February 4, 2020
Day 16
Skiers: Carla

I was greatly anticipating my visit tonight to historic Storrs Hill in Lebanon. I’m a bit delayed in posting this article as there were so many details I wanted to include. I needed time to perform some research, and this article is rather lengthy compared to my previous posts. I am titling this post Storrs Hill Part 1, because I will be returning in a few weeks for a daylight visit.

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50-meter jump

Storrs Hill is a small ski area is owned by the City of Lebanon and is 100% volunteer operated by the Lebanon Outing Club. Volunteers perform all the functions normally associated with running any ski slope. Those functions include snow making, grooming, operating the lifts, ticket taking, and coaching. Storrs Hill has three trails with a 300-foot vertical drop, and three ski jumps: 50-meter, 25-meter, and a 10-meter beginner jump. While tiny in size, this little hill has produced two Olympians: Nick Alexander (ski jumping) and Mikaela Shiffrin (slalom).

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Welcome sign for Storrs Hill & Goodwin Park

I had contacted Lebanon Outing Club president Corey prior to my visit to inquire about the possibility of trying ski jumping. Storrs Hill is the only year-round nordic ski jumping training facility in New England; in fact, New Hampshire is the last remaining state in the country in which ski jumping is an interscholastic sport. I felt a series about NH ski areas would be incomplete if I did not include the unique aspect of ski jumping.

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There are only a handful of ski jumping clubs across the US & Canada, & NH is the only state to offer interscholastic HS jumping

I was invited by Corey to attend ski jumping lessons on a Tuesday night under the lights from 5:30-7:30. I left from Manchester around 4pm and arrived in Lebanon around dusk. Access to Storrs Hill is rather off the beaten path, while just minutes off of Rt 89, there are multiple turns through residential neighborhoods (caution driving, speed bumps). I drove up a tree lined driveway and emerged into a quaint little parking area with base lodge. I felt like I was entering a children’s storybook, with the wilderness in front of me, and a view of the city lights far behind in the distance.

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Base lodge

When I arrived, I was warmly greated by Corey and various volunteers. I received a quick tour of the base area then put on my alpine skis to explore outside. The weather was in the low 30’s, and the snowpack was frozen and firm. It turned dark shortly after I arrived, but the view of the city lights was clear and brilliant. Tickets are very affordable: $10 for children and $15 for adults.

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View looking up the main hill from the base lodge

I noted approximately 20 children of various ages on the hill along with equally as many adults serving as coaches and volunteers. Local high schools train for both slalom & jumping at Storrs Hill. When Corey pointed out the ski jumps to me, the first jumper I watched was 4 years old! I then met a young man who proudly told me he jumped the 90-meter in Lake Placid over the weekend. He was 12. The opportunities Storrs Hill provides these children is unlike anything I have ever seen or experienced at another ski area big or small.

I then was introduced to Stephanie. Stephanie has been volunteering at Storrs Hill for many years and wears many hats (as do all the volunteers). Her “commute” to the hill consists of an ATV ride from her driveway to the base area, then a transfer to snowmobile to move around the hill. Tonight, her role is Poma lift operator. This weekend her role will be nighttime snowmaker and PRN groomer. There are nights when her family will camp out in the base lodge to continuously check on the snowmaking lines. I want to move to Lebanon…. I want to be a volunteer snowmaker/groomer/lift operator too!

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View of Lebanon city lights from the top of the main trail

Storrs Hill has one lift, a swift moving Poma Platter lift. Stephanie explained that racers and jumpers love this lift as it keeps their feet moving at all times. Jumping skis can be mighty heavy if wearing on a chair lift, and racers will get boot fatigue if they are stagnant for too long of time. Once at the top of the hill all trails are accessed by exiting right. The only trail open was the “Main Trail”. During abundant snow fall years other trails include a terrain park, and a back trail that flanks the perimeter. The main trail is a wide boulevard set up for slalom racing. The 50-meter jump can be accessed ½ way down on skiers right, while the 25 meter and beginners jump can be accessed ½ way down on skiers left. I took three runs stopping multiple times to take pictures before meeting up with my jumping coach.

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Top of the poma lift

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A cool feature at Storrs Hill is a large LED lighted star that measures approximately 20 feet tall situated on the “summit”. Corey explained that the original purpose of the star to was to serve as a welcoming beacon, and to assist skiers in locating the hill. It also signaled that the ski area was open for business. Current practice is to light the star after Thanksgiving to symbolize that the ski area is preparing for opening, and it will stay on throughout the season.

I was rather nervous making my way over to the beginner jump, and I spent a decent amount of time observing and asking questions. My coach for the evening was Ryan, who expertly explained the technique of jumping, as well as the physics of measurements and relationship between jumps of different sizes. Emphasis on safety. Beginners typically start on alpine skis (beginner hill only) before progressing to formal jumping skis.

Before I get too far ahead here is a great primer describes the phases of a ski jump.
https://www.usanordic.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/Ski.Jumping.101.Final_.pdf

And another for a glossary of jumping terms
https://www.usanordic.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/Glossary.Terms_.Final_.pdf

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View from the 10-meter looking towards base. Note I am approximately 12 feet behind the start of the inrun. Outrun can be viewed extending beyond the base lodge towards the lamp post

Ryan explained the body position I would need. Essentially, I needed to crouch low with my arms straight behind my back, go straight down the inrun to gain speed, and spring up when I reached the lip for takeoff. At that time, I would be inflight before reaching the landing zone, then slowing to a stop on the outrun. My alpine interpretation: skis straight down an incline in a tuck, hit jump fast, fly, try to land on two feet, avoid yard sale. What was I thinking!

