction of the new jump and conducted an inaugural ski jumping tournament on January 15, 1913 with two other professional ski jumpers, including Lars Haugen, and ten local amateurs.
Anders Haugen was the first ski jumper down the improved “ski slide” at the 1913 tournament. According to the Northfield News, Haugen “set a splendid example for the amateurs taking the jump in graceful style and making a standing jump of about 110 feet” (Jan. 18, 1913). Together with the other two professionals, Haugen judged the amateur jumpers on form and distance based on three jumps each. They awarded first place to T. Overland of the Minneapolis ski club.
The tournament was the first large competition staged locally, with nearly twelve hundred people watching the exhibition of jumping skills. The Northfield News claimed it was a “thorough success, the ‘ski-men’ making some thrilling jumps and at times some equally thrilling rolls down the steep hill” (Jan. 18, 1913). The spectators witnessed Anders Haugen make the longest professional jump of the day: 121 ½ feet. The longest amateur jump, performed by L. A. Hoiby of the St. Olaf ski club, was 109 ½ feet.
Other tournaments were held at the Haugen Ski Slide before it was dismantled in 1961. Local kids remember climbing up and sliding down it – unofficially.
Speaking as a former resident of Thorson Hall at St. Olaf, I can’t imagine going out back and trying my luck jumping off such a slide (it was located at the top of Thorson Hill). Sledding down that hill was treacherous enough!
[Click here to view these photos and others in the St. Olaf College Archives collection on the NHC.]