Photo Gallery | Pepsi Challenge at the Harris Hill Ski Jump
BRATTLEBORO — With unseasonably warm weather this weekend, the 94th Harris Hill Ski Jump Tournament saw no shortage of spectators.
"I love this, I never miss it," said Richard Burtis, of Brattleboro. "I love to watch them fly and admire what they're doing, plus it's fun to watch the community come together."
Clear skies and a mid-50 degree day kept attendees around to watch 26 competitors soar off the 90-meter jump on Saturday. Several thousand spectators were counted, according to a press release issued by organizers. The crowd showed their support by ringing cowbells. The sound carried through the woods and to some of the streets in Brattleboro.
Perhaps the most boisterous cheer Saturday went to the top jumper. Gasper Bartol, 24, of Slovenia, who beat two dozen of the world's best up-and-coming ski jumpers.
But Brattleboro native Spencer Knickerbocker, 23, received plenty of adulation throughout the weekend.
"It's always really fun to jump in Brattleboro and get a little extra cheers," he told the Reformer after a second round of jumps on Sunday, when temperatures were slightly lower and the sun mostly stayed out.
Knickerbocker described Sunday's conditions as being similar to Saturday's, saying jumpers were getting enough speed skiing down the in-run.
"It's really warm. It's been really difficult to get the hill ready," said Knickerbocker, who assisted with hill preparations earlier in the week. "But they pulled it off and it's good."
The warm air softens the snow and that makes the hill slower because it has a lot of suction, explained Christopher Lamb, 26, of Andover, N.H., and a student at Marlboro College.
"They put a lot of chemicals and salt on the hill to draw the moisture away from the track and where we're going. The conditions are actually not bad," Lamb said. "It's slow at the top, speeds up on the curve at the jump and then the landing hill's pretty decent."
On Saturday, Florian Gugg, 21, of Austria, took second and David Krapez, 22, of Slovenia, placed third.
Austrian and Slovenian jumpers took the top five seats on Saturday, and Knickerbocker placed sixth. Right behind him was Lamb, who holds the hill record of 102 meters.
Bartol beat competitors again Sunday, winning the Harris Hill Ski Jump's annual namesake Fred Harris Memorial Tournament. Coming in second and third place were fellow Slovenians, Krapez and Zak Silih, 20. Lamb took fifth place while Knickerbocker took seventh.
Though the crowd was impressed by the adult competitors, many were wowed by the U-18 Division (17-years old and younger) who took on the Harris Hill Ski Jump.
"It's a little nerve-wracking watching these little ones soar through the air, but it's also pretty exciting," said Jennifer Thomas who was visiting family in Brattleboro from California.
Matt White, 16, of Lake Placid, N.Y., said the track wasn't as good Sunday as the day before. With his first jump distance measured at 93 meters, one of the highest in his division, he felt pretty confident going into the second round.
"It was probably my best jump of this trip so far," he said before taking fourth place.
Annika Belshaw, 13 of Steamboat Springs, Colo., was the single female competitor during the weekend. But she released herself off the jump without hesitation.
"I just go," said Belshaw in an interview with the Reformer earlier this week.
After the first round of jumps Sunday, Elijah Vargas, 15, of Steamboat Springs, Colo., was waxing his skis. He said he needed more speed.
"I'm just trying to wax because the track is pretty soft. Hopefully I'll get a little more speed for the next jump," Vargas said after coming away with an 88-meter jump. "The track is pretty washed out. Usually, it's a good rectangular track. Today, the sides of it are kind of rounded off so if you push out with your feet at all, your skis will pop out. And also, it's super wet and sticky."
He took sixth place Sunday within the division.
While many locals and community sponsors showed their support at the event, several out-of-state plates were seen in the muddy parking lot this weekend.
"My father, Eugene Sedlewicz, use to jump here in maybe the early 1950s so I came all the way from Highland Lakes, N.J., to watch this today," said Paul Sedlewicz. "Anything that has to do with sports and recreation is good for anybody, including myself. Ski jumping is what I'm going to do in my next lifetime."