GILFORD — If there's one thing you learn today, Lisa Kling wants it to be this: ski jumping is back at Gunstock.
Ski jumping put Gilford on the map before there was a Gunstock Mountain Resort. As Carol Lee Anderson accounts in "The history of Gunstock: Skiing in the Belknap Mountains," the Eastern Amateur Ski Association, working with local ski clubs, concluded that Mount Rowe, the lesser neighbor to Gunstock Mountain. In 1935, plans for a ski jump at Mount Rowe, as well as an access road, ski trails and a toboggan run were approved for funding by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as part of the federal Works Progress Administration, designed to help pull the country out of the Great Depression. The Eastern Ski Championships were held at the 60-meter Mount Rowe jump on Feb. 28, 1937. A cross-country event was also held that weekend. At the time, the ski trails, Nordic skiing, toboggan runs and ski jumps were known as the Belknap Mountains Recreation Area.
The 60-meter jump at Mount Rowe became known as among the best in the eastern United States. Since the construction of the large jump, smaller jumps were added – a 40 meter and a 25 meter, all with towers to give skiers a swift head start down the slope. However, age and disrepair has rendered those towers unsafe.
The jumps now fall under the purview of Gunstock Mountain Resort, which has allowed the Gunstock Mountain Historic Preservation Society to oversee their rehabilitation.
"We want to rebuild all of them," said Achim Steinbrueck, president of the society. It's easier said than done, though, as the work required to get all the jumps functional again will cost the better part of $2 million. That estimate includes not only the reconstruction of the towers, but also a re-engineering of the slopes where skiers land, new snow-making equipment and the relocation of camping sites that were installed since the larger of the jumps were last used.
Though there's a want for funds, there's a wealth of passion for the jumps. Through volunteer labor and organization, notably from Kathleen and Matt Doyle of the Andover Outing Club, and Gunstock Nordic Association's Lisa Kling, two smaller jumps are now back in play. For beginners, they have built the "pimple" jump, which will send skiers about 7 meters before landing. Intermediates can also try flying off the 18-meter jump, which doesn't require the use of a tower.
Their labors were rewarded earlier this month, on Jan. 6, when Gunstock hosted a jumping event, and nearly 50 high school athletes showed up to compete. Another meet will be held this weekend featuring local club athletes; watch the Daily Sun's calendar of events for scheduling details.
Kling said the sport of ski jumping is open to any young athlete who has at least a little experience with alpine skiing. Those who would like to learn more about trying out the sport can learn more by visiting gunstocknordic.com.
"We're trying to get exposure for jumping again," said Kling, while she was shoveling snow around the jumps, to prepare the base snow layer in advance of a coming snow storm.
"Hopefully, with the ski jump in operation, we're going to bring it out to the public that we are here, we are jumping again," said Steinbrueck.
"That's what we're trying to do, get [the jumps] rebuilt and not let the tradition die," Kling said.
CAPTION for GUNSTOCK SKI JUMP in 01 January:
Lisa Kling, of Gunstock Nordic Association, packs snow around the beginner "pimple" ski jump on Mount Rowe in Gilford, part of the Gunstock Mountain Resort complex. Two of the jumps are now in operation, and will host athletes this weekend. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Adam Drapcho)