The Eau Claire Ski Club: Taking the Leap Since 1886

Briana Bryant

As winter approaches, a great way to explore in the open air is through skiing.  Eau Claire houses one of the oldest skiing clubs in the United States.  It was formed in 1886 as a ski jumping club and still remains as such.  Ski jumping is a Nordic sport with a long history in many parts of Wisconsin, including the Chippewa Valley.  The ski club in Eau Claire was originally known as the Dover Club.  Scandinavian immigrants settled in the area in the late 1800’s and brought the sport of ski jumping to Wisconsin.  The first tournament for Eau Claire was held in 1888 at Mount Tom, which was only the third official tournament for the entire nation.  In 1969, the club moved to Silver Mine Hill and has hosted four national championships there since.  The Eau Claire Ski Club has sent ski jumpers to seven different Olympic Games and has also hosted four national championships right here in Eau Claire.

Eau Claire is naturally a great area for skiing, with its rich Scandinavian heritage, the abundance of hills, and the support of local businesses and the media.  So where is the jumping happening in Eau Claire?  The Eau Claire Ski Club houses its events at Silver Mine Hill, as well as the Flying Eagles Junior Ski Club’s jumping complex at Mount Washington.  Other ski jumping sites in the Midwest include Wisconsin Rapids, Iola, Madison, and Westby in Wisconsin, Chicago in Illinois, Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Coleraine in Minnesota, and Iron Mountain and Ishpemming in Michigan.

The Eau Claire Ski Club currently has about 15 to 20 active members.  The Flying Eagles have 45 Junior Jumpers and also work with the Ski Striders in cross country skiing at Mount Washington.  The Ski Striders is a local club that promotes and enhances cross country skiing for adults and youth in the area.  There are a whopping 125 kids skiing the hills of Eau Claire in Nordic skiing.  Nordic skiing is a combination of sports that includes cross country skiing, ski jumping, Nordic combined, and biathlon.  Some members of the Eau Claire Ski Club and their children participate in the Nordic Combined, which is a combination of ski jumping and cross country skiing.

The Eau Claire Ski Club has one official, major skiing event each winter at each location.  Some locations even have plastic covering which allow for year-round jumping.  Next year, summer jumping will be happening in Eau Claire.

Most of the members of the club are former skiers or just big fans of the sport.  They do not all generally ski jump, but many of them have children who do.  The general age range of the club members is 17-80, with some members as young as 11 or 12.  According to Dan Mattoon, a member of the club, they enjoy promoting Nordic sports events in Eau Claire and getting people off the couch or Xbox.

The next major upcoming event is the 127th Annual Silver Mine Invitational, which will take place on January 18 and 19, 2013.  The event will include the USA Cup and North American Ski Jumping Championships.  Both events are USSA sanctioned, with two K90 ski jumping tournaments.  Admission is only $10 in advance.  For more information or to get involved with the Eau Claire Ski Club yourself, check out their website: ec-skiclub.com

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