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Carla skiing down the inrun. 50-meter in the background

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Carla in flight approaching the landing


It was absolutely exhilarating! I haven’t felt that kind of accomplishment in a long time….it was like catching the first wave when surfing in turbulent waters and despite the hard work it will take to paddle back out, you don’t hesitate to do it again. Walking back uphill to the jump qualified as hard work- like out of breath hard work. In all I took three jumps tonight on my alpine skis, and plan to return in a few weeks to progress to the longer formal jumping skis. My end goal is to jump the 25-meter.

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Note: “meter” does not refer to the height of the jump structure (as I previously thought), but rather to the distance that can be safely jumped from the lip of the take-off to the K-Point.

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K10 would be the beginner hill. Storrs Hill also has a K25 & K50. The 12-year-old boy I mentioned previously skied the K90 at Lake Placid.

As the evening ski session was winding down, I walked with Ryan over to the 50-meter jump. This jump is massive: 22 steps up from the ground to the platform, then approximately 90 additional steps from the platform to the top of the inrun. I would estimate the height to be equivalent to a 4-5 story building. Ryan explained that just last year Storrs Hill installed metal tracks on the inruns of both the 50-meter and 25-meter, eliminating the need to cover the inruns with snow. It is difficult to maintain a snow base on the steep inrun due to gravity, and also the logistics of manually moving snow to cover the area. Where in the past this jump would have been only a few days per season, it is now open consistently throughout the season.

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Coach Ryan on the platform of the 50-meter

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Looking up the inrun of the 50-meter. Note the metal tracks and the absence of snow cover as it is not needed.

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Front view of the 50-meter. This is the only junior qualifier of its size in New England. A unique feature is an outrun that crosses over a bridge above Great Brook. I’m looking forward to photographing this feature on my next visit during daylight hours

I retired to the lodge and met back up with Stephanie and was introduced to another volunteer Marilyn. I took a few pictures inside, and was excitedly chatting with the ladies about my experience at Storrs Hill. To my surprise, they awarded me with a medal for “best style” and “longest distance” in my age category. I felt so welcomed, and greatly appreciated the hospitality offered to me by so many throughout the evening. This medal is now hanging on my ski board in my office and I am now facebook friends with these ladies:)

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Wood stove in the base lodge

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Wall of racing bibs

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Stephanie & Carla wearing 1st place medal


Another volunteer that I have not yet mentioned left a lasting impression on me. Erling Heisted Jr. is the son of Norwegian immigrant Erling Heisted Sr. who founded Storrs Hill in 1923. Erling Sr. was an engineer who constructed a total of 13 ski jumps throughout NH and VT, with 7 of which were in Lebanon. His vision was that every child should have a ski jump within walking distance from their home. Erling Jr. continues the family ski tradition and volunteers as a jumping coach. He kindly steadied my elbow as I nervously approached the inrun while preparing for my first jump. Erling told me how they set up night skiing on the hill back in the 1930’s using large bulbs and reflector discs. He said he last jumped the 25-meter on his 75thbirthday…I was too polite to ask his age, but I think it fair to guess that he is a few years older than 75. His kindness and genuine love for the sport made me smile. Our time was cut short when he had to leave to attend a city council meeting, but I am really hoping that I can spend additional time with him to gain more of a historical perspective of the hill when I return. Notably Erling Sr. was inducted into the U.S. National Ski Hall of Fame in 1966.
https://skihall.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/36-Erling-Heistad.pdf

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Erling Heisted Jr. gazing up at the 25-meter jump

In closing I want to sincerely thank Corey for providing me with this experience. His passion for keeping small ski areas viable and accessible is commendable. I want to mention that I came in contact with Corey through Fred at Granite Gorge (see article for ski day #3). GG has suffered setbacks in operations due to a myriad of vandalism and legal issues, yet it still putting forth every effort to remain open and serve skiers in the community. Corey volunteered to load up a groomer, drive it 60 miles south to GG, and prepare the hills for Fred. This is the pure heart of small areas helping other small areas, without fear of competition or driving factors of larger profit margins.

Overall impression: Storrs Hill is a warm and inviting community ski area that emulates volunteerism and provides affordable pathways and opportunities for children to explore various types of skiing. Members of the Lebanon Outing Club take pride in their roles to serve this ski area, and balance recreational family geared activities with competitive offerings. Despite being one of the farthest distant ski areas from my home, I am excited to return her often. I caught the jumping bug, and it is totally infectious!

Snowy Wishes,
Carla Frontfive

P.S. If you are even remotely thinking of trying ski jumping I highly encourage you to do so! I am a recreational skier, not a pro. I am post MCL injury and while I'm active, I am not a physically fit athlete. I completely had to step outside my comfort zone, dig deep for self confidence, and persevere when staring down the inrun. This is not like terrain park jumping, it's a smooth flight with a beautiful feel. This was by far one of my greatest adventures! Link below will bring you to a list of active clubs in the U.S. with contact information.
https://www.usanordic.org/clubs/