Thousands of spectators turned out to watch 28 competitors fly down Harris Hill in Brattleboro, Vt., Feb. 14 and 15 in the 85th Harris Hill Ski Jumping Competition.
That's fly in the literal sense.
Competitors in four classes - master, women, juniors, and open - raced down the takeoff on the huge skis of their discipline and launched into the air, posting jumps of 70 to 100 meters in length.
Christian Reiter of Austria had the longest jump in the open category in Saturday's Pepsi Challenge, at 100.5 meters. Tara Geraghty-Moats of West Fairlee, Vt., was longest among women, with 84.5 meters. Rok Govekar of Slovenia had the longest jump among juniors, with 91.5 meters.
Reiter (98.5 meters) and Govekar ( 95.5 meters) also won in Sunday's Fred Harris Memorial Tournament. Karin Friberg of Roseville, Minn., posted the longest women's jump Sunday, at 90.5 meters.
The hill is a 90-meter ski jump that dates back to 1922. It was the vision of Fred Harris, founder of the Dartmouth Outing Club and Brattleboro Outing Club.
A history of the DOC recounts, "Fred Harris, Class of 1911, founded the Dartmouth Outing Club in the winter of 1909-10. Harris was a native of Brattleboro, Vt., and by his own account had ‘skeeing on the brain'. This pleasant affliction had him making skis (the typical size was 8 feet long, ash or hickory) and using them on the local hills and farm fields."
Harris' daughter, Sandy Harris, was at the bottom of the hill during the recent competition, and recalled playing there as a child as her father worked with jumpers on the skills of the sport. Sandy said she also learned to jump.
The jump rises above a cornfield that, at the 85th Harris Hill event, was a sea of cars, mud and 8,300 spectators.
The hill was site of the 1992 Ski Jumping Championships, but was closed in 2005 because the takeoff platform had become so rickety with age that the hill was no longer sanctioned for competitions.
A fundraising effort driven by Pat Howell and Liz Richards and a committee of helpers raised $575,000 to rebuild the jump.
The work took place over the past summer and fall, resulting in the nation's newest 90-meter jump, and the only 90-meter jump in New England. One judge standing by to measure distance said the size of a jump venue is measured from the crown of the hill to a point 80 percent of the distance to where the slope starts to ease off at the bottom.
The 85th Harris Hill Ski Jumping Competition was the inaugural event for the rebuilt hill, and attracted much interest among spectators, and a carnival air at the base of the jump that included dancers, food stands, souvenir tables and vendors selling local Vermont products.