Ski Jumping in High School? Only in New Hampshire

Some high schoolers play football. Others play soccer.

But in New Hampshire, students compete in ski jumping. It’s the only U.S. state that offers it as a competitive sport for high schoolers.

“It’s pretty unique when you tell people, ‘I did ski jumping in high school,’ because most people can’t say that,’’ Dimitri Somoff, a Hanover high school sophomore, told the Associated Press in the video above.

This year, 50 Granite State students from seven schools are participating in the program and many of them will compete tonight in the New Hampshire State High School Ski Jumping Championships at the Roland Tremblay Ski Jump Complex in Newport.

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It’s a hard sport to sell to parents, for sure.

“Recruitment for this sport has been very, very difficult in the last 10 years or so,’’ Josh Flanders, the ski jump coach for Hanover High, told the AP. “The overall thought of it is it’s fearful and it’s a dangerous sport and it’s really hard to get parents to let their kids do it.’’

Ruby Spitz, a sophomore at Hanover High School, climbed to the top of the ski jump in Newport, N.H. this week during practice. —Jim Cole/AP

Griffin Johnson’s parents said yes.

And so he is one of the 50 kids wearing an aerodynamic suit while soaring through the moonlit sky on Friday nights, which is typically when they train.

And enough parents are saying yes to keep the high school sport alive in the Granite State, which was once a ski jumping hub, hosting Olympic trials, World Cup competitions, and national championships at the North Country’s historic Nansen Ski Jump.

“Going down the jump really isn’t that hard,’’ Griffin, a Hanover High School sophomore, told the AP. “It’s just a game of nerves and how you can overcome your fears, just to go down the jump.’’

Jumps are currently located in the towns of Newport, Andover, Hanover, and Lebanon, and there’s even a jump “hidden’’ along the Kancamagus Highway near Conway, reports NH Magazine.

What Friday nights look like on this ski jump in Newport. —Jim Cole/AP
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Many of the student jumpers are Olympic hopefuls.

After all, two current members of the USA Ski Jumping team are from the Granite State — Nick Fairall and Nicholas Alexander.

Fairall, 25, of Andover, N.H., is an inspiration to these young New England jumpers but also a reminder of what can happen when a jump goes wrong.

Fairall, a two-time national champion who competed at the Sochi Games, suffered a spine injury while landing a jump in Austria in early January. He is now recovering from back surgery. And the ski jump community has rallied around him, using the Twitter hashtag #GetWellSoonNickFairall and raising money for his rehabilitation.

“When one of us falls down, we band together to help lift them up. It’s what we do,’’ wrote USA Ski Jumping on Fairall’s RallyMe campaign page, a rehabilitation fund set up to help pay his medical expenses. So far, supporters have raised $31,807 of the $50,000 goal.

Find out more about the ski jumping program in New Hampshire at www.nhskijumping.com.

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